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What Is Identity and Why Is It Important for Expats?

Though I'm not sure I completely agree with the lines extracted from Ota about expats being without external confirmation of ones identity. Here in Italy I constantly receive external confirmation that I am a foreigner, a straniere. As an "Australiana" in Italy I know nothing about fashion, cooking, beauty and cleaning the house though when living in another country, also not my own, I was known as a bit of a pro in all of these things by my friends and neighbours. I don't believe one ever escapes external confirmation of identity.

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I don't believe the absence of previous, perhaps truer, external confirmation of ones identity affords the opportunity to strengthen one's true identity. As everything is relative one's true identity merely moves from one external confirmation to another.

In Italy they say I know nothing about cooking so my sense of talent in this area is diminished as is my confidence and in a short period of time I don't know a lot about cooking and I am no longer a person who is good at or likes to cook.

Instead of looking at an activity or skill, the same conversion of identity applies when considering something more factual like the colour of my hair. In Australia I am a redhead, in the UK a strawberry blonde and in Italy a blonde. I spent my childhood being the odd one out and enduring school yard bullies and their redhead taunts, the scars from which had made being a redhead more than just a hair colour; it had become a core element of my personal identity. But in Italy, according to my neighbours, I am blonde, despite me correcting them, I am blonde. No longer the odd one out, a target of playground ridicule. Now I'm a blonde and supposed to have more fun!

Something simpler still: in the UK I was a known as a tea drinker in the office; hated coffee. In Italy I've adapted to the customs and now have an espresso after breakfast and lunch and love it; there's not one box of tea in the cupboard.

I have lived in five different countries so far and can call three of them my place of origin due to my tri-nationality. Like Pasco I've had my professional identity change with each step.

But I don't agree with Frankling. I think her belief that The secret is to know who you are before you leave for your new home and advice to "Get in touch with your true inner values" only works for ex-pats who move from one mother country where they have established and agreed external confirmations of identity for most of their lives, to a single other country. And in this instance the trick is to hold on to the elements of your externally confirmed identity you feel most important.

If you are from several mother countries and move to several other countries your identity will be in a state of constant transformation no matter how well you think you know yourself. The trick is to embrace this and be OK with not knowing who you are. It's one of the core attributes to being what I am calling an Internationista.

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Posted in Landscaping Post Date 02/16/2017


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