Traditional Circassian wedding attire.
I grew up in a multicultural family in Jordan, then migrated to Australia in my mid 20’s. This journey has undoubtedly influenced how I communicate today.
My parents are from contrasting cultures. My mom’s Circassian; an indigenous ethnic group and nation native to the country-region of Circassia in the North Caucasus. This area is known as Russia today.
My late fathers’ roots are Palestinian and Egyptian. Both my parents’ ancestors escaped the horrors of war and settled in Jordan many generations ago.
I migrated from Jordan to Australia 13 years ago and became a first generation Australian! Because of my family’s love of culture, I found myself craving exposure to as many cultures as possible in this new, multicultural country. I knew that if I limited myself to a familiar social bubble, I would be missing out on the full Australian experience. This made effective cross cultural communication a must for me!
How I look isn’t enough to identify me as foreign born. Though I’m well spoken in English, my accent signals to people that they’re in a cross cultural encounter. Over time I’ve noticed that my accent sets off a variety of reactions that range from intrigued to offensively polite. These reactions take many forms, but the one I like least is exaggerated attention to my ethnic background or migration story. If it comes up naturally, all good!
Just because I have an accent does not mean I want to walk you through how I fit into your world view!
To be honest, I’d much prefer to talk about things I have in common with you! Like why Kath & Kim needs to come back, or how the best season of MasterChef Australia is season 1 and that Melbourne’s coffee culture fits neatly with the sophistication of Jordanian coffee culture.
Traditional Clothing of Palestine. Source: https://www.arabamerica.com/the-traditional-clothing-of-palestine/
A photo I snapped on my phone when I attended my first Australia Day Melbourne Parade in 2010.
While I love cross-cultural connection, you need to be aware that some people from migrant backgrounds do not crave it quite as much as me. For various reasons they avoid these kinds of interactions – like not speaking English well, or the fear of being misunderstood, or being judged. It may also come from past hurtful experiences.
These contrasting levels of comfort between myself and others are a friendly reminder: People from refugee and migrant (CALD if you must) backgrounds have different levels of comfort engaging with mainstream Aussie culture.
So how do you approach someone from another culture or language?
A smile and a warm greeting is always a good starting point. Approach new people without assumptions and make space for listening and knowledge sharing. Try it: this might just lead to a beautiful human experience.
If our paths cross, come and say hello! I’m always collecting souvenirs in my suitcase of memories.