As I write this, I am in North West London sitting in a Starbucks tapping away on my travel laptop (can you say TINY- actually gives my hands cramps). How odd to be drinking the same drink I order in Canadian Starbucks on a regular basis but to be in another country. Not sure how I feel about this eerie sense that I could be anywhere- the ‘gift’ of globalization in the form of franchised chains which deliver the same beverages, food, (and even music in the background around) the globe. Anyhow, I digress…the point of this article is to examine my slight identity crisis which I’m sure many of you dear readers can relate to seeing that most of us are a mix of many different cultures which while providing great diversity, can sometimes also make us wonder where we belong.
My parents were English Jewish hippies from North London in the 60’s who immigrated to Canada at the end of the flower-power decade to start a new life and try something different. Hence, a few years after they came to Canada and married, I was born. While I realized early on that my parents ‘talked funny’- their strong London accents are still with them today- otherwise, I adapted easily to being a Canadian. However, I was always aware of my British roots because so much of my family continued to live in England and starting at the age of 2, I began to visit England almost every summer during my childhood and teen years.
In fact, I cannot even count how many times I have come to this land! Since the age of 19, I’ve averaged one visit every second year, and more recently, once a year since my only surviving grandparent is here and I want to spend as much time with her as I can. In my teens, all four of my grandparents lived in London, as well as an aunt, cousin, uncle, and too many great aunts/uncles and second cousins to count- all of whom I am lucky enough to be close to thanks to so much time spent here while I was growing up.
Sadly, many of the elders have passed away, but I still have a number of relatives living here that I feel the need to visit yearly. It’s kind of weird when I’m in Canada and I meet someone with an English accent and get all excited and tell them about my Englishness because I have a Canadian accent (although I use a lot of ‘Englishisms’ in my speech) and also weird being in England, feeling like it’s my second home, and being seen purely as a Canadian, or ‘foreigner’. Sometimes I wish that I had been born and raised in England so that my accent matched that of my family and I felt as though I fit in a bit better, but then I wouldn’t have the wonderful life and opportunities living in Canada has afforded me (which are many).
It’s an odd feeling to feel homesick for two different countries, which are so unique and separate. While living in Canada, I comfort myself by watching BBC television and renting countless British films and reading as many English novels as I can get my hands on. I also like to bring back little trinkets for use in my home, which remind me of England (wanted to bring back matches but realized that these would most likely be confiscated at security on my journey back to Canada).
During my regular visits to England, I like to Skype people in Canada and read novels by Canadian authors and excitedly chat with random strangers in the street who are displaying a Canadian flag- I think I nearly caused a woman to faint with shock yesterday when I did this in a local supermarket- she wasn’t expecting such enthusiasm from a fellow Canadian…
It also causes much confusion to fellow Canadians that I am Jewish as well as partly British- for some reason they can’t understand how you could be both. It’s not strange to me as I know that Jews live all over the world, in many different countries and take on the accents/languages of that place and often move around a lot even once they’ve settled somewhere. We are, after all, a nomadic tribe.
I’m working on an exciting project regarding eating disorder activism in Canada and the UK and am hoping to bridge the two countries I have come to know and love so well together. We’ll see how that goes. For now, I’m going back to my granny’s for dinner, then hopping on a plane tomorrow morning back to Canada where I will jump into the arms of my dear hubby and relax once again on the small, laidback Canadian island we call home.
Esther Kane, MSW, Registered Clinical Counsellor, is the author of the book and audio program, “It’s Not About the Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies” (www.endyoureatingdisorder.com) and “Dump That Chump”(www.dumpthatchump.com), and “What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You” (www.guidebooktowomanhood.com). Sign up for her free monthly e-zine, Women’s Community Counsellor, to uplift and inspire women at: http://www.estherkane.com.