Immigration & Identity

I read a Daily Mail article on Mo Farah this morning and I could tell from the tone, how proud the writer was to call Mo British. Despite being born to Somali parents and spending the first 8 years of his life in Somalia, if you took a poll today, I suspect that only a small minority of people in Great Britain would consider him a foreigner.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he has set the record books blazing with his performance at the 10k men’s final and the olympic gold medal hanging round his neck.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he has seemingly embraced the culture of the Nation (while remaining muslim) and chosen to put himself forward as a representative of Great Britain.

Sir Mo, the TV pundits have been calling him…and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name on the next honours list. A great¬†prospect for a man who couldn’t speak a word of English when he first touched down in London.

Like many immigrants, by his own admissions, he never felt accepted by British society and it wasn’t until he heard 80,000 people screaming his name in the Olympic stadium while he stood on a podium with the British anthem playing, that he finally felt accepted, like he belonged.

An immigrant myself, I know too well what not belonging feels like.

Twenty-eight years ago I was born in London to Nigerian parents who promptly shipped me back to Nigeria as soon as I was fit to travel.I spent the first 16 years of my life in Lagos after which my mother packed my bags and shipped me back to London. I have now lived in London for round about 12 years.

I go to Nigeria and much as I enjoy being there in spite of all the madness, I no longer feel like I belong there. In theory, it’s home but honestly, I feel like a square peg in a round hole. It no longer fits.

I come back to London and even though it’s been home for the last 12 years and I have built my life here, every now and again something happens that reminds me that happy though I am here, I’m not quite British.

I have become  a hybrid of two cultures.

I had a conversation with a British-Indian friend that made me realise I’m not the only one that feels this way. Even though he has never been to India, his parents have done a great job of keeping him connected to the culture, so much so that he shares my dilemma.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a hybrid of two cultures and how do you deal with this? If you have dual nationality and had the opportunity to represent a country at an event, how would you decide which of your countries to represent?