Before I start I want to say that I believe racism is wrong. It eats away at humanity like a plague. I have friends of different skin colours, from other nationalities and a lot of them are the nicest people I know. But… yes there’s a but.
I can understand why some people feel a certain way about foreign nationals. Not the ‘oh they’re here taking our jobs’ or the ‘they’re here for the benefits’. I can reassure you, they are here to make a better life for themselves and they work hard for it, taking jobs many of us would turn our nose up at.
But when they do come to make a better life for themselves, many tend to gravitate towards people from their home country, creating small communities. It’s a natural thing to do. They’re far from home and they seek the comfort of home through others from their country, people who will understand their cultural heritage. Doing this however does tend to segregate them from the rest of the local community, creating unease between the foreign nationals and the locals.
Then comes the language barrier. Learning a new language is difficult; believe me I know just how difficult it is as I’m in the process of trying to learn a new language. Many foreign nationals come here with very little to basic English, it’s a scary thing for them to try to converse in a language they barely know. They’re afraid they’ll sound stupid or say it wrong and they’ll get laughed at. All the slang words over here can be confusing to someone when they first arrive, never mind how different the words sound in the various accents throughout Ireland and the UK. But it makes locals feel uncomfortable when they are in the company of those who don’t speak their language. Locals get suspicious and tend to think that the foreign nationals are talking and laughing at them behind their backs. I used to think that locals who thought like that where ridiculous.
Though now that I have on many occasions, found myself in company where English wasn’t spoken for up to an hour, I have to admit it’s intimidating. It also makes you feel isolated and altogether is an unpleasant feeling. So I can also imagine what it would be like for foreign nationals when they first arrive here, especially if they don’t know English.
Segregating themselves from the local community and the language barrier cause massive unease between many locals and foreign nationals.
It’s important that both locals and foreign nationals are aware of what the issues are. Locals need to understand that it’s quite a scary thing to move away from your home to create a life somewhere else. Finding comfort in speaking your own language, and spending time with people from your country makes it all a little less daunting for foreign nationals. Foreign nationals also need to understand that they should make an effort to integrate into their local community and try to communicate with the locals, as the lack of these things tend to make locals feel uneasy and isolated in a sense too.
Both locals and foreign nationals need to start bridging the gap that at the moment does exist. It’s up to everyone to make sure no-one feels isolated, intimidated or scared. Foreign nationals take a step out of the comfort zone you have created and chat with the locals. Teach them your beautiful cultures, teach them your languages, and let them taste your delicious cuisine. Locals, have patience, you haven’t uprooted your life to make a new one somewhere else, so you can’t fully understand what it must be like. Take the time to befriend and teach your culture, your language and your cuisine also.
There’s no reason that foreign nationals should lose their identity or culture, all I ask is that you let us in, take down the barriers and include us and that needs to work both ways.