Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Culture Crashes

There's been a lot of talk about Sweden's  failure in integrating its immigrants. Some blame it solely on the Swedes, that they are discriminating and unsympathetic. This may be true, but it's only one reason of a complex situation. To get a better understanding of the difficulties of integration into a new society, all you have to do is to travel abroad, to any country which some of the immigrants are representing in our society. The only societies outside of Sweden that I can claim to have some kind of knowledge about is Morocco and Sudan, in which the latter is the one that is furthest away from my own.

When I found out that I was going to Sudan, it was on pretty short notice, but I did my best to get as prepared as possible. Except for the traditional travel preparations like basic phrases, some 15 different vaccinations, passport and the like, I did some reading about the culture. I was already aware of the culture crashes I would experience, although I didn't have a clear picture of which these crashes would be. Which ever way I looked, I always ended up focusing on the Muslim society. I had never lived in one before and had all the expectations, fears and prejudices that everyone else has that don't have a closer knowledge of it. I was going to the capital, Khartoum, and was a 100% sure that I would have to cover my hair whenever I stepped out of the house, that I shouldn't look men in the eye and that I couldn't discuss politics or religion as such.

I landed on a midnight in the end of August. It was some 40 degrees Celcius, humid and a minor sand storm, haboob, was brushing my face. We went straight to the house, which had lost the electricity because of the haboob and it wasn't until the next morning that I got to see where I had landed. I wanted a cold drink, so nervously I covered up, wrapped my head in a scarf, carefully tucking in all visible hair strands, and went out to look for the closest shop. The houses in the neighbourhood were all secured with high walls and guards, the dust road was uneven and the sun was merciless and - everyone was looking at me. 

Not long after, when I had befriended several westerners in the area, I learned that it wasn't required to cover your hair, at least not for a westerner. Looking a man in the eye or shaking his hand was usually not a problem either. Sure, there were those that were more conservative than others, but those were a minority. Basically I learned that most of the things I had expected and feared about this society, weren't true at all. 

The conclusion is that even though I eventually found my place in the Sudanese society, accepted and got accepted, I never got integrated. True, I didn't live there long enough to get the chance to fully integrate and I didn't have time to learn the language fluently. And truth his, even if I would have had the chance, I don't think I'd ever be able to integrate fully. I would, of course, follow the laws, live among them, befriend them and love them, but I would never become a Sudanese. But what's more important is that it wouldn't matter, because I would be accepted anyways. Even if I would never be exactily like those who were born there, they would still see me as an equal and welcome me into their society. So, if the immigrants in Sweden do the same, which most of them do, why can't we treat them the same way as they would treat us?

1 comment:

kalle said...

difficult to be ,different genes...