I don’t know if this is something only fellow travelers can relate.
I REALLY hope I’m not alone here,
because sometimes I wonder if it makes me a bad person living in New Zealand, or if it is something that I also feel when I’m anywhere with a dominating culture when I’m traveling.
It’s an UnEase I frequently struggle with,
PARTICULARLY working here in New Zealand,
It annoys me to the core so much oftentimes.
that I have a second-guess and double-check myself
to see if I’m wrong in why I feel this unease & discomfort,
and try to remember if I ever feel like this when I’m in other countries.
The backstory for this unease is:
New Zealand has 3 official languages,
and officially it considers itself as a BiCultural nation, even though it’s reasonably multicultural
with roughly 9% of Pacific Islanders, 15% Asian,
Out of the 5%:
5% is from India,
4.5% are Chinese
- and btw, “Chinese” is not an ethnicity (this bugs me every time I had to fill out a form,
just like “Indian” is not an ethnicity.
Similarly, “Burmese” is an ethnicity,
but not all of Myanmar are Burmese.
It’s Matariki soon in Aotearoa.
In the fortnight team hui today,
it was centred on learning the stars of the Matariki constellation,
the meanings designated them stars,
what it indicates when some stars shine brighter than usual.
Annoyingly, one of my least favourite coworkers suggested assigning people to a roster to say karakia for future hui.
And our senior staff followed by agreeing to this and said,
“if you have dissent, please raise your hand” or whatever.
I’m not sure if anybody has a right for dissension in this.
Culturally speaking, we’re meant to be respectful.
Personally speaking, I hate rosters and I really don’t want to say karakia when somebody with more cultural authority can.
From my perspective, it’s the same thing as I will never force you onto a roster to say something in Chinese.
In Aotearoa, New Zealand,
Te Reo Maori is 1 of the 3 official langauges.
Don’t get me wrong,
I absolutely love the fact that Te Reo and Sign Language are the official languages.
I think every country should follow this example as a role model for respect for the indigenous culture and for the protection of Maori cultural heritage.
And naturally, countries like the Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands,
will have their own indigenous languages as their official language.
Places like New Caledonia in particular is a great contrast to New Zealand.
New Caledonia certainly doesn’t make Karnak its own name, like New Zealand would refer to itself by Te Reo as common practice -- as Aotearoa,
and it certainly doesn’t make the Karnak Bislama/Creo its official language,
this is not because Karnak people are not the majority of the population,
they very much are, and by far greater proportion than Maori in Aotearoa,
but because of the inherent diversity of Karnak people,
there are linguistic variabilities and perhaps aren’t as ethnically united as tangata Maori these days.
Vanuatu has hundreds of different languages and dialects,
so much so that Bislama varies from village to village,
kinda like in Papua New Guinea.
But then it doesn’t mean Vanuatuan Bislama shouldn’t be considered the main official language side-by-side with French and English,
because all 3 languages are used in a typical church service.
All in all,
I support and encourage language inclusion for countries with indigenous populations.
What I’m not entirely comfortable with
is I guess what NZ does to me is what the Chinese government has done to other ethnic groups in China -- forcing Te Reo practice onto me like the Chinese government has forced Han Chinese onto the indigenous ethnic groups in China.
I am passionate and deeply care about indigenous cultures.
Learning the language is 1 of THE most important aspects of learning a culture.
And because I live in New Zealand, I have been so embracing of Maori culture.
But I never said I wanted to learn and speak the language.
That is not what I signed up for.
The only thing that hone in my I Want To Do What I want mindset back at work is my grandmother’s final word of advice to me before she passed:
Adhere to the values & do what the people do in the country that you live.
There’s great weight in this wisdom of my grandmother’s.
When I heard it, I liked it, even though immediately I thought of the whole Maori cultural imposition on all migrants when I heard it.
In New Zealand, using Te Reo is an inescapable aspect of daily work life.
If I work alone with my own business, in some non-profit, I would have been spared;
but in the government, I can hardly have a breather from a non-Te-Reo day.
I HATE it.
I LOVE Maori culture from a distance.
Just as I’d dive into any indigenous cultures when I visit their countries,
I would learn as much as I could,
pick up a few words here and there and speak it as well as I could,
But I would never want to be FORCED to do anything.
I can understand and agree with my grandmother’s advice,
that if I live somewhere, then respect the locals' ways.
But there’s a difference between respecting local’s ways and doing as what local people do.
What if I’m not one that is suited for following orders, or wanting to do what the majority does?
I NEVER like to do what I’ve been TOLD to do.
I’ll very likely ignore you if I don’t go & do the very opposite.
I also don’t believe in the wisdom of the crowd.
I’m not a bird in a flock
that jumps and takes off at whatever life-threatening/ non-threatening situation that may come up, triggered by another bird who got frightened by whatever movement or sound.
As people, we are individuals,
and can live and BE as individuals.
When traveling, you’re often confronted by cultures and languages that are vastly different from your usual ones.
You approach it with respect, even if you may find aspects of disagreement.
But when you’re traveling,
you don’t need to worry about adopting the local ways.
You’re an outsider, you’ll be gone in no time.
Even if you may stay there for some time,
you don’t need to feel forced to adopt local ways.
Here in NZ, if you’re a traveler, it would certainly feel like that, too.
But it is not the case in daily life living here as a migrant.
Whether you’re here on short-term visa, or permanent like I am,
you will be shoved in the face with demands of karakia,
and now imposed onto you, like is the case in my team, thanks to my annoying coworker.
I have dissent, but I can’t speak it.
It’ll make me an alien,
or risk being considered that I disrespect the politically correct culture of respect for Te Ao Maori.
By no means do I have any disrespect,
I simply don’t want to be imposed of it.
That is ALL.
I’d rather practice Japanese, than Te Reo Maori. Okay?
I’d rather than Hebrew, than Te Reo Maori.
That is all it is to it.
I can understand the need to know the local ways,
but whether or not I have to follow it, should be my own choice,
especially as an individual living in a democratic society,
unless this is NOT a democratic society.
This is how I concluded that perhaps,
because I consider myself a global citizen,
perhaps I prefer to remain an outsider,
not to become one of them - to become one of anywhere.
I have places where I feel strong sense of belonging,
and that place certainly isn’t New Zealand.
The solution for my frustration is probably:
either find a workplace that isn’t so try-out in-your-face politically correct,
move to a country where it’s politically multicultural rather than bicultural,
so that I don’t have to be forced to practice another culture when I don’t want to.
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