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Images Of Incoming


Probably the most common theme that participants focused on was food. For the women food could symbolise difference and exclusion – the difficulty of finding foods which were important to their original culture, but also food as something to be shared, either with their own community or as a way of trying to connect with the wider community. Clothes, especially in terms of the lack of availability of traditional clothes, important to cultural identity, was also a theme.

Another theme was how migrant women navigated double or fractured identites – a sense of belonging in some ways and a sense of exclusion in others, a sense of wanting to be close to the cultural identity that they came from but also to embrace aspects of the new culture.

Their own identity changed in some cases over many years as they became more accustomed to their strange new world. Identity then, was not a fixed thing. For those who had children or who were second generation Canadians or Northern Irish, there was also a sense of being in possession of or being possessed by two identities.

For some this was a cause of anxiety at times, for others a cause for celebration in not being confined to just one identity or being very glad to be able to be seen as a ‘native’. And, for those who were able to return to the original country, this sometimes became a difficult and ironic experience where they were considered as strangers or to have changed too much and seemed foreign in their own land.

  • Other Frequent Themes

    In Canada, Research Assistant Serrah identified a less obvious but very important theme in her group – and that was relating to older migrant women. Some felt more disconnected than younger incomers, facing linguistic or cultural barriers or also feeling ignored and isolated as older women, overlooked, and in need of more accessible services. It is likely that older women would experience a more grevious sense of being uprooted, and sometimes older people were ‘brought over’ by younger family members and felt ‘stuck on’ or of inferior status.

    But Research Assistant Sarah-Ann also spoke of the difficulties facing young people – children of migrants – with high expectations placed upon them. For young migrant women, body image was a further troubling and complex issue – ‘Can I change? Do I have to change? Maybe I don’t like it when I change...’

  • Exclusion Themes

    In both Canada and Northern Ireland, a range of exclusion themes emerged from the dialogue about the photos: these included a sense of marginalisation, experiences of racism, prejudice and discrimination, lack of access to information, the challenges of digital literacy, language barriers, lack of access to public services, lack of access to education, lack of credential recognition, insecure immigration status and lack of acceptance of cultural difference, in smaller towns lack of provision in relation to ethnic foods, clothes and other cultural products.

  • Discrimination and prejudice: Religion

    One participant experienced prejudice even before she left her original country in South Asia, relating to her religion, though ironically the religion was a European one: ‘My mother was an Anglican and the nuns in the Catholic school I was sent to [in India] described her as a heretic’.

  • Discrimination and prejudice: Lack of acceptance or understanding of different cultures

    'This is the school where my son went. They are quite open-minded, exposed to different cultures. But there is a curiosity - why is your skin dark or why does your food ‘smell’?

    In relation to discriminatory attitudes, one Northern Irish participant commented, ‘There is a bit of a difference with companies in the centre of the city; a little more traditional outside the centre. Overall, good. I have got promotion. I have had to prove myself. You have to be upfront and make a case for promotion.’

    In the workshop discussion, another participant, who had come to Northern Ireland many years ago, commented, ‘You have to have people who will listen. Nobody was prepared to listen in my time’.

    Another participant in the workshop reported that, ‘discrimination is still very evident. People use lots of stereotypes, for example about refugees – you hear that in the banter, there is casual racism, and jokes you don’t understand – you are left out, excluded'.

    A participant suggested that the reason for this causal racism was ‘a lack of exposure to different cultures. This is a very small place. People are not exposed to how things work in the world.’

    Some participants testified to totally unfair treatment in employment: ‘In spite of my long training, my qualifications are not recognised. It is very unfair. I am paid as a Junior doctor, and have only the status of a Junior, even though I am working at Senior level. I did exams here as well and in each case, the fee was £1000. That is a lot of money. I spent ten years training in India, ten years here. Racism is there, but it is subtle. People would stare at you. They are curious. There is a lack of awareness about other cultures. When it comes to a Senior post, white colleagues get it. I experienced this many times. Ultimately, I did get a post'.

  • Discrimination and prejudice: More about education, work, and social and political environment

    Fees for international students are very high’, some participants said.

    ‘Like another participant, I worked in the Public Sector, my experience is the same. I was talking to some Filipino nurses a couple of years ago and they are experiencing the same thing, they struggle to get any promotion and they get the s*** shifts’.

    ‘Yes, I know the Filipino and Indian nurses. They are confined to the lower bands. They are not allowed to go to study days, so skilled but...

    ‘It is the clients, the patients that you work for. These problems are invisible. Talking about them is so important’.

    ‘I spoke to someone here about poverty, they could not believe it'.

    ‘BME minorities were more affected by discrimination. There was a meeting – people had so much to talk about, many told of being bullied or harassed and their objections were brushed away. Now there is a BME group in the Trust. One of the things that is close to our heart is bereavement leave. It takes so long to even get to India. We did get them to offer longer bereavement leave’.

    ‘That’s what inclusion is all about'.

    ‘We treat all patients the same'.

    Change has to come from the top'.

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, said: ‘But change is mostly driven by people at the bottom. Those who have power do not 
    easily give any of it up'.

    ‘It would be great if we had a citizenship visa for our parents. The UK is not very fair or friendly. Many of our parents have aged a lot, they are struggling and we can do so little to help because we are so far away'.

    I failed to get appointed on 17 different occasions. It is like any form of abuse, you think at the start that it is your fault'.

    My name is Muhammad. When people hear the name Muhammad, the person faces discrimination, maybe at a job interview, the person won’t get the same job as their counterparts. They face exclusion in their job interviews and workplaces'.

    ‘...Stormont. There is no representation of Muslim people [or people of colour] and if we are given a voice then we won’t feel so excluded... We are not represented in the local newspapers either'.

    ‘Forty years ago, I adopted a Colombian child and the nurse shouted out, Is the father also a Columbian? In Holland people are getting more discontented, they want to blame. So you have to stick up for yourself. The police came to the door because my child had got into some trouble and their attitude changed when I opened the door as a white woman...

    ‘I have lived in Africa. One child Black, the other White. They asked where I had stolen the Black child from'.

    ‘I had to hit daily markers – how many people they stopped, how many from other cultures. It makes you feel subhuman'.

    'I couldn't continue my life as it was before a war. I was a chemist, I was a well-respected citizen, I had the cosmetic shop, I had the middle class life, 
    and when I came here I didn't fit it in, I was not seen in that light. I had to start from the beginning, to swallow all my pride and get a thick skin. Even though opportunities were pretty good, but in the doors which I wanted to belong - I thought myself in academic circles, but academic circles metaphorically, were behind glass walls, I was seeing them but I couldn't go through them. That to me is exclusion'.

'It’s like scarf or sari... this is a traditional cloth. When I wear it and I’m in the Somali community, I feel belonging, I’m proud of it. But when I’m outside the house in Canada, I feel exclusion because I feel different or I wear different [clothes] when I see other people wearing like pants.

  • Discrimination and prejudice: Housing and Places of Worship

    ‘This picture shows a high-rise building. It was brought to my attention, as a place for housing refugees and many people arriving here are placed in working-class or poor areas and not placed in middle-class or upper-class areas. But the natives will get housing in better areas [though many poor people from here live in the high-rise buildings and other substandard housing]'.

    ‘[There was a] fire at the BMCA [Belfast Multicultural Association]. It was a hate crime. When there are walk-in mosque events for people to learn about the religion, they are vulnerable to attack. Unfortunately, there are many attacks, and they make us feel excluded. Even in Ballymena, a Facebook page was made, they want to destroy Muslims, and point out our different attire, there was a certain name being called'.

    Racial profiling does happen. I do have brothers. And they have lovely cars, it happened to them a few times. They have been stopped and questioned more than others, I suppose. My brothers have darker skin colour than me. In an environment where that happens, it saddens me. You hear on TV and you think it happens elsewhere, but when it happens to you, you feel that you are less than a Ballymena person’.

  • Sense of exclusion or lack of belonging because of different cultural norms, unavailability of food or clothes

    One of the Canadian facilitators, Huda, also referred to ‘profiling’ due to her appearance: ‘With a  scarf, they mostly assume I am a new immigrant’.

    ‘People are quite helpful. Nightime travel, though, is quite scary. Men coming to sit right next to you’.

    ‘When we first came, it was a difficult time. There were no Indian shops, we had no social life'.

    ‘Maybe it looks like there is a lot of exclusion here, but being able to express inclusion was a step forward'.

    ‘You cannot get halal food in Ballymena. You can’t go to the supermarket. There are vegetarian options but there are no halal ready meals available. You might want an easy meal and just put it in the microwave. But I have to prepare the food from scratch. It is difficult to get traditional clothes. We have to go to Birmingham or London to get them. We have to buy a plane ticket to get the dress, let’s say for a wedding. Online is available now but the return is a problem. There is no shop in Northern Ireland that caters for traditional clothes, every bride gets excited about the dress, but it is not available here. There are no tailors in Ballymena.

    ‘I am not only coming from a Pakistani background, but we are Muslims too. We are not even represented on the radio here. If they hear us, they won’t fear us so much. We do a lot of good, but those good things are not highlighted. The news show negatives rather than anything that is successful'.

    ‘There are no venues to cater for Muslim events such as marriages. Like halal food. For example, my cousins want to get married here. One of them got married at Belfast Castle. We had to get our separate caterers as food is what everyone looks forward to at the weddings. People who prepare food and are in the food business should offer food options for Muslim events.

    Islamic literature is not readily available, and we would have to go to Birmingham to get stuff. There are no literature shops. When I was a teenager, there were not many websites that would do Asian stuff but now you have the option of online. The shops would help people understand. We cannot even find out about our own backgrounds'.

    ‘...the clothes you have to order online. I am kind of happy we can order things online, but at the same time, you can’t go down the street and get these things'.

    ‘In Belfast, Muslim people would be rushing home to do the prayers, because in the shopping centres there is no such facility available. Inclusion is not as easy in public spaces'.

    Canadian facilitator Sarah-Ann reflected a theme which affected both migrant women and women generally – being hassled or treated disrespectfully on public transport. Women can be criticisied for wearing shorts on one side or for wearing traditional clothes or told to quieten down, whereas men probably would not face these microaggressions.

    She also added from listening and talking to the Canadian participants, that there were often layers of discrimination (multisectoral discrimination or 
    multiple discrimination or systematic exclusionary practices). This was augmented by comments from another Canadian facilitator, Marcela. The oppressions experienced by women might include the following:

    'I’m a woman, I am a woman of colour, I practise a minority religion, I have temporary status, I cannot speak English well. I have children and so have difficulty getting an opportunity to study. I am poor. I have little access to the food and cultural objects that have meaning for me. I am harassed or badgered on public transport. My name identifies me as a person of colour and this can lead to discrimination in housing or employment. I live in a rural area and do not have access to a lot of services or information'.

  • Sense of exclusion or lack of belonging because of a lack of knowledge about how the system works or who to get help from

    ‘The first few years of my life here were a nightmare with the Home office. I came in 2012. I was married in Canada. I had done research, but the rules had all changed by the time we came here. That nightmare coloured the first few years. I had a sense of not knowing who to call, I didn’t know if I was allowed to call, for instance, Citizens’ Advice Bureau'.

    ‘We came in 2002. It was a big shock to the system. There was no induction programme. The weather was very cold and we had no car at the start. We experienced a lot of isolation. I was the only brown person among my colleagues. I was left behind if people went for coffee. In India juniors [junior doctors] are not supposed to ask questions. I felt like a Junior, even though I had many years of training and experience. I was homesick. Other Indians helped to make us feel at home. I never thought my patients were white. I love to serve my patients, I did not think of their colour. We felt the loneliness even more because my partner and myself were on shifts, we never saw each other, we just wanted to get to bed, we were so exhausted'.

    ‘After the first year, we began to develop friendships at various levels. In India, after the third time of meeting, people come to each other’s houses for lunch or dinner. We tried the same thing here. We never got any response back after we had hosted the meal. During the Diwali Festival it is customary to exchange food [Diwali is a festival of lights and one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. The festival usually lasts five days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism.] I would bring a big plate to neighbours. But they would just take the plate and say Bye, bye’.

    'This is the NHS Emergency unit. We did not have a great experience. We had no clue how the NHS system worked. You do not know until you figure it out by yourself. People, including GPs were not very helpful or forthcoming.

    'The issue of networks is important, how people coming here learn about the whole infrastructure'.

    Prof Tess Maginess, the Project Director in Northern Ireland, asked: ‘Teaching migrants about the infrastructure – the different government departments and local authorities and so on – would that be useful?’

    ‘I was able to connect with Sure Start [a government programme to help mothers and small children experiencing disadvantage], they have some special help for Chinese people. But I had no idea what my rights were. I had issues with the language here – how people speak, so many words are pronounced differently. I don’t have a huge amount to do with the Chinese community here. I don’t speak enough Chinese'.

    Tess said: ‘You can find yourself lost between cultures'.

    ‘I lived in China for five years, I blended right in. But it highlighted how ‘Western’ I was, I grew up in Canada not really fitting in. As an adult, it is just part of who I am. Even in China, Westerners are a bit more revered, the local Chinese are drawn to White Westerners'.

'I feel this flag belonging to me... English is really hard and difficult... It was [my] third language... To reach my goal, to reach this Flag, to get citizen. It’s not easy... I feel proud. Because I tried to catch this flag. It was long way, long journey'.

'I work in the Starbucks... In this place I feel so belonging... they can serve you in French, Punjabi, English and all the languages which are on the board... It doesn’t matter'.

  • Challenges/difficulties: Language and accent – and the blessings of technology

    Canadian facilitator Sarah-Ann confirmed from her conversations with participants , ‘that a lot of discrimination circulates around language’. She noted that, in one of the groups she was working with, a participant stated that English was the third language she was trying to learn’.

    ‘When I came here, I didn’t know any English – it was a really big barrier. I have friends from many countries. I am much happier now. It is good to mix with other cultures. I lost some of the values from my own country, some of them were not good'.

    One participant met her boyfriend in a bar [pub] in Dungannon. She is from Africa. At the time, she did not have much English but she used her mobile to translate. There was some humour when she explained that her boyfriend, from Lurgan, was asking if she would like a kiss, but she did not understand, because it sounded like “cass”.

    One of the facilitator asked: ‘Thinking about the whole issue of language – always a big issue for people coming into another country – did you find the way 
    we speak English here a barrier? I mean that our way of pronouncing words is different, and also vocabulary and syntax as the language has features from Gaelic, Ulster Scots, Norman, French, Scandinavian and even Church Latin, and like the French spoken in Quebec, as I understand it, there are some archaic elements also'.

    ‘I did have difficulty at first. Certain words here are different. When you are travelling to a different place you expect a big culture shock. When I first travelled to China it was even more different than what I had expected. In Northern Ireland, though, it is English speaking, the way people speak caught me off guard. Though there are some funny experiences. I had a long conversation with a woman and she was telling me about what I thought was a ‘tar’. I could not figure it out. Something about staying and this tar. But she meant staying in a tower on the coast'.

    ‘To have a second option – of going back – keeps your mind right. There can be difficulty at any time. If I don’t bother anybody, nobody bothers me. My husband struggled with some stuff. Women have to be strong. Men might be more afraid. The kids gave me a kind of protection – maybe I was seen as less of a threat or nobody would attack a woman with children. Men are seen as more of a threat. Maybe because they could be more violent. When we 
    were separated, I was in a shelter. From that moment, I was out from the relationship. I feel I had been manipulated. I found it very easy here – I had more power as a woman. I find that, legally, often, but not all the time, women are seen to be right, they have more rights'.

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland: ‘Some countries would be different’.

    'It is kind of the case that the husband has all the rights, especially to do with the kids. The wife would not be allowed to leave. I cannot go back because there is a risk my children could be taken away. My parents are alive. They understand, they support. Many women would be condemned for 
    leaving their husband. I had to do the best for my children. I am afraid still there might be revenge'.

    Tess: ‘It’s not easy.’

    ‘My Social Worker said I was a model, an example for other women. People do not divorce in my country. It is too expensive'.

    Tess: 'Is it true that as a migrant here, you have to find out everything from the start, that you need to be very proactive?’

    ‘Yes, one thing was trying to choose a school, when the kids move from primary school to secondary school [Elementary to High School]. Here is a simple example, you need to have proof, a letter to say, for example, this is the eldest child in the family. The Principal of the primary School did not tell me that. How can I know these things? I would have needed proper help. Parents need advice and information. I felt excluded, other people from here would have known this sort of information. This was going to affect a major decision about my kid; the decision depended on the tiny detail of this letter. Having friends is great. Everybody knows something. It is important to ask when you do not know something. Communication is very important. And that makes for solidarity'.

    Tess: ‘I think they call this sort of support within groups, social capital. Important resource in building societies'.

    ‘I have friends from Romania and other places. But the friendships here are much stronger. I rely on them more. Some people don’t want to have friends from their own country. But I think people should stick together for good stuff, but not for bad stuff. If I am going out, I try to help people. Everybody says ‘you are too good’ because I had people who were in trouble stay with me. But you have to do something. And you should not be waiting for someone to call you, you have to make an effort. I am here seven years. I am laughing when people here make jokes, but I don’t have a clue what they are saying. I am not a mind reader. People should open their mind so that they can understand us. This project will help maybe to show who we are'.

  • Challenges/difficulties: Missing family connections

    Canadian facilitator Sarah-Ann, reflecting on one of the international workshops, was struck by how one of the Northern Ireland participants talked about cemeteries; she missed being able to visit her deceased relatives.

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, remarked that visiting family graves links you with the taproots of your ancestry. When you are no longer in your own country, those roots are severed in important respects.

    The group considered also how cemeteries revealed larger historical forces – people dying, for example, in the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 in Europe or 
    in wars or, as Amea Wilbur, Project Director in Canada, noted, how the unmarked graves of indigenous children testified to the impact of colonisation.

  • Identity: Belonging to more than one culture or country

    Canadian facilitator, Serrah-Ann, drew attention to a theme which ran through the workshops she attended – those who had family here, perhaps second generation migrants, felt a sense of belonging to their Canadian family, but also recognised that they had family in their ancestral country.

    Serrah-Ann noted that ‘until someone else said it, I thought it was just me’. She concurred with this and noted that ‘the heart is in multiple places’, that families are connected across space and even over time.


Belonging Themes

Belonging themes emerged from dialogue about the photos: having purpose, informal learning spaces, settlement services and community support, food, the importance of nature, family bonds, safety, being listened to, writing and sharing stories, and welcoming and supporting other newcomers.

I belong to Canada. At the same time, I think Canada also needs to show that strong Welcome to me. Sure. That’s what makes the complete picture of belonging, right? Yeah. And so, how can Canada do that?

  • Opportunities: Northern Ireland as a newer migration destination

    ‘With no nothing they took us in. They brought a box, with new things like simple things, but new things, I was delighted out of the word, because I 
    didn't expect that... They had compassion for us so I'm really grateful for that'.

    'Many people from different cultures, Indian, Italian migrants, live and have businesses here, even in small villages, though people might not think about that.’

    ‘If you are coming from a poor country, the opportunities here are such a blessing'.

    ‘This is Queen’s University, where I did my Master’s. As a mum of three children, it would have been very difficult back home. It is more traditional. It is quite hard for a married woman to study due to family responsibilities (not impossible though)'.

    ‘This is the library where I studied. I was able to study late, maybe 3am, but this would not have been possible in my own country'.

    ‘I did many courses in the Women’s Centre [First Steps Women's Centre in Dungannon, Northern Ireland] and it broadened my knowledge and in a way it 
    influenced me to pursue my studies. This was the beginning of my educational journey. For example, I did a course on Living History [History of Northern Ireland]. Then I did an access course and studied the history of Ireland. Then my degree and Master’s'.

    ‘This is a park [public park] near me. I have an electric car and I can charge it here and walk in the park and swim. I did not have these opportunities at home’.

  • Opportunities: Connection to work


    'When I joined clubs like this, volunteer at places, I felt included in a way that you don’t ask for what’s on your paper, or where do you come from. Where did you belong?'

    'This was the time I was a part of a volunteer I felt so happy and was so happy with like, the weather and everything...'

    'There was one girl who was like, this is the best time when you volunteer... you don’t look forward to the end result of how much money you’re gonna make, but it’s... the time... how many friends or what kind of experience you’ve got from it... you’re not... getting anything else. But... everything just given out'.


    'It [hairdressing] made me feel safe and make me feel so like satisfied to know that I was capable of doing something... We had our first day in the 
    program already and all the girls were so welcoming... Even though we still have a long time ahead of us, I know that it’s what I want to do and I know it’s an opportunity I’m not going to bail on'. 

    'I did manage to get into the program... I do want to do something with my life and I think the school gave me a big opportunity that I think I wouldn’t have taken it at all and even the teachers are helping me with my grades and after school staying sometimes... that... means a lot to me... a blessing to be able to join it'.

    ‘So I don't want the immigrants to get to think they are entitled to things. We have to work hard, of course. So immigrants should not expect like it should not take things for granted, not have high expectations but migrants should look, should ask they look what they can offer to this country, how they can give back to the country and community, how they can help, so it work both ways - to help each other'.

  • Gender roles

    Canada has giving us the opportunity to share the house and parenting responsibilities because the roles are not defined by gender.

'One of the benefits that Canada has given me, is to have an employment that back home is assigned to males. This experience has helped me to break stigma and stereotypes for people that work in certain industries such as construction'.

'I started this job, I’m working hard work like welding, sometimes I’m working forklift. I’m happy to work there... [People at work] make me feel happy and like one of them. They never racially profile me because I’m wearing hijab. And there were only few women in that company and I felt like the workers was a team... If I don’t understand nothing, they were happy to explain to her'.

  • Opportunities: Value at work

    'I work in the Starbucks... in this place I feel so belonging and... everyone loves me a lot. And I love them, too'.

    '...everyone is here like a family to us... We have so many regular customers that come every day there just because we serve them good. And we... make them feel welcome... Everyone talk to you in a respectful way, right? Because many places we go... many people don’t serve it in a good way... So here I feel belonged because of the people around me and everyone is so positive'.

    'We are just like a family. Small family of different people'.

  • Sense of belonging

    'It was great joining the book club. Even though I was the only one non Canadian but the latest verse so great, sometimes I miss the way they just embraced me and who I was, even though sometimes I had some opinions which maybe they didn't fit with Canadians, but it was my opinion and I felt free to express myself but they didn't judge me and I learned a lot from them'.

    'I really feel at home here, it is the best of both worlds. When I first came I didn’t know English at all. I have this strange feeling now, I feel at home. I’m happy to come back here. People around me are fine. There is no racism. But sometimes, people don’t look you in the eyes. For example, I have been asked if Romania is a gypsy country. I don’t feel strange because I know who I am. I think is the way you are built to see things – to do with your mentality – I am a positive person. Of course, if somebody did something bad, I could not live here'.

    ‘I have since got Irish citizenship. It was the end of a saga. The ceremony gave me a lot to think about – so welcoming and they told us not to forget where we came from. We should tell our story because it becomes part of the story of Ireland'.

    'The house we recently moved to – a brilliant experience. Home is where the heart is'.

    ‘These pictures are rails or blinds which are closed, they symbolize how closed off we are from knowing what is going on in other people’s lives'.

    ‘Belonging means also having confidence; making good friendships supported me in feeling that I belong. But there is a ‘them and us’ culture. As a German, I say things and it comes across as very forthright so I had to really tone down. I think because I was slightly on the outside, I can make friends on both sides, I can sit on the fence. I need to reflect. It is a liberation, being an outsider. A little bit like being a long lens'.

    ‘I feel like I belong. But I am ambivalent. That is not a bad thing. People put up old pictures on the Facebook noticeboard. They are an insight into the local history. There is a common memory. I am getting it into me, but at the same time, only slowly acquiring and at the same time, these pictures remind me that this common memory is not mine. There are Polish RAF graves here, but they are in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast. We celebrate Independence Day there each year. I feel a disconnection from my ancestors. On the majority of the graves, both the date of birth and death do not seem to be there'.

    ‘...picture is of a Fitness card. These come from our Council [local authority]. You can take the whole family to keep fit activities. In Italy it is very different; it costs maybe 300 euros to join a gym. We can afford to join the activities here'.

    I feel like I am on holiday. It is a dream come true'.

    ‘Carrickfergus. I belong there'.

    ‘At the start, I didn’t think I belonged here, but now when I am in Spain, I want back here. It is a kind of No Man’s Land. I reflect that my four-year old has three passports. Different generations' experience of the original culture can be problematic'.

    ‘When something like that clicks, you start to feel a connection with the place. Adaptation – things are different, but can we still use these different things for the same purpose?'

    ‘My son started to like football. There was a match between Italy and Northern Ireland. He did not know whether to cry or shout. He said ‘your kind’ to me. There was confusion'.

    ‘I have been here 20 years. The border now looks so different'.

'I love my [home] country. I need my relatives and nature where I grew up. But, I don’t agree with that politics, with that corruption. I would love the place for my kids have a good future. Safe future. In Canada is the future for my kids. So it the place where I love to be because I feel respected'.

  • Intercultural understanding: Sense of belonging through being made to feel welcome

    'I think... when welcoming someone to Canada, or sharing my own experiences, or introducing Canada to my parents or to some other people. It’s not just introducing Canada to the people. Canada itself is very multicultural, so it’s like a broader vision of the world.... There is a term called global community I think'.

    'So I want to show the flag of Albania. Because this is love... always been for Albanians. So it’s very dear to me, many generations of people give their life to protect this... Very dear for others who die for this flag. We always have two flags in our home. To me the Canadian flag is a symbol of hope, a peace symbol. In our hardest days they took us in and gave us a chance for new life. So to me, more to my heart, when I see the Canadian flag it’s just feel like I belong. It’s my flag. I’m able to sacrifice for life, but I’m able to stand for it too'.

    'I was invited to go to church a couple of times. But I saw myself I don’t belong there. I don’t believe in that. To me belonging is... a flag [which] connect all people [from] different cultures, different religions, different backgrounds, different DNA. And it connects together because we love the same flag. What is common for us? We all came here for a better life'.

    More broadly, many of the women in project, including migrants and people brought up in Northern Ireland demonstrated a desire to engage with other cultures - intercultural understanding in action.

    A participant explained that the shops meant the love for the area. The shop she photographed was a place were the staff made you feel welcomed.

    Another participant was a newcomer to the area, she explained that it 'took a year to get to know others, you can be very much on your own even 
    when surrounded by houses and people'. It was the staff and the people going to the shop that helped make her feel accepted and able to settle in.

    A participant stated that she got to know a number of people through being in the shop. She felt it was a real focal point and also very welcoming and a warm place.

    Another participant said that she was glad she made the effort to get to know people.

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, asked: “What is it about the neighbours?”

    Someone replied: 'Welcoming, friendly'.

    Tess also highlighted that migrant people also have to make a huge effort to settle, to meet new people, make friends. Shops can cut down isolation. People don’t come to you – people like to be asked.

  • Links with home: Family

Bureau de Change. A participant said that this is how she sends money home to East Timor. It is a link with home.

  • Understanding and similarity between cultures: Dress, costume, beliefs

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, spoke about the parallel between Irish Catholicism with traditional dress for different events in life e.g. Holy Communion, Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage. Tess highlighted that communion dresses would have been handed down to other family members whereas the wedding dress was not normally handed down.

    Tess spoke about the past in Ireland – the traditional dress for mourning, women had to wear certain clothes when they were widowed. Another participant mentioned that this was the same in East Timor. Also, Tess mentioned widows in years gone by in Ireland also wore black clothes.

    Another participant explained it is an East Timorese tradition to wear black for 12 months after being widowed.

    Another participant added it is the same in West Africa.

    Tess mentioned the topic of head coverings – Muslim women wear these but also in Ireland women going to Church would have worn a hat – dressing in a very formal way in the 60’s and 70’s, whereas now it is less formal, more relaxed.

    Other participant explained that in East Timor the tradition is that a person can remarry if widowed but that the “dowry” must be paid back.

    Tess compared the dowry system to the modern pre-nuptial agreements which have become more prevalent in the West.

    Cemetery at Carland Road, Dungannon is the graveyard where people from ET go to lay flowers as a memorial to those who have died recently in ET and also as a memorial to those who have died years before. A participant explained that this is done on the 2nd November each year. Another participant added that the day before this they make food and have the flowers set alongside the food. The food is eaten and the next day the flowers are laid in the graveyard.

    Tess coordinated a discussion around celebrating the dead – similar to that in South America known as Día de Muertos or Día de los Muertos.

    Tess also spoke about the way Ireland holds a wake when someone dies, this tradition could be of pagan origins.

    Regarding flags, a participant noted that to fly certain flags in ET you would have “haters” and get into trouble.

  • First Steps Women’s Centre (FSWC): Stakeholder, intercultural centre

    A participant said she loved this place. She was signposted to FSWC by friends.

    Another participant said how she felt welcomed.

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, spoke about how Women Centres can and are a pathway into a route of Adult Education. She spoke about Women Centres offering transport, childcare, free education. She also spoke about how Women Centres can make you feel belonging and included. Participants discussed around Friendship and Solidarity.

    A participant explained that this is a 'very good place'. 'They don’t have a place like this at home'. Another participant explained that it is very expensive to learn English in ET. She found FSWC very nice and that the creche was very important, really vital.

    Tess explained that the support is very important and that learning a language can be seen as something for 'privileged people' i.e. those who have money.

A participant explained that she attends FSWC a number of times per week. She tells of how the driver, Franco, comes out to pick her up and brings her to the Centre and also takes her and other women and children home.

Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, enquired if she felt she belonged at FSWC. She replied with a resounding 'YES!'

  • Funding for culturally diverse festivals and events

    Some participants mentioned that prior to Covid there were events organised by community groups and also Mid Ulster Council that enabled them to celebrate East Timor Independence Day and their culture.

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, asked: 'Does celebration give you a sense of belonging?'

    A participant replied: 1Yes, it allows us to connect with our own heritage'.

  • Nature as consolation and meeting place: Sense of belonging

    ‘I want to grow vegetables. I am going back to growing as I did in Romania. There is both alienation and belonging'.

    ‘Here are flowers and paintings of flowers. One was done by my daughter. These flowers represent for me a sense of community and friendship – the orchid was a gift when I arrived (and now I like to keep orchids), the felting project I did with a lovely group of women, my daughter’s painting represents how very much my experience here is tied to her existence in my life'.

    ‘We went to the parks, I love nature'.

    ‘It was great to go into the [Botanic] Gardens [local Authority run Park] when I was studying and wanted some fresh air'.

    'This is the view from Kilbroney - you can see Carlingford Lough [in the Republic of Ireland]. I love the sea, it is mesmerising'.

    ‘The sea gives me a sense of awe. I’ve never lived near the sea and didn’t realise until living here how much I appreciate being so close to it and having such access to it'.

    ‘The next picture, it is the sea again. It is by Groomsport and Donaghadee, the sea has a healing power for me. In Germany, the sea was 600 kilometres away. It is never tiring, and the beauty of this country is so much. Loads of lovely sunsets'.

    ‘It [a granite beach near Bangor, Co Down] is very relaxing. You don’t need a spa. When the winds are crashing, you internalise the force of the crash and you are elevated. Our bodies are water and when it resonates with water it gives energy to the body. I used to live in Victoria in Zimbabwe. There was a waterfall and when the water fell, it was very powerful and made a sound and I used to visit while going to the office and would connect with the water. It is so magnetising that you have to hold yourself back'.

    ‘This is the mermaid statue on a little rock. In Northern Ireland there are many stories of elves, sea and the woods. I am in a group called the Yarn Spinners, where they tell old stories and I sometimes go there to listen to such stories; it is ingrained in the culture, it is so actual here. But there are no such stories in Holland. People in Holland may have forgotten such stories. People incorporate you into the society and I feel that I am part of this culture'.

    A facilitator said: ‘There are still spells and charms here that go across the religious divides and go back to Pagan times, probably. Rural people have a strong link with their parents even after they die. They are gone and they are not gone.’

    ‘This is a park where we spent a lot of time – it was a lovely experience, though some people would think twice about being friends'.

    ‘Northern Ireland really is ‘forty shades of green’ [a song written and performed by Johnny Cash, 1959, inspired by a trip to Ireland. The phrase refers to the many shades of green he saw in the landscape]'.

    ‘I would go to Divis Mountain for long walks. The beauty of Northern Ireland is you don’t have to go miles and miles away to be in nature. It is hardly 15 minutes drive from the city to the mountains. That is quite in contrast to India. The landscape changes so often here. It would take some time in India to see a change in the landscape while travelling but here it is different'.

    This is the River Lagan [the main river which flows through Belfast]. The reason I took the picture is that rivers in India have a lot of significance. They have a lot of spiritual significance. The Ganges was a big thing for me as a child. Away from family, you miss your family. For me, this pathway was quite helpful, whenever I was missing home, I would go for a walk. These water bodies are sustaining and nurturing for people. And calming for people. Any major cities would be around rivers or bodies of water. They have a big role to play in our lives'.

  • New kinds of nature

    ‘I learned so much from my mother-in-law talking about flowers'.

    ‘This photograph is of blackberries; foraging is a part of my experience here'.

‘Here you can see ferns and wildflowers. I wanted to capture how nature thrives; even in stone walls, always there is something. This was something that stood out for me here. One of my big impressions over time – what I appreciate is the accessibility of nature, that is very new to me'.

‘Next is a canopy of trees, close to the place I used to live near the city centre. Indian people are crazy about Bollywood movies - Romantic movies with trees and dried leaves. The funny part is that many people are doing TikTok, here, acting out a Bollywood movie song. The landscape changes over the months and I love nature so much and it tells me how nature changes. It also tells me that the bad times are not going to stay and they will change. I took a picture every month, it is a great way of seeing the changes in the seasons. I love nature so much; the cycle of nature. It sends a message, after a bad time, will come a good time’.

'I feel like I can do my daily activities as a Canadian. I’m not scared. I thought I would be stuck and cannot live in cold or ice... When I see that there is snow outside, I say how I can go outside. [But now] I feel free when I go outside and I can go anywhere'.

'This was the time I was a part of a volunteer I felt so happy and was so happy with... the weather and everything... One of the things that made me more 
inclusive and belong to Canada was the seasons you know, never saw snow before. So it’s a big thing for me... just like enjoying snow'.

'I just enjoy how lucky we are to enjoy every single season here. And you’s very hard to hear people complain about little things are just so precious to me... so yeah, I feel very belonged here'.

'In the beginning, if nothing was happening... walking into nature was so important. ...I think being with nature, and just connecting with people not like work you know, just like they want your opinion'.

'I’m new here. So that’s the first time I see it [a rainbow] so clear. ...I don’t know if I belong to here or not yet... I’m still new and I don’t have a friend I don’t have anyone yet. So that thing [rainbow] remembers me like when I’m with my friends in Turkey'.

It reminded her of 'All of my friends in Turkey. They are my family there'.

  • Importance of connection back to original culture, e.g. via food

    ‘This is a mocha coffee machine. I bought it because the coffee is not strong enough here, too watery’.

    ‘Here are some recipe books and other books. Some have travelled from Canada and from China. Consistency is very important, it can be achieved maybe through food. The books give me a sense of connection to my past. They give me comfort'.

    ‘... German mustard. Nothing tops it'.

    ‘This is the New Delhi restaurant in the city centre. They have authentic Indian food. Boojum was a staple when we first moved here – most spicy. But now, I would use some different spices – not available in my own country'.

    ‘This picture is of gladioli. My mother used to grow these flowers and so having them in the vase really connects with home'.

    My grandmother used to use mint in the potatoes. Her aliveness for me is still in the mint'.

    ‘This is a picture of raspberries growing. This gives me a connection back to Poland'.

    ‘This is lasagne, Northern Irish style. But this is not really like Italian lasagne’.

    ‘... the curries we eat here are different from those eaten in Pakistan. In the poor areas there is a limited range of ingredients and they are not always as fresh as they would be here'.

    ‘There are similar things here for me too. In relation to food, the Italian Queen went to Poland, to Silesia, so maybe that influences our food, like the dumplings which are a bit like Italian gnocchi'.

    'Potatoes feature in a painting by Van Gogh too – ‘The Potato Pickers’. In the past, the farming people put a big pot of potatoes on the table. The man, the family provider always got to go first’.

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, said: ‘Yes, that sounds familiar. I heard people talking in the country places here about the very same thing. And there is a wonderful poem by our poet, Seamus Heaney, called ‘The Seedcutters’ (After Breughel) and, like Breughel, Heaney focused on the ordinary farming people – sitting out under a hedge in the winter, splitting potatoes. That is how they planted them and also checked that they were not diseased. There was a memory among the people of the rotten potatoes and all the deaths in the Famines of the 1840s'.

    ‘I agree, food relates to economic circumstances, A country’s famous dishes are often made from the only items and ingredients that people in poverty had. In India and Pakistan they added spices and in Italy spices and herbs for Pizza'.

    Participants in the Dungannon group commented how shops have changed and new shops have opened to meet the needs of different migrant groups. Lidl and a number of other shops have adapted to the different cultures living within Mid Ulster through the supply of different foods. This was to meet the demand from migrants and different nationalities now living within Mid Ulster. Used to have a market in town square – now have shops that can 
    cater for many nationalities – a form of Inclusion.

    Malumera Shop – this participant explained that this is one of two East Timorese “specialist” food shops. She gave examples of the different types of food that she can purchase there including Coconut leaves. Tess mentioned that even a few years ago there were no specialist food shops in Dungannon. Tess explained that even garlic was something that was not readily available up until a few years ago.

    A participant explained that when she first came here the “chillies” that she bought from Tesco were different to what she would have purchased in East Timor. She added that she would have bought chillies in the Indian shop up until the East Timorese shop opened. She said she was happy that there were better supplies of East Timorese food now than when she first arrived.

    Tess commented that the supply was much better, because there was a greater demand for East Timorese food and ingredients. Tess and others within the group agreed that learning to cook food from other cultures helped people to integrate. There was a discussion on the growth of merging cultures through food e.g. curries and potatoes – Tess mentioned how English cooking was inflected by other cultures as a result of its imperial presence in many parts of the world, especially India.

    A participant spoke about how people from East Timor like to visit her if she is making East Timorese food. That seems to be a big attraction for many people from East Timor.

    Tess said that food is a language to communicate and mix with other cultures. Tess added that there is also a togetherness when cooking food from own culture and inviting friends from home around.

    Coconut Leaf - A participant stated that East Timorese people use these leaves for special occasions including Christmas. She said she would order these 2-3 months before Christmas just to make sure that she receives them.

    Tess stated that food has a ritual significance for get togethers e.g. Coconut leaves at Xmas. Food is and can be a part of who you are, can give you a sense of identity.

    A participant noted that the Banana Leaf is used in Indonesia during Ramadan.

    Tess acknowledged the diversity of East Timor and Indonesia. Tess also mentioned the Sri Lankan Poet – Dabydeen . Sri Lanka is also very diverse culturally.

    However, another participant, living in another small town, commented upon how difficult it was to get halal food.

‘This is called pipas. It is a sunflower seed snack and I love it. Also here there is a tin of artichokes and chickpeas. The funny thing is that when you are in Spain, you miss things here'.

'This is called morcilla. It is like chorizo and also like Black Pudding, made from blood. I made a mistake, I tried to make Spanish dishes with the original ingredients, but it is hard to get morcilla, only in Spanish week in Lidl. I decided to adjust to what is available here'.

  • Adaption

    Boojum was a staple when we first moved here – most spicy. But now, I would use some different spices – not available in my own country'.

    ‘This is a picture of a plate of gnocchi. Things look complicated but they are not always. We can adapt, and yet be faithful to our own culture'.

    This is my back garden, the nasturtiums are in full bloom. I was really keen to have a garden. But there were so many stones. I had to use a pickaxe. The birds love the garden.

    A participant also told a very funny story about having to learn to cook Irish food and they had a barbecue, so there was spicy African chicken at one side and Irish unspiced sausages at the other.

  • Changing perspectives, changing identity, changing culture

    'I realized, I always wanted to be open minded I realized, I have been not that open minded, I have been narrow, so this is opening, like seeing from different perspective, other people's perspective. I see myself I have changed a lot since I came here, but sometimes I like to joke, I say I still have some rough edges.

    'You know, there is very prevalent images about the first generation immigrants. They have high ranks of diplomas. It’s not surprising to hear or to see the PhD was just doing the delivery work, or washing the dishes. Was that image a stereotype? But, naturally I’m contributing to that attitude... I’m just like, willing to sacrifice myself or what to create, like a bright future for the next generation... But, I will say, that after I felt my self-esteem or stepped out, it made me realize that my own future is not less important. So, not to put that second generation ahead of you'.

    ‘I had gone to the Titanic Museum and the receptionist asked me where I was living. I felt a bit awkward because I have settled status here. The reason for her asking was that they were collecting statistics, I suppose mainly from tourists who do not live here.

    ‘When I was born, I was given a Chinese name but it is my English name which is on my Birth Certificate. Someone asked me, ‘What is your real name?’ It did catch me off guard. I thought it was funny for people to question what my real name was. The other day I was talking to a mortgage adviser and he asked me to spell my name [participant's name is a very common English name].

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Nothern Ireland, asked: ‘What do people mean by ‘real name?

    Participant answered: ‘In my home my family would have used our Chinese names. In Canada the Chinese names are rendered phonetically. Growing up, that is all I knew, but I have a memory of being glad to have been given an English name. I wanted to fit in. There was a slight bit of embarrassment or shame about my Chinese name or about wanting to value my English name more',

    Tess, ‘Maybe it is a sense of a kind of pull between our first culture and the new culture?’

    Participant, ‘The Chinese community offer a support network. That is how migrant networks operate. Then, when my family first emigrated, two generations ago, they were definitely outsiders'.

    Tess, ‘I was thinking about the history of Irish migration. At first they were not well thought of, there would be signs on lodging houses, ‘No Irish, Jews or Blacks need apply’. But they were gradually accepted. I wonder if this is the story of many migrant groups’.

    ‘Yes, people with Irish ancestry are celebrated’.

    ‘I teach yoga. I taught it first in China, mainly to the expat community. I had not the confidence to teach in Mandarin. If I had looked more Western, I might have been forgiven. Here, initially, I did not have Right to Work status so I did some voluntary teaching, including in Residential schools’.

    ‘I feel like I am at home here. I embrace everything. It is surprising how you change. When I first came, I had to start from zero. I felt like a stranger’.

    ‘At the bottom of migration is the search for a better life. You will do whatever it takes to have that life. And you don’t want to be too good at anything, to stand out too much in case people think you are boasting or making yourself superior’.

    ‘We googled ‘Northern Ireland’ before we came. Everytime, what came up was The Troubles. So we were a little sceptical [wary] about coming and how the people would be. After a couple of months, we were still hesitant to go out, but slowly what we imagined about the place changed when we started to meet people. It makes me wonder if this is not the case in other countries too’.

    ‘... Titanic Quarter. The reason I took it, was that some years ago there was no building here. But in Belfast as a city, change is happening, and new things are coming. Progressing might not be the right word, but there is a lot of change’.

    ‘Nowadays, there are times allowed for prayer. In the Protestant school which I had attended, they didn’t entertain the prayer space or prayer time.’

    Translation and interpreting services are brilliant. Then people can access it. It wasn’t available 30 years ago or in Pakistani languages. But it is great that it is now available’.

    'This is the food I was served when I was in hospital. They gave me samosas for lunch and for dinner. And this was halal food. It was brilliant for inclusion. And, of course, HP sauce – with everything [a popular brown sauce]. I spent 10 months in hospital. You don’t think until it is part of your life... The hospital pharmacist was more culturally sensitive, and he told me that the medication given to me is all halal. The gelatine did not come from animals. And I was not aware, but the pharmacist saw my mother wearing the scarf and guessed that I am a Muslim'.

    ‘Here are hotdog sausages and sweets. I found them in B&M bargains. When I saw them, I saw the halal label which is very rare to find in Ballymena. It hasn’t reached our small town. I emptied the shelves when I saw the halal Haribos’.

    ‘I put a post up on Facebook to showcase what people have told me. When there is inclusion then there is no discrimination. If they see more of us doing good or on the radio, I am sure they would have normalised it'.

    'This is the Belfast Mela. It is all about inclusion, it is a cultural festival that includes many cultures. You are mixing with people from different traditions. It happens once a year and it should be happening more. There are people wearing traditional clothes, so you don’t feel an odd one out as there are others wearing their traditional clothes’.


  • More about adaption and change over the years

    The picture of an overgrown house is a little bit like me. When I came here the house was bare. I planted a small pot of ivy in 1996. Now the house is covered in ivy and Virginia Creeper. There are so many families of birds, especially house sparrows. The picture symbolises how I am still myself but I have adopted things from here. This is another picture of me being on the beach. That is my friend’s hand, it is the hand of friendship. I have made lovely friends here. Northern Ireland has grown on me. I have grown on Northern Ireland – like the ivy'.

    ‘I met somebody lately who thought I was from Belfast – that gave me a feeling of belonging here. Some people ask me where I am from, though and that jars a bit, it is like being checked out. It is a funny feeling, as if I were an imposter being found out. We have Asylum Seekers in Bangor [a town by the sea near Belfast]. Sometimes people don’t like things you do; the only thing is to have conversations'.

    ‘In Mauritius all the food is halal, not Muslim necessarily. Even fast food is halal. When we first came, there was only one halal shop; now around the larger Belfast area there are maybe 10’.

    ‘I grew up with my mother making pasta so I bought a pasta maker here so I could remind myself of my mother and also by making pasta with my son, I could help him to connect to his Italian heritage’.

    ‘Yes, food is a great connector, even if people have no common language'.

    ‘I understand that sense of being in between. We should take the best of different cultures. When we were younger, we were taken to Pakistan to find our roots – only for me to find out that my roots are in Ballymena. How beautiful it is to experience both, it’s like having two souls'.

    'When a person comes to another country as a child there is flexibility. When you are older, the mindset is already more fixed'.

    ‘The outdoor cinema organised by Belfast Mela [intercultural festival] was a first time for me and my family. Also, the Belfast Mela which is organised every year on the last Sunday of August is really beautiful as there's a display of cultures. It's really good as it promotes cultures and during my 13 years in Belfast, I can see how Belfast is growing in diversity'.

    ‘I dream of riding a motorbike. I like to be with the Romanian community. I volunteer with them'.

    A participant has lived in Dungannon since she came there 5 years ago. She calls Lisnahull Park “my home”.

    ‘At the start, I didn’t think I belonged here, but now when I am in Spain, I want back here. It is a kind of No Man’s Land. I reflect that my four-year old has three passports. Different generations' experience of the original culture can be problematic'.

    ‘When something like that clicks, you start to feel a connection with the place. Adaptation – things are different, but can we still use these different things for the same purpose?'

    ‘My son started to like football. There was a match between Italy and Northern Ireland. He did not know whether to cry or shout. He said ‘your kind’ to me. There was confusion'.

    ‘I have been here 20 years. The border now looks so different'.

    'This is a park in Belfast. I was so happy, people were able to learn Salsa for free. I feel so much happiness, I love dancing but I had never done Salsa. It is a way to forget your trouble. You get energy, a good vibe, connect to other people from different cultures, men and women. You feel free, brilliant’.

    ‘Coming from a different culture, you see women free, taking the lead. It is a great time to be in Northern Ireland'.

    Tess: 'Is there a kind of theme here – how things have changed in Northern Ireland over the years?’

    People brought up in Northern Ireland also testified to how the town and its buildings have changed over time.

    Commenting on a photo of the local hospital, a participant explained that the hospital had recently opened a new cancer unit. She spoke about the evolution of the building. At one stage it was a Workhouse – for the totally destitute and now it was turning into a brand new cancer centre.

    Connecting back to a previous theme of the importance of food in terms of identity, one participant, brought up in Dungannon said: ‘What people miss a lot when they migrate to another country a lot is their own food. Below the Hill of the O’Neills and the old police barracks, is the ‘Diamond’ – or the ‘Square’ – the centre of Dungannon. This photograph shows how the shops have changed, reflecting the large number of new people coming to the town from many different cultures, especially from East Timor, Eastern Europe and Africa’.

'My mom is everything in my life... I’m so thankful for her and I wish I will be with her all the time and help her with everything in her life because she went 
through a lot. She helped us like we’re seven children and she raised us so that we love everyone, help everyone. And everything - It’s her, she did everything for us'.

Viewing migration from the perspective of the people living in Northern Ireland, one participant, part of the Dungannon group, expressed her willingness to connect with and understand other cultures. Her son had a Filipino girlfriend.

The deeper and more complex history of places – reflecting how they have experienced many complex migration experiences was brought out through another photo – of an old police barracks in Dungannon. The building symbolises how places change. This building was a police station. It is believed that this barracks, designed in the reign of Victoria (nineteenth century) was meant to be put up in India, but the plans got mixed up. The police barracks is at the top of the town of Dungannon [40 miles south west of Belfast]. This town was famous earlier as a Gaelic stronghold and there was a castle there in the 1500s. Nowadays, the castle on the Hill of the O’Neills has been replaced by an arts centre called Ranfurly House. Ranfurly was the name of the main English landlord in the town'.

  • Caught between cultures

    'Fear of identity crisis or I don't know how to explain. I just thought, maybe it's normal, other first generation goes through through this, as much as I 
    want to belong here, same way I don't want to lose my first culture where is I had a great childhood, so I, I had the great memories, even though the 
    last memories of the war, they were bad, but it's a struggle to make a balance between two worlds so it's we want to do to keep both wordls like yes to belong here and there - I don't think we can belong hundred percent here and hundred percent there... When you go visiting there, they treat us differently to so they picked on us I forget not being there.  And here as soon as they hear my accent, people treat me no better after 23 years when they hear my accent, and I, I feel embarrassed; sometimes it's a very heavy feeling'.

    A participant hates to see people not caring about their neighbourhood, environment. Discussion about olden days when there were no bins, people used to burn everything or throw it on the ground or, on farms, put rubblish in the dunghill. Changed now – most people “environmentally conscious” – learning to care and protect the bigger world.

A participant, who grew up outside Dungannon, also commented on change – this was an old windmill when the area was industrialised in the nineteenth century. Now it is in themiddle of a lovely wood, a place where people come to enjoy nature.

Among other positive aspects of migrant experience there is the sense of independence.

'This is me walking in the garden. It symbolises knowing what independence is, versus always being surrounded by family'.

  • How the ‘natives’ are viewed – compare and contrast

    'This is Donegan’s pub. I like it because it has a sign that Guinness every day is good for you. These pubs have such an atmosphere. It is typical to Northern Ireland'.

    'Some people are distinctive and particular about naming Northern and South. Maybe it has influenced people. Who to trust or confide in? Some people have this mentality and I understand that. It is hard for people to lose this cautiousness'.

    'Next, you have a red post box, the initials are George Rex [ie King George VI, who died in 1952 and was succeeded by the Queen, Elizabeth]. It is 70, 80 years old and still very good, still, icons are in place in mint condition but are replaced in Holland. Sadly, nobody writes letters these days. I also like the fact when my mother writes the letters, it is her handwriting, and I can feel her more. It is the beauty of physical writing. It is less cold when we use paper. Older people say that old things are better, using nice paper or a card’.

    ‘A pooch stop. This is a very British thing, this love for pets. All these pet foods and racks of pet foods'.

    ‘These pictures were taken at the aeroplane museum, there are a lot of old [vintage] cars. In Hong Kong, everything is new; there is a push always towards change, it is too quick, there is no place for the old’.

    ‘This is Rathcoole, which is a Loyalist housing estate [north of Belfrast in the outer suburbs]. Democracy is strong here. People can express their territory. Now, Hong Kong has been taken over by China and it is not possible to express your views. People keep telling me, ‘don’t go there, to Rathcoole’. But you are the same as everyone, I think you are welcome. If you just listen to the news you would be scared. I don’t feel like that. People are helpful’.

    '... a Nursing Home [where I work]. How this place has changed me. A lot of money is invested in parents. At the same time, it is a sad place'.

‘This is Rathcoole, which is a Loyalist housing estate [north of Belfrast in the outer suburbs]. Democracy is strong here. People can express their territory. Now, Hong Kong has been taken over by China and it is not possible to express your views. People keep telling me, ‘don’t go there, to Rathcoole’. But you are the same as everyone, I think you are welcome. If you just listen to the news you would be scared. I don’t feel like that. People are helpful’.



  • On balance – good aspects of each culture

    'In Mauritius, depending on your religion, you can do an oriental language, for example, a Muslim can pick either Urdu or Arabic. I have been in Northern Ireland for 13 years. Both educational systems are good in their way. Here many children whose first language isn't English struggle with the English Transfer Test exams'.

    ‘I think everybody is private here. You cannot make friends. I only saw my neighbour’s house after two years. But, in another way, she is my best friend. But people keep their distance. I have more likes than dislikes. Driving here is safe and respectful. I don’t think I could drive in my own country; people are shouting, they have no patience. I was at Ikea and it was very busy and people had to wait an hour to get out or in. But it was not a bad hour, because 
    people were patient. The attention and attachment to animals is sometimes too much; you have to put people first. How older people operate here is also something different – they get their hair done and go for coffee. In my country my mother would not have these chances. The community centres are great – there are activities for kids and people work without money, volunteering. When I first came I worked as a volunteer in a Charity shop. There is a sense of solidarity'.

    ‘These are pictures of a Fun Day. People are practising for the annual band parade on 12 July. The children start to practise and learn very young, to feel a part of this. In Hong Kong, children want to join friends, not be with family as they are here. It is more traditional here'.

    'These are pictures of murals. In my country you cannot express your views, it is not allowed under the Chinese Government. There is real freedom, no judgement. It doesn’t matter where you are, the area belongs to people; that is their freedom. The murals seem to say, 'This is mine’. In China you must do what the Government says. How can people expand their mind if they are not allowed dissent?’

    ‘I feel at the beginning, I did not feel I belonged. Back home it was too hot. Here, I have a duvet all year. Bit by bit, I adopt local culture. When I am back, I experience culture shock. Here there is fresh air. The people are more polite, they will talk to you. Nobody will say you are crazy. Back home, I was watching a man eating a fishbone. The man glared at me, he did not want me to talk to him'.

  • Discussion: On balance – good aspects of each culture

    Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland: ‘This culture shock – it is depicted in a play by Brian Friel called 
    The Loves of Cass Maguire. [There is also a Northern Irish writer called Colm Broderick who writes and has made a film about that strange experience of returning to your home country after you have been away for many years.]’

    ‘One year I went back home. I noticed how many elderly people were in the bank, buying shares. This is all to do with the push, people going forward fast. Here people do not progress at the same pace. The change in my own country is too much. The technology, it is all too fast’.

    ‘I agree. People are very chatty, even nosy here. I come from a big city. So people don’t talk. Here the towns are like big villages'.

    ‘I lived in London. I brought my parents to London. My dad thought people here in Northern Ireland were much friendlier'.

    ‘Yes, I feel the exact same thing. She has made such a good point. It does resonate with me – in some parts of Pakistan it is not acceptable to talk to strangers, especially if it is a woman talking to a man. Yet, such a positive thing, I had so many memories'.

    ‘In Ireland, when people are talking to you, they come rather closer than they do in some other places. The more crowded the place, the city, the country, the more people want their personal space'.

    In Italy, there is a very formal way of speaking to people. Here people are more informal'.

    In Asia there is a lot of emphasis on respect, so it is more formal'.

    ‘These are pictures of the ‘Marching Season’. [Groups of people from the Unionist/Loyalist/Protestant communities join marching bands which march on 12 July each year to celebrate the victory of the protestant King William of Orange (Netherlands) over the Catholic (English) King James.] People have different attitudes. There is an ambivalence towards it in my own family. We are observers, watchers'.

    ‘Things are strange here. At the beginning it was the accent. When you have a child, you learn that accent'.

    ‘This is a website about childcare. It makes me very happy. There is not much help for childcare in Italy. And I like the fact that all the information is there on one website'.

    ’This really resonated with me – the pictures of websites. They give you a sense of empowerment, control. You can do things quickly. In Pakistan this is not the case’.

    [re women in work]: ‘I agree that there is respect for women at work here. When I go back to Spain, I am called ‘the Irish one’. It might be an insult. But I feel respected here'.

    ‘This is an old time train [steam locomotive]. It carried my children. It was like travelling in time. There are old trains in Romania, I have bad memories of them, you have to squeeze in, they are not warm. I want to teach my children about the old times, that everything was not always nice, pink [rosy], I teach them to travel in time'.

    Everything is free here, but there are such long waiting lists [for hospital treatment]. In my country, everything is about money'.

    Facilitator, ‘What about education?’

    ‘There are some good and some negative things. If parents don’t have an interest, children suffer. Children who do not go to kindergarten [preschool] struggle. An early start is good, but the testing is not so good. It is so hard to broaden the horizons of the students because of the pressure to study for what might be on the test. Everything is quicker here. German students are older, maybe more mature?’

    Old buildings and amazing architecture. You walk further but empty buildings are going to waste. Relates to India as a lot of places there too are not taken care of. A phone booth. The box is instinctively associated with the UK'.

    'What I really wanted to point out was the things I missed but the main thing is that you should not believe everything you read about another country. When you come from outside, people are very welcoming. You ask for an address and people are very lovely, and they will sometimes walk you to the address. And the people who come to Northern Ireland should do their best to keep an open mind and to integrate.You are there in a new ecosystem, you are in a new country and have an open mind. I have had instances where things were said that were not pleasant. And I have seen in my circle of friends that people are not always open to the festivals and why those things are happening. But, mostly it is far more positive experiences'.

    'This is the Spires Shopping Mall. This relates to the first picture – in contrast; here an old building is being preserved and used for a different purpose. It is a blend of modern and old. This is a building in the city’s heart, and it has been preserved. It can be modern and still can have an identity and be used'.

    'This a mural on one of the buildings not utilised to its fullest potential. ‘TBC ‘ means ‘to be continued’. It is a shame that people are keeping these buildings in such a state. I was trying to capture the season here in this picture – it was November. A few metres away it was dark and cold and on the other side, sunny. These pictures look so retro. No one would believe they are taken nowadays'.

    'Students walking in the pouring rain. I notice that young people do not wear coats when it is raining'.

    ‘A lot of people don’t wear appropriate clothing'.

    Facilitator: ‘I suppose we are used to it, inured. And it is not hard rain, like the rivers of rain that would sweep you off your feet in France or Italy'.

    ‘Yes, it is not ‘wet’ rain'.

    ‘This is the Park Run. Every Saturday morning there are runs of 5 kilometres in some parks in Northern Ireland. You meet new people each time as well as the regulars. It is a community. And it is exercise. I wrote to them to see if the Park Runs could be established in Spain. I like this concept, the sense of community, the amount of volunteering'.

    ‘This is the Bog Garden at Peatlands Park [on the south west shore of Lough Neagh, it is a Wetland Park]. I had not seen anything like that, coming from a dry area. In Spain there are also special parks, protected sites'.

    ‘This is the Catholic cathedral in Armagh city, about 13 miles from Keady. The architecture is very different from Spain where is a lot of gold and gilt. Here it is very simple and elegant. I also found it remarkable that people here form a queue [line-up] to receive Holy Communion. In Spain they just press forward'.

    ‘This is a tin of beans. I cannot understand this idea of beans in a tomato sauce’.

'This is one of the alleyways in Belfast. I took the picture because the small lights reminded me of Diwali - a major festival in India. I totally miss India at that time. I miss my family. But here the Christmas lights sort of create a similar festive mood. The lights remind me of India'.

‘These pictures show the Union Jack, a gate on the Peace Wall and, on the other side, a mural called ‘The Battle of the Falls’. This is very far away from me. My neighbour is my neighbour so it is weird that there are these divisions in Northern Ireland'.

‘Here we have a Thank You card. Everybody in Northern Ireland says ‘thank you’ a lot'.

‘This is near Keady, a village near the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. How green it is. In Spain I worked with a company to do with environment, but the grass was all brown. And in Spain, there are no boundaries, here hedges everywhere. I like also that the landscape is constantly changing every few miles. Landscapes are related to my job. Here the management of the landscape is very well organised – all these boundaries. It is easy to follow where one farmer’s boundary is. Most of the people in this area are farmers. The Department of the Environment has put a lot of effort into environmental protection'.

  • Negative aspects of the new culture (Northern Ireland)

    ‘One of the things that really shocked me here was the over-packaging of food, the amount of waste'.

    ‘There is graffiti all around. It is sometimes not positive’.

    'These are the flags which they [some people from the Unionist and Loyalist communities to celebrate the victory of the Dutch king, William of Orange over the Catholic King James in 1690] put up, but the flag is still there in August. It is also a protest symbol or sign. I find the flags intimidating. Sometimes places are full of flags. There are paramilitary flags in one of these pictures. I find these flags really troubling. I contacted the police because there never had been a flag in that particular place before. But they said they could not do anything, it would be up to the community. But someone did remove it'.

‘These are UDA [Loyalist] murals. Mauritius is very multiethnic, very diverse, so the idea of just two communities seems very strange, Catholic and Protestant. My dad studied in England 30 or 40 years ago, and he remembered the days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and he told me about it. When I first moved to Northern Ireland, my family always call Northern Ireland as Ireland but now with the world becoming a global village specially with the internet now they understand the notion of NI being part of the UK. I was living on the Donegall Road and I experienced racism, since that I am only a short distance away and it is very good'.

‘This is the 12th July arch celebrating the victory of William of Orange. I was invited to the Orange Hall because somebody was getting engaged. I was impressed by the history of the Orange prince. My husband told me not to say anything as someone might find it offensive. We have the same in Holland. North and the South of Holland, Catholic and Protestants. It is all changed in the past 50 years, the churches are all empty'.

  • Commonality of migrant experiences

    ‘My grandparents were British and my mother is British and my father is Dutch. And I used to live in a street, and it was not well off, money-wise. My father had a cardboard suitcase full of eggs and lettuce to take with him to England. At the border, we were not allowed to tell what was in the suitcase as it also contained Dutch gin’.

‘These are the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard cranes. Mauritius was discovered by the Dutch, then the French came and then the British. [The Dutch took possession in 1598, establishing a succession of short-lived settlements over a period of about 120 years, before abandoning their efforts in 1710. France took control in 1715, renaming it Isle de France. In 1810, the island was seized by Great Britain, and four years later France ceded Mauritius and its dependencies to Britain. Source: Wikipedia]. The cranes remind me of the hard labour the people had to do, many of them migrants – Indian, Africans, working on Plantations'.


University of Fraser Valley