Do something practical, work in a multicultural team and build!

Published by: Johann Taljaard

Published on: 14 Jan, 2019
Tyler here shares her insights on moving to the UK and tells us about her project

Introducing a migrant-developed venture which aims to bring migrants and locals together to develop a community led project, enabling people from diverse backgrounds to come together for a common goal.

Arriving in the UK as an American, I felt confident. Having travelled to many distant countries, with vastly different cultural norms, languages, and practices from my own, the UK felt relatively akin to where I had grown up. However, it only took a few short weeks for this to shift. Subtle differences, ways of walking down the street, ‘go-to’ phrases to utter in passing, even understanding all the new accents, it all felt very new.

One memory from my first month at work in London illustrates how subtle changes have the ability to shape how comfortable you feel in a place. Each morning, as I walked through the door to the office, whoever I encountered would exclaim, “You alright?” Caught completely off guard, I would scramble to respond, “Yeah, thanks?”

I’d go into the bathroom, look into the mirror, and think, “Do I really look so flustered? Why does everyone think I’m not okay?” At home, this would have been a strange, or very personal, way to greet someone. I couldn’t understand it.

It was only about three months into work that I began to realize some of my colleagues asking each other if they we’re alright too. Finally, I asked someone, “Why do you keep asking if I’m alright? Do I look upset or something?” It was then they filled me in on the phrase.

I now understand that, “You alright?” is a common greeting in the UK, as if to say, “How are you?” Without confusion or worry, I can respond with ease, “Yes, thanks and you?”

All of which is to say, I wish I had known to ask more questions instead of keeping these worries or confusion to myself. My advice to someone arriving here is, don’t be afraid to speak up. Had I known that everyday I walked into the office, people we’re asking how I was doing, I may have felt more comfortable in my new home.

I’m currently working on a project called Bridge: the idea involves bringing together migrant and settled communities in the UK, through the act of ‘making.’ The project seeks to develop new ways of connecting diverse groups of people; through using our hands to create something together, we can learn new skills, meet new people, and contribute directly to our communities.

I am seeking a group, organisation, or community of migrants who would be interested in joining the project. Once we have a location, we will invite neighbouring settled UK natives from the area, to join us. Together, we will schedule three “meet ups” where we will discuss what we would like to see in the community (i.e. a communal herb garden). During these meet ups, we will brainstorm and eventually create the idea, implementing it into the community in a matter of months. It will require committing to 3 meet ups, 2 in February and 1 in March, there is no cost.

The benefits of getting involved include meeting people, finding a sense of purpose in your neighbourhood, practicing language skills, and learning something new. If you’re interested, or know a community of people who may be, please get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you!

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