Possessing differing physical attributes and cultural customs can make it difficult for migrants to feel as though they belong within a certain group. Unfortunately this is a position in which many migrants to Australia find themselves, struggling to feel included and comfortable with their changing identities. However while these differences may make it harder to belong to one group, they can also strengthen the bonds within another. The most immediate and obvious indicator of difference within migrants is that of physical appearance.
Automatically they are viewed as different based upon the simple fact that they do not look like everybody else. These physical elements provide others with a solid basis on which to categorise migrants and offers a constant reminder to the migrant themselves of their differences. In the novel “Growing up Asian in Australia”, Aditi Gouvernel recalls in her short story “Wei-Lei and Me” of her experiences of migration in the school playground.
One insult, she recounts, was based upon her dark skin colour; that it “even looks like shit” and both her and Wei-Lei were forced on different occasions to expose themselves in order to prove they had normal genitals. On multiple occasions, Gouvernel recalls being reduced to tears and pondering why she “couldn’t move back to Delhi. ” Differences in physical appearance serve as indicators of difference that can result in stereotypical grouping and exclusion, preventing migrants from feeling as though they belong.
From a world where their customs and traditions are different, migrants find themselves in an environment where they are noticeably unique. These cultural differences are not what the majority are used to and so are neither widely known or understood. This can result in misunderstandings and cause stereotypical thinking as well as unfair exclusion. Variations in customs and traditional values between migrants and majority groups can prompt unfair misunderstandings and contribute to the formation of real, or imagined, social separation of a migrant.
Having a sense of difference can make it difficult for a migrant to feel as though they belong within a certain group. Variations in physical appearance and cultural customs can prompt others to unfairly stereotype and exclude. However, while these differences may make it more challenging to belong to certain groups, they can also serve to strengthen bonds within a different group.