Finding common ground among migrants in Ireland
2018-09-01 17:28:18 -


By Santiago Gonzalez-Boneta


From a personal standpoint, as a migrant in my current home country of the United States, I have been intrigued as to how the different migrant communities in Dublin interact with one another. I have found that people in general find a sense of comfort in commonality. When meeting someone for the first time, often people try to find things in common, to see if a new person can be a potential friend. Sometimes that common thing can be enjoying the same hobby, having similar careers, or having other similar interests.

In examining commonality between people, one of the first questions that comes up when you meet someone is, “Where are you from?” Often, simply knowing where a person is from can speak volumes about them. I am not saying to judge a book by its cover, but by knowing where someone is from, you can get a very general sense of what language they speak, what types of food they enjoy eating, and other basic cultural values based on common stereotypes. However, you can only get this very generalised point of view if you and the other person are from different countries.

How would this change if this new person you meet is from your same country? It could create a sympathetic, perhaps patriotic bond. Sharing your nationality with someone else that is living in the same foreign country can be comforting because it reminds you of where you are from. Speaking from experience, some of my closest friends tend to share the same nationality as me. In the two short months I have spent in Dublin, the different migrant communities here tend to be tight-knit because they share the camaraderie of being from the same country.

The World Cup this summer exponentially highlighted this phenomenon of a strong sense of togetherness and pride for each of the migrant communities in Ireland. Consider the Brazilian community, one of largest migrant communities in Dublin: during every Brazil match, one could see the streets of Dublin flooded with yellow Brazil jerseys and flags, as well as hear people speaking Portuguese as they nervously watched the ongoing matches.

The challenge going forward is to get these separate communities to continue to interact with each other. They can certainly bond over the commonality of being foreign to Ireland and the struggles that come with that, whether learning English, adapting to a completely new school system, feeling discriminated against as well as other numerous hardships.

Part of the reason Metro Éireann has collaborated with Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics for the past four years is that the annual intercultural writing competition provides an opportunity for young writers ages 14-21 to interact with different migrant communities as well as the native Irish community. For the past four summers, young writers have explored the ethical challenges behind the multi-generational process in creating an intercultural Ireland.

As the director for the just concluded ourth annual Intercultural Writing Competition, I hosted workshops where both young migrant and Irish writers attended in which we discussed the themes of ethics and interculturalism. It is important that the younger generation identify these ethical challenges in order to overcome these challenges and work towards an intercultural Ireland.

Santiago Gonzalez-Boneta is a student at Duke University in North Carolina, USA and was an intern with Metro Éireann this summer as part of the DukeEngage programme.

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