On Nationality, Culture and Religion

Nationality: another topic we decided to exchange thoughts on with writer and blogger Ellen Hawley.

Right, where do I start…?

As being tall, nationality is what you are born it: nothing you can do about it, so you have no choice but accept it. Except there is, actually, but I will touch on naturalisation a bit later.

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Having lived in the UK for fourteen years, it did get me thinking: what is it that actually makes me Bulgarian? My passport? My native tongue, and, respectively, my accent? Or the set of traditions I was born with? I do think it is a combination of all these, but, perhaps, mainly the latter. This would explain why I can’t help but follow the traditions I have been brought up with, and try to accustom them to our expat life in the UK. Which, accidentally, can cause you more trouble sometimes, as you don’t know which set of rules to follow. Or simply embarrass you – big time, even.

To start with, being Bulgarian means nodding horizontally to “yes”, and vertically to “no”. Confusing, I know, and uniquely Bulgarian… But beyond that I struggle to think what else would prompt people to guess my nationality. Skin and hair colour? Nope. Apparently, I look Italian. Accent? Nah. That is apparently more like French. Ish.

So, what is it? Again, I think it comes down to traditions and habits. As Ellen, I, too, have been thinking of adopting British nationality (for similar sort of security reasons, backed up by the fact that both my children are British). Discussing this idea, as you do, at work, and talking about things typically British, I got asked a question I had no answer to. Shamefully, I cannot even reproduce it – simply because I had no blooming idea what they were on about!

So, how do you become a person of a different nationality? Simple: get a passport! Or, in the British case, take a nationality test and take an oath to the Queen. Does this make you born and bred British? I don’t think so. And it won’t help you answer questions you will never possibly have the answers to…

You will never change who you are, as your culture has been genetically programmed in you. This is my own opinion, and I would be happy to disagree. Still, even if I do become British, I will never cook Sunday roast and celebrate Christmas Day rather than Christmas Eve (traditionally Orthodox).

When thinking of nationality, there is something else I cannot help but bring into play: stereotypes. As a Bulgarian, I was brought up in an anti-Turkish manner. Due to our historical issues with Turkey, I have been taught that, more or less, being Turkish means being bad. Although, as a matter of fact, Bulgaria was under Turkish oppression many centuries ago, our both nations have moved on and the two nationalities are perfectly capable of co-existing in the same country, tolerant and respectful of each other. Which they have been for more than a century.

Still, Turkish equals muslim, which equals violence, rape and similar ways of converting Christians into Islam! Now, isn’t this one typical example of stereotyping!

This is why I struggled with this idea at Uni: one of the girls in my class was Turkish. Bright, sociable and lovely as the rest of us. The only thing to give her away was the dark colour of her hair as well as her beautiful pale skin. Oh, and her name, which she changed in the mid 90’s to sound typically Turkish… Still, we were best friends.

In the light of the recent events in France, I keep remembering the ancient stereotypes I grew up with. I also became a close witness of a friend of mine’s relationship: she got involved with an Egyptian man. Totally convinced that he is a genuinely nice guy, she had to face the opposition of all her friends (needless to say, Bulgarian). The riot this caused amongst them!! Egyptian = crook = Muslim = OMG, don’t even think about it! And why? Because of his nationality. Because of yet another bloody stereotype.

Being the nosy cow that I am, I briefly googled “Egyptian men”. Oh! My! Fucking! God! Never google this kind of stuff! As you shouldn’t google any health conditions, because the likelihood is that you will be convinced you have them all…

So, thinking of nationality, what I inevitably relate it with is religion and stereotyping. But you can also choose to think for yourself. Here is a video that perfectly illustrates my post. Think for yourself!

THINK FOR YOURSELF – COUP DE FILET [HD] (Shortfil…: http://youtu.be/urlzseFQQzU

10 comments

  1. This very interesting post, identity is always a question with sometimes there aren’t any answers, I think about this a lot, the context is different but still all and all is the same, I’ve been talking to this person who’s opinion I value,I was told that there are always going to be parts of who you are that just can’t be define and will always be a mystery. Don’t you hate that
    As always Sheldon

    Liked by 1 person

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