Changes caused by immigration

As mentioned in the post below, I’ve recently been asked to participate in a study of Brazilian immigrants in Ontario. It remined me of a very interesting study that I heard of at LAS at U of T on the political participation and civic engagement of Latin American immigrants in Canada. Conducted by Daniel Schugurensky, Gisela Vanzaghi, and Jorge Gimeniewicz, the study focused on Latin American immigrants from Spanish America and didn’t include Brazilians. I thought the questions asked where really good and I would like to answer them here. First I’ll give the questions in the original Spanish and I’ll then translate them to English:

Qué cambios en valores y actitudes ha experimentado desde que vive en Canadá? A qué atribuye estos cambios? i.e. cree usted que a partir de vivir en Canadá tiene una actitud diferente con respecto a personas de otras razas o de otros países, o grupos que en su país de origen son discriminados? Ha cambiado su actitud sobre el medio ambiente, o sobre las leyes y las normas cívicas? Siente esos cambios y valores cuando viaja a su país de origen, o cuando se encuentra con nuevos inmigrantes?

What kind of change in attitude and values have you experiences since you arrived in Canada? To what do you attribute these changes? i.e. Do you think that since you came to Canada you have developed a different attitude towards people of other races and nationalities, or groups that are discriminated against in your country of origin? Have you canged you attitude towards the environment, laws and civic norms? Do you feel these changes and new values when you travel to your country of origin or when you meet new immigrants?

I have definitely changed a great deal since I first came to Canada, particularly in terms of political engagement and civic responsibilities. It’s hard to say exactly what caused these changes. It’s not that I disrespected the law or discriminated against minorities before, but now I’m much more sensitive about these things.

Gap between rich & poor – I now notice, when I’m in Brazil, if a building has a separate entrance and elevator for servants. I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to it before but now it leaves a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth.

Attitude against people who are different – Meeting so many people from different countries destroyed my prejudices one by one and allowed me to see that underneath all the varnish of culture, language, and religion, we are all basically the same.

The environment – In Brazil, I used to vacilate between taking the environment for granted and thinking it was a thing for radical greenpeace activists. I now worry about it and try to incorporate environment-friendly measures into my own life. Granted, this might not have been caused by a change of country but rather by a change in international concerns, but the average person doesn’t seem that worried about it in Brazil. Talking to my family about efforts in Toronto and Barcelona to reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in landfills by reducing the number of bags we take at grocery stores, the attitude I got was of suspicion of the motives behind these efforts. The general idea was that store owners were trying to cheat them out of free plastic bags, as if plastic bags were some sort of God-given right.

Government and the public good – I take more time thinking about to whom I want to give my vote. I am more conscious that the money spent on infrastructure, schools, health, and public safety come from my pocket and therefore I expect it to be well spent. I’ve always believed in political participation, that one needs to vote to be able to complain about politicians and the way the country is being run. But now I think that voting cannot be mandatory. That politicians have to be convincing enough to lure people out of their homes to vote for them.

The list goes on and it includes everything from the inability to mix rice and potatoes to a newfound fear of excess salt and sugar. I don’t always know how to deal with these changes when I visit my family. I don’t want to sound like those people who think they know it all just because they live abroad. So I’m constantly torn between not saying anything about things I object to, and saying something and being considered radical, annoying, or worse.

What about you? Has your experience abroad  changed you in a way that makes you uncomfortable when you go home?