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Christian Christensen @ChrChristensen
, 12 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
1) Public debate in Sweden now over need for immigrants to engage with Swedish "customs" & "traditions" in order to be better “integrated” into Swedish society. But what about when Europeans are the immigrants? A few observations here from someone with Nordic immigrant parents.
2) My parents left Denmark/Sweden in late 50s. Until their deaths, they held on to their national traditions while living abroad. Christmas, Easter, midsummer, language, food. Many of their friends were other Danes and Swedes they met in the US and UK. They liked the familiarity.
3) At Christmas in US/UK, my family celebrated on Christmas Eve. Food was Nordic; music Swedish and Danish. Parents attended Nordic Christmas church services, never local churches, and never in English. No element of US/UK Christmas tradition integrated into our celebration.
4) When we lived in the US, my parents, and many of their Nordic-born friends, discussed how they did not like many US Christmas traditions, and how they found certain elements too commercial. Many also found the flag-waiving patriotism of the 4th of July somewhat excessive.
5) In the US, my family rarely "celebrated" Thanksgiving. My Dad hated turkey, so my Mom never made it. My only real exposure to Thanksgiving “traditions” was in school & later in life when I lived in US as an adult. Could I still “integrate” and understand the tradition? Yes.
6) In all of these years, I never heard anyone tell my parents that they were not “respecting traditions” when they celebrated with food/traditions from their own countries. Nor was having a significant number of close friends from the home country considered bad "integration.”
7) My parents loved living in US & UK. Their avoidance of some traditions had nothing to do with what they thought about the country/people. They created their own patchwork of cultural traditions: a patchwork that enabled them to keep in touch with both their past and present.
8) But my parents were white Europeans. When non-white immigrants do what my parents did – sometimes favor their own traditions, own food, own language – it’s defined as a rejection of the new country. When my parents did it, it was respecting “heritage.” Blatant double-standard.
9) Tradition is more than religious festivals. Things like pubs, coffee breaks (fika), recycling, daycare, respecting nature, humor, sports. We need to consider the everyday cultural elements immigrants embrace...often defined as less important than "high" tradition. They aren’t.
10) OK, so a non-Christian immigrant doesn’t take part in some Christian activities. But why should her union membership, support for the national team, volunteer work count for less on the “traditions” scale? Are these not also activities that help to forge a sense of community?
11) The “traditions” argument can be a black hole. It swallows context and nuance, flexibility and change. It favors a narrow, elite version of commonality while ignoring a far more everyday, grounded, democratic version of the many things that can bind us together as a society.
12) While many treat everyday traditions of non-white and/or non-Christian immigrants like so much trash to be discarded, European "traditions" are to be valued, treasured, protected and celebrated when living abroad. Again, the hypocrisy and shortsightedness is striking.
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