Australian and more: Reyam Ghanim
Australian and more explores the dissonance and delights of an individual straddling two cultures in Western Australia’s current social atmosphere. This series of five stories shares perspectives of people with Chinese, Malaysian, South African-Indian and Iraqi heritage. The Centre for Stories believes that sharing diverse perspectives is essential to creating a cohesive and empathetic society.
Hi I am Reyam and I am 24 years old. I am from the Middle East specifically Iraq.
I came to Australia quite young, about three years old, so there wasn’t too much adjusting to do for me personally. There was a lot more adjusting for my older sister and for my parents, they obviously spent more time in Iraq than myself.
Regardless, my heritage is different to Australia in so many ways. The way that people dress is very different, girls have to dress a lot more modestly and cover up most of their body. If you live in the small towns then you have to wear clothing that isn’t tight at all or shows skin and you also have to cover your hair too, but Baghdad is a little bit less strict so not all girls cover their hair, and its acceptable to wear jeans and t-shirts. Weddings aren’t actually that different, it’s a lot of dancing and food, the main difference is the men and women don’t celebrate in the same rooms, because the women show their hair and dance wildly, so this is preferably to be done in the presence of other women and in the absence of men. Obviously, the language is completely different as well.
There have been a few times when I felt quite foreign, especially in primary school. Coming from a different culture meant dressing quite differently from the other kids in school and this definitely lead to a lot of bullying I definitely dressed like I was “fresh off the boat” and had a lot of remarks about this from other kids.
I feel that being a part of two cultures has affected me for the better because it opens my eyes to the world we live in and how different Australia is from other places in the world. A lot of people that haven’t experienced any other culture lose sight of how lucky they are to be here, and I think immersing yourself in other cultures really makes you grateful for what you have living here in Australia.
Whilst I love what I’ve learnt from Australian culture and how I’ve grown up here, I’ll always be thankful for what the Iraqi culture has taught me; having big families that are super close and always have meals together and celebrations together. I am glad that I get to experience two completely different cultures and I feel this is something that has helped to shape me in the best possible way.
I think that people would definitely benefit from belonging to more than one culture, being exposed to different cultures allows for different experiences and teaches you so much and that wouldn’t be a bad thing for a lot of people. If people were more open to experiencing different cultures then maybe we would have less ignorance and hate in the world, and people would be more understanding to others that come from different backgrounds.
The current social atmosphere has a really negative impact on the acceptance of different cultures. I feel that there is so much racism in the world, and when you have political leaders like Donald Trump who spark controversial conversations and encourage people to be more racist and to not accept people of different backgrounds, it makes the world a terrible place. Whilst I believe everyone should think for themselves, it’s hard to make decisions when you have political leaders shouting to “build the wall” or putting up bans that allow people from certain countries to seek refuge.
I personally identify as Australian, as I have spent most of my life here and I wouldn’t see myself as anything else.
I really hope that the future holds more acceptance of people from different cultures and from different places around the world. I’d like to see Australia make more effort to accept asylum seekers in and to treat them better than locking them up in a camp. People need to understand that refugees are fleeing their homelands to seek something better and there’s nothing wrong with that. We definitely have the means and resources in Australia to help others out and instead of turning people away, we should be using everything we can to help others.
Read the rest of the stories in Australian and more here.
Copyright © 2018 Reyam Ghanim
This story has been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story please contact the Centre for Stories.
This story was collected by Centre for Stories intern, Karen Escobar.