It is a trendy word.
It is also a topic that is very close to my heart because it has brought me incredible joy and some terrible pain.
I am part of the immigration that is easy.
In the past 10 years, I have lived in 5 different countries. In Spanin, India, The Phillipines, HK or the UK, I’ve always found it easy to get myself a job… and a working permit.
I’m a product of the Shengen zone, of the job transfer, of the extended student visa… The immigration we tend to take for granted, and rarely hear about in the media. Even Brexit, for all the talk on the Freedom of Movement, is not about me. We, the European-hearted, make it about us, but it is about the other immigration: the hard one.
The one that is not chosen. The one that doesn’t have a return ticket attached to it. The one that is not a dream come true.
Having been welcomed, sometimes with suspicion and not always with a smile but always welcomed, by so many different societies has made me super sensitive to the issue of assimilation.
What it my ‘duty’, or my responsibility as an immigrant, to the country that is welcoming me? Don’t I owe it to them to learn the language as much as I can, learn about the culture, drink what they drink and mingle the way they mingle?
Is it my eternal guilt speaking? Or the gratefulness I feel when I think all of the opportunities I have had in all those new countries?
I’ve found that other foreigners don’t necessarily see it that way, and it always leaves me puzzled.
Don’t we like it when a foreigner wants to understand us? Don’t we hate it when they complain that we ‘Don’t Speak English’? If they are looked at with suspicion when they dress differently, follow different customs, speak their own language, how come we aren’t?
Especially if our cultures are not so different?
Or has the longstanding debate about immigration in France made me too sensitive about assimilation?
That’s what I wanted to speak about in my last show, Behind Our Skin.
I don’t have a strong political point of view, except for the fact that we should all try to be decent to each other, and that, let’s face it, being able to move countries like that is pretty awesome.
So I wrote 2 parallel stories. One of a Moroccan woman in Paris, one of a French woman in London. There is racism, and even terrorism, but a lot more happens: there is a baby, a distant husband, a broken friendship, loneliness….
Critics saw it as a denunciation of the rising racism in France. But all I wanted to do was sit with a pen and a paper and reflect on how lucky I am, and what my role as an immigrant is.
Even if this word is never used to describe me.