Do I Still Belong to my Home Culture Even After Moving Abroad?

Moving to another country comes with many challenges you would never think of. One of them — and in my opinion the most impactful — is identity issues. Do I lose my identity when I adapt to a new culture and embrace it as my own? No, but for four years, I convinced myself of that when I compared my experience to the experiences of other Brazilians living abroad.

‘What makes a person truly Brazilian?’ is something I always asked myself. Is it speaking Portuguese at home and with friends? Is it listening to popular Brazilian music? Or is it not assimilating to the new culture I had to expose myself to? To be honest, I don't know the answer to these questions because there is not a true answer for them.

Woman sitting alone Photo by Alex Green from Pexels My identity issues started in high school. I never fit into a friend group that was only composed of Brazilian people. At first, I tried everything I could to fit in, which made me unhappy throughout most of my high school years. I wasn't myself, and I did not feel welcomed to be myself as I was scared my "friend" group would ditch me. The feeling of not belonging prevented me from exploring the opportunities this new country offered me, and I was filled with anxiety.

It was not long before my junior year of high school that I started distancing myself from my friend group. It was the first time I was told I was too Americanized for a Brazilian girl. For them, it was wrong for me to immerse myself into the American culture. I could not leave our Brazilian bubble; we had to impose our culture where we lived instead of accepting both as our own.

Woman making a gesture with hand Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

I left the bubble, and only then my path to understanding my identity began.

Using English as an everyday language has caused me to doubt my roots even until now. Am I not Brazilian enough for forgetting one or two words in Portuguese? No, this is something totally normal when another language is used more often than the other but explaining this to my 15-year-old self took time. Sometimes I still struggle with it.

Brazilian flag and the cloudy sky behind it. Photo by Vinícius Vieira from Pexels Being abroad for a longer period of time has now given me the opportunity to understand who I am as a foreigner. I am not less Brazilian than my peers; there isn't a way of measuring that. I still am connected to my home country through my family and my amazing friends who always give me the opportunity to teach them about my culture. It is normal to be conflicted about my own identity because this is something that can't be avoided, but that does not mean I have to convince myself that I don't belong.