Aug 06, 2020
After moving to a new country, there is a lot to do to settle down and a lot of new things to learn. Even if you have lived in Australia for many years, you may still find it difficult to understand what is going on.
It is therefore not surprising that many newcomers decide to live close to their community to make life a little easier at first.
Many immigrants decide to live in the suburbs, close to other immigrants from the same country. They speak the same language, receive support from people with similar experiences and share the same culture.
Mahir Momand is the Executive Director of Regional Opportunities Australia. He said that having a grocery store helps immigrants feel closer.
“If you live in neighborhoods where grocery stores sell foods you’re familiar with, culture shock in this case is usually very rare. For example you can come from Africa, Asia or Latin America to Australia and live in your cultural community, you go to these stores and buy the food, groceries close to you”.
Large immigrant communities often settle in large cities. In these neighborhoods you can find a lot of useful information, such as a settlement guide center.
“Living in a bigger town is a good thing, they can easily go to support organizations, to understand English, to learn more different aspects of life in Australia. Some people want to learn to drive and this is easier to do in cities than in suburban areas.”
Berivana Mohamed is a volunteer at the Australian Migrant Resource Center in Adelaide. She came to Australia on a Bosnia and Herzegovina refugee visa in 1995.
She is involved in various community groups, but she maintains a close relationship with the Bosnian community through her mother.
“My mother was a social worker for the former Yugoslav community. She has worked with everyone from that region coming to Australia on refugee visas. When I reached my teenage years and needed work to gain more experience in high school, I decided to join my mother’s organization. “
She says being close to the Bosnian community in Adelaide is a good thing, but it makes it harder for her mother to learn English.
“She gets a lot of respect from her community for the work she does. Not only with her community, she always helps people. Whoever asks for help, my mother will gladly say yes. But one thing I think is really bad for my mother is that she hasn’t really improved her English because she has to use her own language to communicate with customers”.
Fatima Salihi lives near the city of Adelaide. She came from Afghanistan to Australia with her family in 2018.
She participates in several clubs and goes to university, but she also enjoys keeping in touch with the Afghan community.
“We speak the same language and we share our dreams and happiness together. We deeply understand the words we speak. That’s when we feel connected, we feel happier and more secure, we enjoy community gatherings. I think that’s something beneficial, it’s something that gives peace of mind.”
For her parents, who are still learning English, closeness to the Afghan community is even more important.
“If they don’t participate in their community, they stay home alone. They feel more isolated and lonely. My parents mainly engage with members of our community, they go to cultural celebrations, get together and enjoy them, rather than join other communities because they really don’t understand the what people say.”
While community support is important, Momand warns about what he calls living in a cocoon for a long time.
“In these cocoons, they speak their own language and that keeps them out of touch with the rest of the Australian community. This keeps them from learning English, not understanding the culture and rules of the country they call home. As a result, we live in small communities, and that may not be a good representation of Australia as a whole. “
So we live in small communities, and that may not be a good representation of Australia as a whole.
While this can happen, Mohamed says being close to the community is a positive for immigrants, especially when they first arrive and many of them contribute to Australian society.
“In the beginning, it was very difficult to settle in a country where they did not speak the same language, completely different culture, completely different legal system. So they need extra help from someone in the same situation. But later on, many of these refugees integrate into the larger community. They contribute in different ways and work together.”
Most immigrants benefit from receiving support from their communities, especially when they first arrive in a country. But building relationships with other Australians is just as important.
According to SBS Vietnamese Newspaper