What is it Like to be a First Generation Immigrant in the 21st Century?

First Generation Immigrant

“Isn’t there a lot of racism in Australia?” That is amongst the first reactions I got when I told someone I’ve moved to Melbourne. And honestly, I was left aghast. A country that had welcome my partner and I with open arms (and hearts!) and this is what I have to explain first as a first generation immigrant?

A year ago, I could have never imagined packing up my bags and moving continents. It was never on my list, really. Do I love to travel? Sure. But moving permanently is a different ballgame altogether. However, the more we talked about it, the more it made sense for us. And then began our journey as a newly married couple moving countries and a roller coaster of experiences that I’d never thought I’d have.

First things first, the moment you land and step out of the airport, you get a shock. Everything seems so quiet. And let me tell you, if you’re from a country like India- it seems eerie. The first time I heard a car honk was atleast 10 days after we moved here (!).

A clean break

Moving has a charm of its own though. It’s almost as if you get a do-over at life. You get to decide who you want to be without the pressure of someone from your old life lurking behind the corners. Do you want to be someone who loves colorful outfits? Go for it. Want to be an extrovert to likes to throw it back? You’ll find your tribe here. Or you simply want a fresh start? There’s nothing like moving to a new country. It’s a blank canvas and you can paint it however you want to.

I, personally, had worked in a completely remote organisation for 3 years prior to moving to Melbourne. So I never really gave much thought to my daily wear. But now as I go into work every morning, I love dressing up. It’s perhaps one of those things that I look most forward to. I keep experimenting with my looks. Outfits I’d never worn back home due to a variety of reasons, including it did not go with my persona there and of course, the fear of judgement.

Australia as a community seems to be non-judgemental, even to first generation immigrant. People are extremely respectful of your space and how you choose to express yourself. That, and the supportive community of colleagues who are more like friends, gave me the freedom to do that.

Public transport can be good

I’d hardly ever travelled in public transport back home but in Melbourne people love the public transport! From trams to metros and buses, you’re not a true Melburian if you don’t use one of these almost every single day. You’ll see more people in public transport than in their cars and it makes sense when everything runs exactly on time and is well connected.

And the best part? You get to see so many people doing so many things! My personal favorite is to see what they are reading. You will find SO many people on trams and metros with actual books in their hands, engrossed in reading which seemed to be so rare before I moved here. It gives me so many new suggestions to add to my own reading list. Now who wouldn’t love that?

New possibilities

Now this should have been perhaps higher on this list. But wth, right? It’s not a ranking list. By possibilities- I mean every single possibility. From making new friends to exploring new possibilities to experiencing a plethora of cultures. There’s literally so much to do and absorb.

You’re in a place that’s thousands of miles away from your home. There is not excuse like “there’s nothing to do!” or “it’s so boring”. It’s almost as if you can transform into a little child and explore everything with the same wondrous excitement as we once did.

first generation immigrant

Honestly, sometimes I imagine myself in a movie with the perfect background music running. But that is true in a way. We are the protagonists in our own movie and shifting to a new place helps you see that in a new light. There’s more time to connect with your own self, think about things that matter to you deeply- like writing or just letting your soul breathe. Trust me, there is nothing more cathartic than sitting in Melbourne’s metro, rhythmically moving, listening to your favourite music and closing your eyes. It has done wonders for my spiritual self.

A culinary roller coaster

Now THIS has both positives and negatives. For instance, you’ll always feel like the food just never tastes the same. Is it the ingredients, the water or even the air…it’s just not the same. And sometimes you will miss that- the taste that reminds you of home, one that gives you comfort. Sure, we are slowly finding places that have ingredients that are bridging that gap, the journey has been exciting nevertheless.

And then of course, a metropolitan city like this is also the melting pot of all cultures. That shows in every corner with the variety of cuisine you can try. The best part is that the cuisine is authentic, it has not been adapted to suit the local taste. With so many expats living in this country, you’ll have people wanting to taste the true flavors of home (didn’t I just say that?). And that also gives you the opportunity to dive head first into a crazy gastronomic experience.

You come across new foods that you love and foods you absolutely hate (because your palette is simply not developed enough to appreciate them) or foods you’d like to try more often because you could potentially fall in love with them. And that’s an amazing thing to experience in a lifetime, while you’re still young enough to experiment!

I’m sure there’s a lot more a new place has to offer. Meeting new people, hearing their different stories that are polar opposite to yours, in good ways and sometimes bad. And simply the fact that everything looks different, yet somehow the same. And that’s what it is like to be a first generation immigrant in the 21st century.

Guess I’ll know more soon?

Until then, feel free to follow me on my socials: Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok.

P.S. I just released my debut novel, Meera. Check it out here.

P.P.S. Read more about me here.

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