*DEEP TOPIC ALERT*
So in case some of you don’t already know, I am British but I am of Nigerian descent so I like to say “I was born in Britain but raised in a Nigerian household!” There is a lot of truth to this statement because although I was in Britain and have lived here my whole life, I did at times experience a conflict of cultures which I’m gonna share with you now! Who knows? Maybe you can relate or even learn something new about this experience.
So at birth my parents gave me purely Nigerian names and not one “English/Christian” name. Like zero. Growing up I struggled with this as most kids around me … even some with Nigerian heritage, had English names! I felt a bit like an outsider and as a result of this, created my own English names – Alex or Claire depending on where I was or how I was feeling. When I used these names, I felt more integrated, “part of the crew”. However my mother did not take so kindly to this name change! It was the day she found out that her and my dad sat me down and explained the significance of my name and why I should learn to embrace it.
From that day, I became a new person. Literally. I would say my name with boldness and if people struggled to pronounce it…I’d give them a nickname linked to my original name and even break it down for them phonetically! I soon realised that if I carry my name with pride, it will show others that my name is not disposable but a part of who I am. As well as my name I began to find a healthy and more sustainable way of balancing both my British and Nigerian culture. For example when saying my Nigerian name I wouldn’t use a Nigerian accent because guess what? I’m not in Nigeria! And as English is actually my mother tongue that is the accent I have…however I have been learning my native language Igbo and I can understand 65% of it. What was quite shocking though is that I remember talking to a black guy from The Sunday Times and he told me he doesn’t use his Nigerian name and explained how there can be institutionalised discrimination again individuals with “foreign” names. That’s a topic for ANOTHER post but if someone/a company cannot accept you with your birth name and assesses you on the name and not your character/qualifications…then guess what? They ain’t worth your time mate!!!!
Fast forward about 10-15 years and I no longer feel there’s a conflict anymore. The culture war is over and I don’t have to choose a winner. I feel it is important for one to embrace all parts of themselves and not feel pressurised to allow one culture to displace the other…unless you genuinely want that. People you encounter should understand that there is more to you than the “British” person they see…there could be a lot of history…culture in your roots and that influences your upbringing/outlook on life. Conformation is very tempting at times but it becomes BORING, just do YOU and be beaUtiful doing it. Cultural values are like wearing glasses, they just make you see the world in a different way. A whole new perspective which you can share with others or keep to yourself.