[Written by Sophia Archontis]
[Image by Elena Roselli and Aike Jansen]
Being bicultural is a double-edged sword.
It feels ungrateful to say this, as biculturalism and bilingualism are definitely gifts: I can speak many languages and I find myself able to assimilate into multiple different cultures, feeling comfortable as I do. However, in spite of the cultural diversity I have gained, I find that I have lost my cultural identity – something that in others is innate never seems to have existed in me.
I’m American and Greek, but I live in Cyprus. Now I live in Glasgow. I’m trying to think about whether, when I travel to back New York, Athens, and Nicosia now, I should feel like I’m going back home or going on vacation.
There is something beautiful about the fact that I have had to create my own cultural identity, a patchwork of all the identities my parents carried in themselves, all the identities my friends exposed me to, and the identity of my home, Cyprus. But it is also something that has to be proven to my family: my Greek side thinks of me as American, and my American side thinks of me as Greek. Thus, my identity is special because it is my own, but my ‘real’ cultural identity feels nonexistent.
There is a sense of universality in all those who are multicultural: being exposed to multiple identities, cultures, and languages we are able to integrate ourselves into almost all of them, however there seems to always be a loss of specificity – specific cultural identity is never acquired, because we are never fully ingrained into that culture. We can assimilate, but we will always be considered outsiders. I have adopted three different cultures; Cypriot, Greek, and American – but none of them are truly mine.
It’s not all bad, though. It’s true that, at times, it feels like nowhere is my home – there’s a small part of me that feels foreign in Greece, in the US and in Cyprus. However, because of that, I am forced to create home wherever I am. My house is my home, my books are my home, my people, whether I have met them yet or not, will always be my home. I have left anchors in all the places in the world I have visited, and I know that, when I revisit them, those anchors will be my home too.
[Image Description: An image of a path through some mountains overlaid over a streetscape. “Beyond borders” is written in the top left-hand corner, with “personal accounts exploring how idenitity is found when you are living between cultures” in the lower right-hand corner.]