Monthly Archives: April 2009

Nationality: Substance Over Form

Standard

Nationality is the relationship between a person and their state of origin, culture, association, affiliation and/or loyalty.

So goes the definition. Usually, nationality is determined based on the person’s place of birth. Hence, based on this logic I would be considered Sri Lankan. But, I believe Nationality is not really about what a legal piece of paper states (e.g. birth certificate or passport). I do love the country I was born in, no doubt about that. Yet, my affiliation to it was never strong. I feel that if I could ever be labelled with a nationality – it wouldn’t be Sri Lankan.

The most interesting observation are melting-pot countries. Lets take America for illustration purposes. A first generation Indian or chinese person may have the American accent but to what extent are they really American. Of course, we must first determine what makes a person an American National ? A stereotype or set of characteristics. I would safely assume that there is an objective set of characteristics that makes someone a certain nationality. Comparing this to an Indian/Chinese/Hispanic American would only show a minimum level of similarities. Of course, I would concede that they would be more American than their immigrant parents and less American than their own children.

The reason being that among these first generation Americans are individuals who feel more affiliation to another culture (imposed by their immigrant parents) and they are struck between living up to their peers’ expectations and strong traditional non-american cultural roots.

This is worsen when you encounter individuals who have lived their whole life in several countries besides their country of birth. Constantly, traveling whether on business or otherwise. To label them, American, British or Chinese would be only be useful as a matter of form. In reality, their affiliation to a nationality can be anything.

The important observation is that just because you ran into a American, do not stereotype that person based on his legal nationality. E.g. If you stereotype Americans as people who are stupid idiots lacking any knowledge of the outside world except theirs. “To call a dog a bad name and hang it” would be serve unfairly to that individual who in all honesty doesn’t really feel American in the first place. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt so he/she can rebut that presumption (negative or positive) you have build up.

So, what’s my nationality in substance : 1/2 Singaporean, 1/4 Finnish, 1/4 Sri Lankan.

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