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The Undoing of Migrants Identity and sense of  Belonging.

September 22, 2022

When you stay for too long in a new country time something happens that challenges who you are, your sense of identity and belonging. It happened to me as well. After some time I went through the unwanted process of undoing my identity in the new country.

Understanding this process is very important for you if you are a migrant as it helps deal with the transition taking place. How you deal with transition has a significant impact on your well-being and your integration outcomes while in the new country.

I argue that the undoing of identity and the belonging process starts with culture shock. Then there is a growing awareness that one has left home, a place of identity and belonging. This is aggravated by a feeling of invisibility, limited social connection, and being different in a new country. 

Let’s start by defining undoing. The dictionary says undoing is:

“The process of reversing what has been done or the act of bringing to ruin”


“The reversing of what has been done”

When you leave your home country your identity and sense of belonging have already been established.This identity is centered around the people, place, and culture. Relocating to another country will challenge, undo and deconstruct your identity.

How does it work?

It starts with culture shock. There is insecurity that comes from not knowing much about the norms of the new land: the work culture, the ways of communication,  including neighborhood life protocol. These can cause trouble and immediately ruin your experience in the new country. Many migrants are not aware of the pivotal impact of culture shock.

Then there is a growing awareness conscious that one left home, a place of identity and belonging. You know this when you realize you miss certain places back home. The shape of the houses, the size of the houses, the roads, etc etc. They are not here. It is a fond memory for you, just for you, and does not make sense to anyone.

But then comes invisibility. Invisibility relates to the inability to be seen by others. When you migrate suddenly realize your culture is no longer the norm in the new land.That they are likely to never see your norms working in the new land. Your knowledge, perhaps qualifications, overseas work experience, and skills will not be appreciated, needed, or seen.

This is aggravated by being different.  There are visible physical differences such as race and skin color between people. This can be an issue in some societies. Other differences include accent.  And speaking with an accent can be embarrassing at times.

At this point, you begin to question, who I am, Where I belong, and what I am doing here. This is how the undoing of identity starts. A series of events triggers the undoing or reversal of what was already there, your previous social identity and sense of belonging.

The truth is while some migrants do recover beautifully from identity deconstruction others simply don’t.

But it does not have to be that way…you can reconstruct a new sense of belonging in a new country, a new place, new culture.

If you need help email elslicumba@gmail.com for help on how to feel at home in the new country -as quickly as possible.

2 thoughts on “The Undoing of Migrants Identity and sense of  Belonging.”

  1. I must thank you for the efforts youve put in penning this site. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my very own blog now 😉

    1. Thank you so much for your message. It made my day.
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