An Indian American in Sweden or an American Indian in Sweden?

I haven’t written much about my ethnicity on the blog as really, I have not felt the need to do so. Recently however, I’ve been asked whether I consider myself American first or Indian first. It’s a very hard question because today I don’t know how to answer it.

A little bit about myself. I was raised in the United States, specifically four states that differ in everything from culture to dialect differences to racial compositions. Even in the US, I was never from one state, I was mixture of a lot, like different paints on the palette being thrown on a white canvas.

Ethnically however, I am Indian, and mixture there as well. While most people think India is one country with one religion, one language, one people, that is far from the truth. India is well over 1.2 billion people comprising 23 recognized government languages, 1000 dialects, five major religions (Hinduism, Buddism, Islam, Jainism, Christianity, and Judaism), countless smaller religions, 28 states, 7 union territories, and millions of immigrants. While love brought my parents together, it was differences that made my life a schism. My parents come from different religious background (Hindu and Jain), languages (Marathi and Gujarathi), states (Maharashtra and Gujurat), food (non veg and veg), and even caste.

You can see now that identifying with any one community or state or country made no sense to me. How could I say that I am Gujarati which would alienate my Maharastrian culture and American culture? OR say that I’m Californian when I was raised all over the eastern seaboard of the US?

And now, I live in Sweden. Of course in no way do I consider myself Swedish, possibly when I fully learn the language I can confuse people even more.  Here, many people see me as an American expat working here.  Some people see me as an immigrant, but that’s people who just look at the color of my skin and presume I came here in a refugee exodus.  While others, like friends, call me Indian one day and American another day, because they too don’t see any one majority of culture in me (or just confused!).

Where do I stand today? I’m both. If you ask, I’ll tell you that I am American; it’s been my home for my entire life, it is the place that has taught everything about values, standing up for what’s right, working hard, and being good to others.   India is my identity too; I wear Indian clothes, see my cousins and grandparents every year in India, eat Indian food, celebrate Indian holidays, speak to my people. My original passport is in Hindi and my birth certificate is on a fade half green sheet of paper in Marathi.

Call me the Indian – American lost in Stockholm.

7 thoughts on “An Indian American in Sweden or an American Indian in Sweden?”

  1. I think we’ve all asked ourselves, at one point or another, how we fit into the group. And perhaps more importantly, where do we fit in? It’s a hard question, and one which we will probably all keep asking ourselves for the rest of our lives.

    But if I have learned anything, whether it be from living in a different country or trying to make friends from another group, it is that most people welcome one into their group – as long as one makes an effort to learn and respect their culture, history, and language.

    Some countries and cultures make this easier than others. Definitely. But with time, and the sincerity of effort, anything is possible.

    Here’s to the journey. We’re all lost.

  2. Oh God! This is racial profiling. Your friends are doing to it you.

    The Holier than thou modern and educated European’s still lost in the maze of defining you with your skin color. Shame on them.

    Tell them to get REAL.

    It is the achievement in life that matters and what you did for fellow human beings.

  3. @Tony – Here’s to the journey, for sure.

    @Ravi – I agree that is the achievements in life that put you where you are. But for you, it’s also about your identity and how you feel you want to identity yourself. Like the German American or Swedish French (that just sounds silly) and where they identity their culture, language, and personality to.

  4. You are a typical American :) Americans are basically mutts as we are all so mixed, ethnically and culturally. Many Europeans don’t understand that the US operates culturally like 50 different countries in a way. We become a new thing, yet with ties to the old. Most of the people I know are either 1st or second generation American, of various ethnicities. It’s just how we are, and I really like that about the US. I know a lot of Europeans are freaking out about inward immigration, but the increase in diversity makes me feel more comfortable in a way.

  5. So true Suze. It’s like the Belgium Waffles and French Fries and Chinese fortune cookies. All were probably invented in New York City.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *