Britain is considered a thriving multicultural society, but what does that mean exactly?
I can only talk from a personal perspective but having lived in Britain for most of my life, it means that I have had the privilege of living within a vibrant and colourful community that has exposed me to different ways of living and looking at life.
Â Growing up in North London, I went to school with people of all nationalities. My closest group of friends â" "The Group" â" as we called ourselves then, comprised of my friend Elizabeth, who was English, Maria of Indo-Guyanese origin, Karen of Jamaican heritage and Geraldine of Australian Aboriginal descent! And me of course, of West African origin. A colourful montage indeed! But it was one I took for granted and never thought it could or should be different. It is during those times that people ignored the growing importance of multicultural society. Inevitably they also ignored the increasing need of Translation services and its importance in our day to day life.
Â It was only when I lived abroad, that I fully appreciated the colourfulness of my upbringing. While living in Germany as a student, I missed the merging of cultures and ease of interaction that we take for granted in the UK. Living in Africa for a while, although happy to be amongst my fellow Africans, I missed some of the dynamic of interacting with people with different world views and ideas.
Â I am not saying that having grown up in the UK, I have not seen or even experienced the darker side of multiculturalism i.e. religious extremism, resentment against new comers etc. However, I do believe that the positives far outweigh the negatives. One other positive influence of multiculturalism is the increasing multilingual people around us. Multiple languages spoken in our society has increased the demand of professional translation.
Multiculturalism to my mind teaches tolerance for others, a widening of our outlook on life, as well as an opportunity for people from different parts of the world to come together and live peacefully side by side. Music, fashion and food have been influenced by cultures from Africa, India and the Far East. After all, which other western nation can claim that their favourite national dish is a curry!!
So that for me is the meaning of multiculturalism. It is a force for good, a way of getting people together and a good way of teaching our children tolerance, understanding and acceptance. I certainly, am evidence of that.Â