Anonymous Interviews: IDENTITY – 5.2

5.2 How important for you is to maintain your ethnic identity in a multicultural Australia?

Participant: Vital. It is extremely important for both of them [ethnic identities] to co-exist.

Participant: For us personally it’s to maintain contact with the family, but to maintain the culture here… It’s on a personal level to reinforce to our children that that’s part of the… [Husband: That’s their heritage.] But they are very aware of that anyway, and I have that digital presence… Or make it as publicly available as possible.

Participant: I need to maintain it because it’s something that’s stuck with me. I probably moved to another country when I was already past that critical phase of forming my personality. This is something that is going to stay with me forever. I maybe need to be reminded of it. I’ll notice that’s clearly not the cultural identity of the country where I live. I’ll recognise it as something that has cultural significance or just things that are out of place.

Participant: It is important that you are aware where you come from, that you are aware who your ancestors were, where your parents came from, their originality. It’s important for us to be aware of that, who we are, not to be ashamed of it. By the end of the day it is who we are, and it is where we come from. It is our responsibility to take that and represent our country in the best possible way that we can, amongst Slovenians here and amongst Australian community.

Participant: It’s important. I don’t show off though but I have been in a lot of concerts where I’ve worn a lot of “narodna noša” [national costume]. I’ve done a lot of things to represent the culture, but I wouldn’t say going out there on the street on a normal day and wearing a “narodna noša” just because you want to get attention. On multicultural days it’s cool, that’s the whole purpose of it, everyone dresses up in their own culture.

Participant: It is. Because we don’t have a large amount of Slovenian Australians living here. The amount we have, we have to hold onto and be together as a group. And connect.

Participant: It’s a part of you no matter how much you try… Even if you try to eliminate it, you can’t. You are Slovenian. I find it now, especially when I’m with Australians, that it really shows up. Lots of times you’ll say “oh, yeah, this is the European view”. You have to have it this way, another way… The way I like shoes being in a separate cupboard in the front of the house and not in the bedroom. I have a huge mental breakdown if the shoes are anywhere near the bedroom. It’s just a cultural thing. You can’t escape it. You will get to a point where you accept another culture, but a part of you will always remain unchanged, especially if you moved here as an adult. Even if I’m here for 80 years it will never change a part of you. That’s because when you grow up you get all these values in to you and they make you who you are. You can’t get rid of them.

When you have a child, you feel you have to preserve your cultural heritage. It’s through teaching a child who you are, from that point of view. He knows I’m here and we’re Australian, but he doesn’t really know where I come from. I feel the need that we have to go back for a few years for him to experience where I’m from. That he’s also part of that, that’s part of his heritage. Since I had him I feel we need to go back for a few years to Europe at least to have the European culture, so he can experience that. I want to be an influence in his life and I really feel the need to have that influence in his life. I feel like I’ll never be able to fully connect with him if he’s a hundred percent Australian. I want him to be a bit of a mixture like I am. I want him to have other experienced, a bit more broad view on life and cultures. We need to move around a little bit with him so he can have a similar sort of. My partner hasn’t travelled as much as I did, so he also needs to get out of here and see another part of life. That there’s more than just palm trees. It’s important to preserving when you have a child. You feel bigger needs to preserve your heritage and to teach your child who you really are because that’s a big part of you.

Participant: It is. I tried to involve my daughter in the club. She was also in the [a name of the area] area in the club. From the little girl she was coming here all the time and she still feels Slovenian very, very much. Her husband is [an European nationality] and he feels Slovenian too because he grown up with the Slovenian kids.

Participant: It’s important for me to maintain the language, which makes me different from the others. It’s important to maintain the heritage of whatever it is, food, or language, particularly for my children. That’s the main reason. It just determines who I am.

Participant: We became Australians not long ago and I still remember I was really proud. We are really happy in Australia and then you are honoured, that you have double citizenship. Of course, I’m Slovenian, first of all I’m Slovenian. I don’t think I will ever feel that I am Australian. You can feel Australian, but deep inside, you are… You can’t change that. I’m proud being Slovenian and I was never, not even once ashamed to say “I’m Slovenian”. They all ask me how it is, and then we talk about skiing, mountains, snow, winter sports, they already know the food, it’s good. The Australians, they really appreciate food, so you can be even more proud, because they don’t have some traditional food, they are English. You are proud because it’s mixture of Mediterranean food and Balkan food, Austrian food, in Slovenia is good mixture of everything. You realise when you come abroad, that it’s really good food. I think Slovenia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. In such a small place to have such a diversity, mountains, lakes, and then you have coastal area, beautiful.

For example, how I share: If I find something online, some video or some articles about Slovenia, I share them at work, and then the comments “oh, that’s gorgeous, that’s beautiful” makes you proud. I’m honoured that I have experience from Slovenia and Europe, and now I live in Australia. I’m happy here, so you have double happiness, that’s how I feel. But I’m really proud about being Slovenian. They always think I’m French or Italian, I say, “no, I’m Slovenian”. I’m proud, and kids are proud too. I thought at first that they would be ashamed, but in Australia being foreigner it’s nothing bad. So they are proud too, really proud. They always say “I’m Slovenian”, even though they are losing Slovenian language. That is the only thing that I miss in Australia now, there is no Slovenian school. I don’t know if we would go in reality, but it would be good to know that there is Slovenian school, so that kids can learn grammar and reading in Slovenian. They don’t do it at home, we can’t make them. I don’t know how to teach them, so they don’t know anything.

Participant [Australian]: I class myself more of an Australian than [a name of the nation] heritage, even though I did go and visit [a country]. I know it’s there. I know it’s in me, but I’m more Australian than that. I’ve embraced the Slovenian community very much. I’ve got involved because I know they do need younger people. I know I can’t speak the language…Yet. But I feel there is a need and I’m quite happy to go down that track. I really am.

Participant: Very important. I’m always being involved with the school, teaching language, with the preparing culture program, being coordinator or the director of the play. Keeping the tradition, keeping the language, keeping the customs and… I don’t know whose proverb that is, but if you lose the culture you lose your identity. I’m trying to get that to my children that if they lose their culture they will not ever say that I’m Slovenian… But when we speak to children they do feel Slovenian. Even the grandchildren, they like certain things about Slovenia. They’re interested, they do school projects on Slovenia which makes me very happy.

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6 Conclusion (participants’ ideas) (see Questions and Answers)

See also:
1 Culinary heritage (see Questions and Answers)
2 Growing and sourcing food (see Questions and Answers)
3 Digital technologies for communicating culinary heritage (see Questions and Answers)
4 Connecting with other Slovenian Australians (see Questions and Answers)
5 Identity (see Questions and Answers)
6 Conclusion (participants’ ideas) (see Questions and Answers)

This is a website of a research project exploring digital technologies for communicating the culinary heritage of Slovenian Australians in collaboration with the University of Canberra under the 2015 Endeavour Fellowship Programme (PDR).