Reverse culture shock!

Baby is napping, the house is tidy so I’ve found myself with an inch of time to quickly type out my thoughts about my trip home to NZ in July/August this year.

Firstly, words really can’t describe how it felt to see my baby in the arms or homes of my nearest and dearest.  The closest thing I could use to describe it are heart warming feelings of wholeness or contedness, like all is right in the world.  Which, toward the end of the trip, made it harder than ever for me to leave.

Returning ‘home’ to France has also been a bit confusing for me.  So I’ve been in a sort of contemplative mode over the last week.

To start, I’ve never felt comfortable to ‘go there’, since it was very personal and quite problematic, but to be frank, I didnt ever want to move to France. I didn’t feel like I had much choice in the matter, other than the fact I wanted a future with my husband. Which was the only choice I had.  But one of those reasons I didn’t want to move was because at the time we’d planned to leave New Zealand, I was already feeling the chimes of my biological clock. But despite wanting to travel the world my whole life, I’d NEVER envisaged raising a family in a country other than New Zealand. I have such a strong relationship with both sides of my family, because of that I also have a strong sense of where I belong, as well as a strong network of good friends too. I believe in the idea that it takes a community to raise a child, and thats what I’ve always wanted for my own child/children.  To grow up with the safety and support of my family, my friends, my community.

So yeah… leaving home was hard in that sense.

But, and this is a big ‘BUT’, at the very beginning of our trip, I found myself a bit overwhelmed with reverse culture shock!!! Who would’ve thought?  This country, my home, which I’ve yearned for, and still do, was giving me feelings that were very new.  As a couple of my French friends have put it, I’ve become more French and I was seeing New Zealand through my French eyes.

New Zealand’s customer service has always been of such a high quality that France just can’t compare. I’ve always known this on an intellectual level and its something I’ve often complained about here in France.   But on experiencing NZ customer service after 4.5 years in France, I felt harrassed… even aggressed.  In many instances I simply wanted to purchase an item and didn’t require discussing my day, my mood, or become best friends with the cashier.  I really found myself feeling annoyed… forced into this false relationship for no good reason. I had such a limited supply of time and energy and I just couldn’t see why I should waste that on the salesperson.

By the end of my trip there, I’d re-adapted to life back home and was able to partake nicely in these irrelevant conversations.  But at the beginning it was just annoying, like they were holding me hostage because they have a need to pass the time (there was literally an incident where the transaction could’ve been done in a heartbeat but due to the chashiers need for some kind of human interaction or intimacy, held onto my goods for so long I wanted to pry it from their hands just to end the interaction!).

Then there’s the housing crisis, which has affected my family and friends in such a way that their stories are heartbreaking.  Not being able to buy in our own neighbourhood because its in the process of gentrification. It just pisses me off.  The worst part is that I know of several families from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds who’ve bought in our neighbourhood, a traditionally low socio-economic community aka ‘the hood’, and thus taken part in keeping my family out of the housing market.

Then those that are able to enter the market are having to slave their butts off at work to pay ridiculously inflated mortages.  Which is a scary prospect for my hubby and I to have to consider, given that we plan to return to NZ at some point for schooling and acculturation.  If we were to consider moving back to Auckland, where my hubby is more likely to find work, then we’d have to consider a mortage of c.830,000NZD, which is just unfathomable for each of us.  Thats not the kind of life that we ever envisaged for ourselves, being locked down with debt for the rest of our lives.   So then we’d have to consider living out of Auckland, which equates to a life of commuting and traffic jams, which is far from the quality of life that we currently have here in Albi.

Then there was the Metiria Turei saga. Mon dieu, it highlighted a very ugly side to our Kiwi culture.  Where we often say the French are arrogant (disclaimer: we could say many things of the French, but I have to say they aren’t actually guilty of this! Its all just one big cultural misunderstanding), but at least we can say that at a collective level, they understand the need for a social safety net and as such, they’ve created a compassionate system. It might not be the best there is, and the French tell you this til kingdom come, but it is there and most people accept that there is a need for it.

I’ve now come to believe that we Kiwis are the opposite.  Where the French are said to be arrogant, Kiwis are said to be some of the friendliest people in the world. But maybe thats only at face value these days? The kind of superficial friendly where a cashier wants to get all up in your business just to pass the time. Coz what I witnessed through the whole Metiria Turei saga was a nasty, mean spirited side to our country. One which lacks empathy and compassion for those less fortunate.  What does this say about our society?  Perhaps it validates what I was first shocked to hear from some French friends, that NZ is a superficial society… coz the debate around what Metiria did, lacked any real substance or profound discussion on the whole ethics and morals of our broken welfare system.  The vitriol that was aimed at Metiria Turei was ugly.  Thats the only word that keeps coming back to me, ugly.

Finally, during a trip back to my marae, we drove from Porirua to South Taranaki. For the first time in my life I became aware that we passed farmland after farmland for that entire journey.  At an economic level this concerns me hugely because climate change is going to impact on the worlds consumption of meat and dairy, and it really dawned on me that we are far too reliant on these industries to power our economy.  Living in France I already hear the discussions about changes in consumption (small scale farming is best; meatless meals; alternative sources of protein), and if NZ is behind the 8 ball on this, who knows what damage this could do to our country? More importantly, how is this going to impact on our communities if we just haven’t prepared or adapted to a world impacted by climate change?

So anyway, here I am, all confuddled.  I want so desperately to raise my baby surrounded by my friends and family.  But for the first time ever, NZ society as a whole, doesn’t actually seem very appealing.  I’ve always loved Ackland city, but in fairness, it  could just as well be any other cosmopolitan city in the world.  Other than the natural beauty that comes with being squashed into an isthmus, it doesn’t really have an X factor, does it? So what I’ve realised I love about home, are the people, my community, the untouched and especially virgin landscapes, the plentiful beaches and feeling of peace that I get from visiting the countryside, and especially my marae with Pukehaupapa in the distance. At least Wellington city is still cool little city, and I will always LOVE brunches and mochas with marshmellows, but jobwise I’m not sure it’ll be a possibility.

All in all its made me realise that the quality of life that we have here in Albi just can’t be beaten, not unless we have a radical change in lifestyle (or win the lotto).  So I can’t help but think that life would be perfect if all my NZ peeps moved here! Alas, that aint gonna happen any time soon.  So for now, I’ll try harder to appreciate the good life that we have here ❤


Hubby free (and loving it!)

I so often blog when I”m annoyed, mostly because i prefer to actually enjoy and lap up the good times, which happen more often than not.

But i thought I’d blog right now, coz I can. And I have the time. But I dont want to waste this precious time, so it’s gonna be quick.

Over the next fortnight the hubby will leave me for a total of 6 nights, for one reason or another.  Each time he ‘remembered’ to tell me, I felt annoyed… and a bit ripped off. Like, when’s MY time off??

But living together 24/7 allows me to forget that I actually enjoy being solitary and having time to myself, to zone out and just ‘be’.  So the frustration was more to do with the fact that I’ll have to parent solo for that time.

But anyway, tonight marks the first night.  And it feels sooooo damn good to have baby in bed and to have done the housework.   Speaking of which, I’ve recently realised that I do housework more for myself than for anyone else. I honestly don’t even do it to keep up appearances, which is almost embarassing coz I feel like here in France people don’t get caught up on ‘the small stuff’ like housework.  So I know I don’t have to worry about impressing anyone else… on the contrary, I WISH I could leave the house looking like a casual mess to show how cool I am living with stuff strewn all over the place, but I just can’t.  I feel soooooo much more relaxed when the house is in order.

And now I have this time, all to myself. To do whatever I please. I don’t have to cook a nice nutritious meal for the hubby and I.  I can read to my heart’s content, lose myself in a movie, or just enjoy a refreshing vino while enjoying the last of the sunshine…  In fact, I’m gonna go do that right now.

Peace out homies 😉

Confidence & Such Things

After 4.5 years in France (say whaaaaat?!) I’ve built myself a pretty large and stable network of friends, and life is feeling great right now.  Even though I’ve always been a happy person, since having my little boy I’ve been on cloud 9. I have honestly felt the same magnitude of happiness that I felt at christmases or on birthdays as a child.  This warmth, this wholeness, this complete peace with life and where I’m at.  Every day I literally do count my blessings and recognise the privilege that I have, to be a mum, and a stay at home mum en plus! In this beautiful country.  Life is good, and I know it.

But lately I have been confronted with this reality: there is a faction within my network of friends who are very focused on aesthetics, physical beauty and fashion.  I have no problem with those things in and of themselves, nor with women building eachothers self-esteem and confidence. I normally rejoice in that stuff and love to share the love. But I take issue when it starts to become dogmatic and in your face, and when it starts making me feel alienated. Which it has.

Now I’m not a complete bitch and understand perfectly well that we all have issues. Everyone has baggage and some people need help unpacking that baggage. I understand that helping women to look and feel their best is one way of helping them take control of their lives.  So I do sincerely get it.  Where there is a need, there is a market. I get it. More power to ya 😉

But I am starting to feel resentful about some of the messages I am hearing.  Messages that seem to suggest that I’m either worth something, and should therefore dress or look a certain way, and if I’m not taking care to look a certain why, I’m not being authentic. I’m being boring, I’m being like everyone else, I’m blending in or letting myself down. Contrary to making me feel confident, I find these messages meanspirited and hurtful.

Thankfully I have a pretty strong sense of self and a healthy mental compass, so I know when to check myself.  And I did. I’ve had conversations with a few people about these very issues and am glad to say I’m not alone in how I’ve been experiencing these messages (thank god!). But after hearing this stuff over and over, seemingly on replay the last couple of months, I did start feeling more pressure, more self concious and overly concerned about aesthetics. I started worrying about the stretch marks and pouch on my body, the body which grew, cared for and gave birth to my beautiful baby.  I started feeling conscious while dressing in my frumpy mum clothes. Despite looking good and feeling comfy, I also knew full well that they’d end up with vomit, wee, poo, milk, bits of food and other bodily liquids on them.

But all this is beside the point. I’ve had a baby for christ’s sake, give me and my body a damned break!!! Heaven knows its well deserved.



The point is that in spite of what I’m hearing (or wearing for that matter), that your mojo = getting your post-baby body into shape or wearing funky stylish clothes, I am the happiest I’ve been in ages!  Yet if i dress up without thinking about it or if I don’t work on my abdos each day, apparently I’m not showing up for myself.

But I am! I do! I show up for my myself every bloody day.  I show up for my beautiful baby, for my husband, for my household, for my family (from afar) for my friends.  Its about having mana.  And no matter what I look like, I uphold my mana, my integrity and pride as much as humanly possible.  I may fail at times. Sheesh, i’m only human. We aren’t infallible. But even when I am feeling down in the dumps, I cannot, I will not allow myself to wallow in self pity any longer than is healthy or necessary (though let me be clear that it IS ok to feel down in the dumps. We dont have to be switched on and razzle dazzled every single minute of our day. But we gotta pick ourselves back up again).
We deserve better than to wallow in self pity. Our families deserve better than that. And the world can do without such first world problems.

I get that image is important to many. I understand that our appearance can influence people ‘and win friends too’.   But to me, substance – your mana – takes priority. It always has and always will.  Who you are on the inside, the beauty within, your mind, your thoughts, your beliefs, your life experiences, your knowledge, your goals, your dreams, your trials, your tribulations. The things that make you, YOU. Human and imperfect. Owning those things, THAT is what makes one authentic. And those are what concerns me when it comes to the wellbeing and happiness of my loved ones.

Happiness, authenticity and confidence are more than what you look like, what clothes you wear, having the picture perfect post-baby body or by playing up to other peoples ideas of perfection. They come from deep within each and every one of us.  They come from being true to who we are, from nourishing our soul and by taking care of our physical and mental wellbeing. It comes from battling our own demons. So it is unfair to suppose that one persons path toward happiness, authenticity and confidence is going to look exactly the same as anothers.  And it is incredibly unfair to assume that a wobbly stretchmarked tummy or that mere clothes are anything more than that. They’re not!

Finally, I find it hugely offensive that I should be viewed through a lense which reduces my wairua, my ahua, my mauri, my entire being down to a single body part or to the clothes that I wear.  I am MUCH more. I am mana wahine.

Own your shit. Be happy. Grow. Most of all, recognise that other people will do these in their own, unique way and that is A-OKay. Lets build eachother up!

Peace 😉

The time whanaungatanga and manaakitanga went for a tipi-haere

OMG, i have SOOO much to write about but not enough time! But one thing that is bugging me and which i need to get off my chest right now… [insert intermittent interval for crying baby and thus why I rarely have enough time to blog]… where was I again?  Oh yeah, something that’s been bugging me.  Well, to be more precise, something that is bumming me out.

First off, I arrived in France with the goal of integrating as much as possible into my local community.  I got off to a good start, going to French class asap and joining an association within our first year.  But as I’ve mentioned a fair few times throughout my blog, building relationships with French people has proven rather difficult.  It simply takes time.  Even French people who aren’t from around here say its particularly difficult in these parts. So you see, its not just me.  It’s Albi, apparently.

So anyway, I’ve built a very strong network of good friends who I’ve come to rely on as you would family.  And its no surprise that most of them aren’t French. In fact there are an array of cultures represented in my various groups of friends.  And of course, that does include French people, but its not the grand majority.  But I really don’t care anymore.  Living over here is also about creating a life I can not only survive with, but which makes me feel happy and fulfilled. So I feel really thankful to have found friends who truly do complete me in many different ways.

All that said, since having my Petit-Bubba, I’ve really felt a gap in terms of my Maori culture (I wanted to plant baby’s whenua a couple of weeks ago, but it just didnt happen for reasons that ultimately lie in the fact that the tradition is just not appreciated or valued in the same way).  So I’ve really started feeling the need to spend time with Maori.
Why exactly?  Because like every culture, we share certain ideas or values that don’t need to be explained, and which make ‘being’ so much easier and even joyful. Ya know? For instance I’ve made steamed pudding and custard and served it as dessert to non-Maori/Kiwi friends who of course enjoyed it, but there just wasn’t the same appreciation that a Maori person would have, or the memories to share of how their aunty/cousin/sister/neighbour makes it the best.  It just isn’t the same.

About a month ago I decided to create a youtube playlist of waiata Maori to play to my baby.  There are about 30 odd songs on the playlist, made up mostly of the old classics you would hear at the pa, something my baby is yet to experience.  And because we have no idea when he is likely to do so, I need to be conscious of transmitting these songs to him.  So anyway, I was in the middle of singing one of these waiata when I realised I didn’t know half of the words.  I can sing/hum the tune like no-ones business… but the lyrics? No idea.  And I felt incredibly, incredibly upset.  I actually had to stop myself from crying, especially as I was dancing around with my baby in my arms, trying to create happy, fun memories.   So I sucked it up and sung what i knew and carried on, for his sake.

Why did I get upset? Coz this tiny incident brought home the fact that my baby, while Maori in blood, will only ever be Maori in culture if I – me on my own – make a conscious effort to transmit the culture to him, at least while we’re in France.  And at that moment in time it felt like SUCH a heavy burden to carry.  I am Maori because of the way I grew up, and the culture and its values mean so much to me and the way I function in this world.  But I’ve never stopped to think about how to teach someone to be Maori.  I mean, what does that even mean?  But the simple fact remains that I can’t just take baby to the urupa to visit my koko and pay respects to other whanau and tipuna, I can’t take him to tangi to say goodbye to those who pass away, I can’t take him to family reunions where he’s likely to hear ten guitars on the gat’ with the old a chinga-chik, a chinga-chik Maori strum that I grew up with.  So yeah, I felt sad.

So at the very least, I figured I could make a Facebook group, ‘Maori in le sud ouest‘ (Maori in the south west of France) with the hope that other Maori might be out there.  I figure we could hook up and pool our knowledge with the primary goal of keeping the culture alive for us as well as transmitting it to our whanau and making it relevant for them while in France. For me, this might mean reading books to our kids and teaching basic words, learning waiata and making kai together.  I’d also love to share what i know about the Treaty of Waitangi, if people were interested.  For others it might be something else. Learning te reo; playing touch; Kapa haka; Arts and crafts i.e. making poi; kites; weaving harakeke etc. There’s no limit. Its just about being and sharing together.

I shared my group in a New Zealanders in France page and was pleasantly surprised to see there are a fair few Maori down this way, and even Pakeha who just want to re-connect with our culture.  The possibilities are already making me excited! A couple of peole who expressed interest apologised for not being fluent  in te reo.  But while being fluent in te reo is one of the most precious gifts, thats only one of many things that make us Maori in this contemporary world where we travel in ‘flying wakas’ 😉 So I dont see it as a pre-requisite nor do I expect anyone to apologise for not having had the opportunity to learn it.   So I’ve made sure to explain that my idea isn’t about being tuuturu Maori (staunch/hardcore), its just about ‘being’ Maori and sharing the love.

So anyway, what is it thats got me feeling bummed out?  Well it turns out there are quite a few Maori in the rugby circuit.  I’ve recently made a connection with a Maori involved in that scene, and when they told me of other Maori and of hangi (hangi in France?!?!), of course I got so excited, quickly hinting for an invitation.  Only to feel a bit… knocked back.  Instead of extending an invitation to me, they gave the impression (one which I’d previously gathered from meeting other WAGS) that it was a rather closed and cliquey scene, not open to us mere mortals (coz pro rugby players are like celebrities over here).  In fact instead of accepting my invitation to have a cuppa, I was politely brushed off with a variety of reasons, and far from feeling any sense of whanaungatanga, I was told quite matter of factly to ‘just hang out with kiwis and islanders’, as if Kiwis just fall from trees in France.

Now I dont know if its just this particular person or if the other Maori they know really don’t care about whanaungatanga, but this really really bummed me out. I kinda see this person as a gatekeeper, and they’re not showing any signs that I’m allowed in 😦 Without being tuuturu, knowing that there are a group of Maori not even an hour from my home, regularly getting together, hanging out like whanau, yet feeling excluded from that… it goes in the face of what I believe it is to be Maori, ESPECIALLY when we are so far from home and most importantly, this person knows that this is what I’ve been seeking.   It sucks.

Anyway, its out now. *phew*

Cliquey rugby circuits aside, at least there’s my Facebook group which as of today has 8 members (yay!).  Even if its a small number, it warms my heart to know that sooner or laters, someone else might be able to fill the gaps in those waiata that I can’t fill on my own ❤

Walking between two worlds :-)

As always, its been some time since I’ve written a post… and I’m sure the intervals are going to become much, much longer as the hubby and I are having a baby in September this year 😀

I’ve just returned from a three week trip back home to surprise mum for her birthday. To say that I loved being home is an understatement.  I can’t describe how much it means to me to have been able to spend some well needed quality time with my family and close friends. To me, thats what life is about.  Quality time with loved ones, and nothing compares. It was especially awesome spending time with all the kids, seeing how they’ve grown and how their personalities have developed.  And meeting all the new babies/toddlers was a real treat too… even though I already felt like I knew them, it was lovely to have cuddles and to see their characters up close and personal.  So while my time there was very, very brief, it was really just so lovely to be home.  To re-charge, re-connect and feel grounded.  I also felt relieved at the ease with which I slipped back into the rythym of life, despite being gone for 2 years. I suppose thats the blessing of having grown up moving between different cultures and world views, adaptibility.

And I really, truly can’t emphasise enough just how friendly everyone was and how EASY everything is.  Customer service was just amazing…. mind blowingly amazing.  I went to the bank (without any documentation) to ask why my bank card wouldn’t work.  In 10 minutes maximum the bank teller had asked a couple of question about me/my lifestyle, ascertained that there were more appropriate services for me, updated my accounts AND – get this – she even cleared an outstanding balance of $80NZD! All the while, providing excellent customer service.

And that was only the beginning.  It really feels like people want to help you, and if they have any power/control, they use it to make your life easier rather than try to make things difficult for you.  They actively seek solutions for you, according to your needs – and they do it all with a smile, because thats their job. Thats what they’re there for.  It makes you feel…. human.  It makes you feel valued.  It’s one less obstacle you need to deal with in daily life, coz the staff are there to do all the hard work for you.   It made me miss home.

But while I’ve decided that 3 weeks just isn’t enough time back home (it broke my heart to decline invitations from people),  arriving back to my adopted homeland has been waaaaaay easier than last time.  In less than 2 weeks I’ve already slipped back into the rythym of life in Albi, and this is a truly AWESOME feeling.  Especially because last time I felt myself questioning so much and feeling stuck between two worlds.  This time round, I dunno… it just feels like this is all so normal.  I guess I’ve finally become accustomed to this lifestyle and feel quite proud to say that this is my life now. And I’ve truly come to appreciate how fortunate I am to call two countries on polar opposite sides of the world, home.

To jump on planes and traverse the world to spend time with loved ones – whether its from NZ to France, or from France to NZ – it’s all so normal now, and I love that it feels like this.  I love that I can get off the plane at each end of the world and just walk and talk at the same pace as the locals.  And most of all, I feel so lucky to have loved ones waiting for me at both ends.

After 3 whole years away from my home, I love that I can walk between two worlds with ease 🙂  And its amazing, almost mindblowing to think our baby will be lucky to grow up with all of this being second nature.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Je suis Kiwi

Wow, its been a while since i’ve written a blogpost – woopsy!  Oh well, I’ll hopefully try to blog a bit more regularly in the near future.

Anyway, this post is just a little reflection i’ve had.

Six months ago I found myself feeling homesick and a bit mamae for home, or rather, for all of the ‘normal stuff’ that makes home what it is.  I knew I’d get past it, and I’ve got to a place where I almost feel more stronger and confident then ever before.  And it’s got to do with remembering my roots, my whanau, my turangawaewae. It grounds me. It makes me feel secure.

As long as I remain steadfast in what makes me who I am, and where I come from, I’ll be right no matter where I am in the world.

But it is frustrating that people misinterpret this strength of identity.  Its true I’m forever going on about Maori culture, traditions as well as of my tribal history, just as we do back home, because we draw strength from sharing these things, building new relationships and solidifying old ones.  In France, sharing these things provides me with a compass so that I can orientate myself in this foreign land. But rather than appreciate it, I get the sense that European people perceive this as a bad thing, as if I’m looking back, or holding on. They don’t seem to understand that its an obligation to keep my culture and history alive, and this is my way of doing it.

Which is rather ironic when you consider how proud and patriotic the French can be about, well, everything French. I wonder if its coz they’re blinded by the colour of my skin?

A few months back I had an uncomfortable experience where an older French man took me by the shoulders, exclaiming “you are not a minority. We are all the same”.  I literally had to hold back the tears. He seemed completely oblivious to the inequalities that exist in this world, and to the privileges he has as not only a white man, but a European one. In fairness to him, when he saw that I was upset he did try to apologise, resassuring me that there’s no need to feel embarassed or bad about my identity.  He didnt understand that when I say that I’m maori, I say it with pride. But in his European mindset, anyone who claims to be a minority must feel ashamed, embarassed and degraded. He simply couldn’t understand how it could ever be a positive thing.  His aggressive reaction was supposed to knock the sense into me, help me feel better, to encourage me to shed this ‘minority’ label, to abandon my sense of self and start singing the Marseillaise with pride.

I didn’t quite know how to react.  Except to state the fact: That Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, are a minority population making up less than 16% of the total NZ population. As I am Maori, from four iwi, I am a part of that minority population.  I explained that he had gravely misinterpreted my tears as a sign of shame.  I explained that I’m unbelievably proud of my heritage and that after all the destruction that Europeans have caused, economically and environmentally, they could learn a lot from Maori, as well as other indigenous people.  You should’ve seen the look on his face.  Priceless.

So anyhow, I’ve got to this weird point where being in France for 3 years has really cemented my Kiwi identity, more than ever before. I suppose it raises questions about my ability to adapt or integrate, but that doesn’t really bother me. Its more important to be true to myself and to stay rooted, than to go chasing waterfalls.

The world is NOT fucked… but this system is!

While I am a realist, I am of the optimistic variety. I truly believe that we have every opportunity to create a better world – if we want to.

I also realise that we humans are our own worst enemy.

Yesterday I became aware of several incidents (around the world) of violence against Muslim people.

Last night I learned that a local teacher agreed with an adolescent that nuking ‘them’ (whether it was Syria or Isis I can’t be sure) is an appropriate reaction. Great, so now we’re teaching our children that nuclear warfare is totally OK?!

Today I received an email advising that among some circles, there is now a call for France to dismiss secularism and return to Christanism.

I know that these aren’t even a drop in the pool with regards to the complexity of opinions that exist right now.

But it’s so bloody obvious to me. Just STOP.  Stop lashing out at others and start looking inside yourself (at a global, local and individual level).

Stop sucking up to Saudi Arabia who fund Isis.

Stop the West from intervening in other countries and their geopolitics UNLESS it has specifically been asked for .  And on that note, make sure that diplomatic efforts are carefully managed in conjunction with the needs, desires and values of the local population (and not JUST the puppet regimes).  This is the ONLY way that long term, sustainable solutions will be successful.

The West should stop ignoring their role in shaping the world in which we live today.   The West colonised the world.  The West exploited the people and land of other nations for their own benefit from the 16th century right up to the present day.  Yes many nations achieved independance after the second world war, but the West continues to exploit people through the neoliberal capitalist system.  It needs to stop. If not to stop the grievances, then to stop the impending effects of Climate Change.

The West should stop alienating their minority populations – regardless of whether or not these populations are first nations, indigenous, migrant, refugee or assylum seeking populations: we are all human beings and along with being equal in the eyes of the law, we also deserve to be treated with respect, empathy and compassion.  We also deserve to be respected wholly – this means NOT divorcing us from our whakapapa (ancestry), from our tikanga (our traditions), from our mana (integrity), from our reo (language), from our taonga (our treasures), from our wairua (spirituality), our mauri (life force) for the sake of making YOU feel comfortable in public.  That has to stop.

How do we stop alienating people?  We start by looking inside ourselves.

But this seems to be the BIGGEST problem today. To have compassion and empathy for others, especially those who are seen as different to us, we first need to learn to accept ourselves – warts and all. When you have the fortitude to recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and when you can love and accept yourself, there’s no need to fear others. When you feel safe in your identity, there’s no need to fear the identity of others.  Allowing yourself to feel whole and allowing others to love  you (or not?!) in your entirety, THAT is what it is to be human.

When you’re OK with who you are as a person, you shouldn’t need to worry about how other people go about their business.  If you’re OK with who you are, you shouldn’t need to gossip and bitch about other people. If you’re OK with who you are, you shouldn’t need to criticise others. If you’re OK with who you are, your veiled neighbour shouldn’t bother you.  If you’re OK with who you are, the Mosque up the road shouldn’t bother you either.  If you’re OK with who you are, the lesbian couple across the street shouldn’t bother you.  If you’re OK with who you are, you shouldn’t feel the need to disrespect, belittle, deny or alienate other people for being who they are.

If you’re OK with who you are, you should be able to accept that difference and diversity are not inherently wrong. If you’re OK with who you are, difference should not be seen as a personal affront. It just means someone chooses to meet their needs slightly different to you, and thats OK.  If you’re OK with who you are, maybe you will be strong enough to accept that another way of doing something isn’t necessarily that bad after all?
It might even be better?!  And if it’s not better, then by working together to overcome your differences and find a solution that works for all parties, you can find a completely new way of doing something!
How awesome would that be?

That is the power I recognise in diversity.  It’s called adaptation. And it’s what we humans have been doing to survive for millenia.

On the contrary, if you feel the need to criticise someone or deny them because of their cultural practices, beliefs or their language; if you feel the need to make someone do everything YOUR way; if you feel the need to belittle other people or to alienate them because of who they are, then I ask, what are you afraid of? Because if you are afraid of them… it says more about you then it says about them. This means YOU are the problem.

Our communities (local and global) will be stronger when we realise the simple reality of our world today. The West created the conditions for globalisation and with that, came a responsibility to manage our multicultural societies.  But due to Western superiority, this hasn’t been done well enough and as such, our most vulnerable have become alienated based on the idea that they should ‘integrate’ (according to Western European values).

But for the benefit of everyone in our multicultural societies, the West NEEDS to start respecting and valuing the experiences, values and beliefs of other cultures.  The West needs to recognise the legitimacy of the ‘other’.  We need to start engaging with other ways of being, seeing and doing. We need to allow people the freedom for self-determination, while respecting our internal laws.  And so that we don’t create the conditions for isolation and anti-social behaviours, we need to support ALL citizens to feel valued as they are, in their entirety. We need to make sure they have the support and resources to be true to themselves. Coz if they’re OK with themselves, they won’t have any grievances to vindicate.

This might be scary and uncomfortable because we don’t like difference and we resist change. More importantly, accepting and allowing a place for diverging viewpoints challenges the very essence of our own cultures and societies.  But this is nothing new.  Cultural clashes have existed for the whole of mankind’s existence.  There is nothing new about this.  What is new is that for the last couple of hundred years, this process has taken place with the West at the helm.  With globalisation, the West has finally found itself challenged by the rest of the world (in one way or another) and by other ways of doing and being.  But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

As a bi-cultural Kiwi who grew up in a multi-cultural community, and who now lives in France, I rest strong in my conviction that we NEED to accept the reality of the world we live in today, in order to find solutions. If we keep resisting… then we will surely be our own demise.