Growing up as a young Asian girl, in a town where 91% of the population identified as “white British”, was more than interesting. This resulted in me spending most of my life trying to gain a sense of balance between the two cultures that I was born into. I would constantly question my identity, which is only natural, after experiencing these two cultures which are so widely different. Although I felt I belonged to both of these cultures, I was never fully accepted by either. It would be a case of either being “too British” to be Pakistani, or “too Pakistani”, to be British, and therefore I spent most of life trying to understand and embody what it meant to be “British Asian” without the fear of being labelled a “coconut”.
Normal British schoolgirl experiences such as wearing a skirt to school, were completely different for me, because I would constantly have to pull it down to my knees whenever I passed “aunties and uncles” in public, in fear of being judged for not being modest. Or always having to explain to my friends in Sixth Form, why I didn’t drink at parties or at clubs, and feeling awkward and apologetic about this side of me. Going to town was also a different experience to my white British counterparts, as I would have to avoid the EDL march because according to them, the colour of my skin defined what made me British.
I always felt a sense of pressure on me, like an invisible blanket pushing down on me, and I thought it was so unfair, that I felt I had to conform to just one culture, when both my British and Pakistani sides were what made me, me. It felt like I was alone in this experience, and I could not wait to leave school and go to university, where I would finally be able to meet other girls like myself, who shared this experience. And that was exactly the case. At university, I was able to meet other people who had experienced the same pressures as me, growing up, and it definitely made me feel less alienated. Up until this point, I had never shared a room with other individuals who had looked like me, that I was not related to, and sharing these sentiments, made me realise that balancing two cultures was only something that I had made hard on myself. Maybe, it was the absence of pressure to fit in, at university, and truly embrace the notion that I didn’t need to choose a culture. I can enjoy my Pakistani culture, without losing the British side to me, and vice versa.
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