Anything To Declare? The Next Generation [Archives:1998/38/Culture]
Ms. Waffa Alawi Nasser,
Children born to Yemeni parents living in Britain have experienced two completely different cultures. Almost all of them received proper education and training, something that is not readily available in Yemen. Almost all of these people read, write and speak English very well.
They all agree that their main dislike about Yemen is the way that the country is run. However, they all like the ancient history of Yemen, the old buildings, the weather and the antiquity. About England, they also agree that they dislike the crime and violence, but like the fact that they can get a proper education.
Let us see what else these people have to say:
Firyal, 23, lives with her parents and works in a private company in Sanaa. She was born, then lived and studied in England, but came back to settle in Yemen when she was about 19 years old.
Was she able to adapt to the British lifestyle? “Yes, enormously, after living there for so many years, it was hard not to.” What do you like and dislike about Yemen? “Well my list is too long, basically I dislike the government and the way poor people have to live. In England, I dislike the violence, crime, and racism, including that by the police. “Nevertheless, I like the way they take seriously such things as education, training schemes, and careers. And there is help available for any kind of problem one may have, whether it be domestic or educational.”
Would Firyal consider going back to England? Can she do so?
“Yes, I would consider going back to England. My only obstacle is my parents wanting me to work or study in Yemen instead.”
Mohammed, 19, was born, had lived and studied in England. He came to settle in Yemen when he was 18 years old. As soon as he finished his studies, he had to return with his family.
What is Mohammed doing in Yemen now? “I do not study but I’m still looking for work.” Did you adapt to the English lifestyle? “Yes I did, it’s hard not to because I lived there for so many years.”
Finally, I asked him whether he would consider going back to England, and also what obstacles stand in the way? “Yes, I will return to England, and the only obstacles are my parents wanting me to stay in Yemen to either work or study.”Helima, 17, was born, had lived and studied in England and came to settle in Yemen when she was 16 years old, She could not finish her studies. Helima is due to get married, so she is not ready to work or study. I asked whether she had adapted to the English lifestyle? “Just a bit yes, it’s unavoidable.”Would she would consider going back to England, and also what obstacles would stand in her way? “I wouldn’t really bother with England anymore. Yemen is my home, and besides that, my parents would not allow it.”Fatima, 22, was born in Yemen, but moved to England with her family when she was just 3 years old. She returned to Yemen when she was 19, as soon as she finished her studies.
I asked Fatima whether she had adapted to the English lifestyle? “In between, I did and I didn’t, it was hard not to, living there for so long.”
I asked whether Fatima would consider going back to England and also what obstacles stand in her way? “No I would not really consider going back to England, and the only obstacle I would face, if I decide to go back, are my parents saying it’s wrong for an unmarried woman to return there, which is true really.”Sameer, 18, was born, had lived and studied in England. He returned to Yemen last year when he finished his studies. Sameer works in a private company in Yemen now.
I asked him whether he had adapted to the English lifestyle? “Yes, but not much, it was hard not to.”
Would he consider going back to England, and also what obstacles stand in the way of returning there? “Yes I would go back to England for a visit, after all, I was born there. The only obstacles are my parents wanting me to stay in Yemen and not return back to be involved in the English lifestyle.”Layla, 18, was born in Yemen and moved to England with her family when she was 2 years old. She settled back in Yemen when she was 17 years old.
I asked her whether she ever adapted to the English lifestyle? “Yes, just a bit, but at the end of the day, I still knew where I truly came from.” Would she ever consider going back to England, and what obstacles would stand in her way? “No, I would not consider going back to England, and my only obstacles would be my parents and future husband.”
Layla, 11, Deena, 7, Nadia, 10, and Aneesa Abdu, 8, are sisters who were all born in Liverpool, England and still live there. In 1993, Deena and Layla came to Yemen, Nadia and Aneesa came to Yemen in 1995, and Nadia came again in 1997 with her father.
They are all hoping to come back again soon. The girls go to a private all-girls school in Liverpool. Their parents consider it wrong to go to a co-educational school.
They go to the mosque in Liverpool on Saturdays and Sundays. The girls have never adapted to the English lifestyle, they been brought up strictly according to the Islamic tradition.
Their dislikes about Yemen include mainly the dirty streets and the way sheep get killed and the flies. They like the colors of the Yemeni traditional clothes and fabrics. They also like Yemeni weddings.
About England, they don’t like the weather, mainly the rain, and the violence and crime. They like their school and studies, and work in their parents shop after school. But they’re not allowed to play in the streets. They visit Yemen in order to adapt to the Yemeni lifestyle, so that in the future they will have knowledge of that.
The girls feel more comfortable in Yemen because there is nothing to worry about like violence and crime. Most of the boys, on the other hand, would prefer to go back to England just to visit. But most parents urge their kids to stay in Yemen, because they believe that once their children are adults they should settle in this country.
The older generation see Britain as a place to work and save money, not for living permanently. Many of these kids yearn for the freer life back in England, but at the same time they cannot disobey their parents.
Most of the children of Yemeni immigrants seem to have acquired the best of the two cultures. They are more liberal and have a better outlook on life than their peers, who have lived all there lives in Yemen.