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In a Strange Land

Malkie Schulman

When you’ve moved across the world, it doesn't matter how long you’ve lived in your new country; in some ways you always feel like an immigrant. Four women talk about what it’s like to adapt to a different culture and country.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SophieBeylisson moved from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to New York in 1993.CandyEngel moved from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Montreal, Canada, in 2001. Chava Dunner grew up in Antwerp, Belgium, and moved to Lakewood, New Jersey, via England and Israel, in 2004.TamiaTaussky moved from Basel, Switzerland, to Montreal, Canada, in 2002. 

Getting to Know You  When I meet an acquaintance, let’s say Larissa from Russia, and I ask her, “How are you?”, I am prepared to listen for the next half hour while she describes in detail how Aunt Genya is, how Uncle Boris fell and hurt his head, and how she can’t seem to get past her cold, and then she’ll list every remedy she’s tried. It took me a while to get used to my American acquaintances asking, “How are you?” and expecting a one-word answer: “Fine.” —SophieBeylisson 
The Jewish community in South Africa is Lithuanian — we were all brought up similarly, and we’re all close. All our shuls get together for different events. In Montreal there’s this great divide — Sephardic, chassidish, Ashkenazic. People are friendly here, but at arm’s length; they’re nice to each other, but they don’t mix. It’s hard for me to understand this segregation.—CandyEngel 
When I first moved here, I would meet acquaintances on the street and they would enthusiastically say, “I will call you.” I waited all week for that call that never came. In Europe — at least when I was growing up — that would never happen.Many women work here, which was not the case in Belgium at the time. They are more rushed — they have no time to just call and shmooze for 20 minutes. But it took me a while to understand that mentality. On the other hand, once you get to know somebody here, they’re much more willing to be open with you about their personal lives.—Chava Dunner

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