As a newer and more culturally diverse time begins to dawn on Ireland and the world, the advent of mixed lineage families is becoming a more common occurrence in our communities. As a born and bred Irish citizen, I am curious in how those growing up in multi-cultured families feel about national identity and how they acknowledge and characterize equally both parental cultures in their day to day lives, or rather how they choose to either reject one culture and embrace another. Since both my parents have been Roman Catholic and of Irish blood, these are questions I cannot answer as I have always strongly identified with one culture and lifestyle and one only, except for my complicated relationship with England, but that’s a story for another time.
To answer a couple of questions I have on growing up in Ireland with a mixed background, I’ve interviewed my good friend, Nasreen. Nasreen has both an Irish and Iranian background but has lived in Ireland for the majority if not all her life. I asked her basic questions on her background and how she felt connected to these backgrounds, this is what she had to say;

Before I start the interview, could we have your full name?
My full name is Nasreen Sara Habibnejad Koriam
I’m aware that you come from a mixed-background family, could you elaborate on what backgrounds these are?

You’re dead right there, my dad was born and raised in Iran and my grandmother would be from previously Azerbaijan, now current Iran. My mother is Irish, born and bred.

Being from both an Irish and Iranian background, which country and culture do you identify the strongest with?

I’ve lived in Ireland the majority of my life, only living in Iran for a little while but I wouldn’t count it as living there, we went there (referring to her family) and thought about living there but we never did. It was like a few months, but I do have an Iranian passport and I’m an Iranian citizen and hold dual citizenship.
So, would you say that you identify more with Irish culture and being Irish?

Yeah, I was born here in Dublin and I’ve lived nearly my whole life here. All my friends are here and most of my closer family are here and I’ve picked up Irish mannerisms. I love the people and the culture a lot more than I do any other country so I’d say I’m prouder of the Irish than any others. I have a lot of Irish patriotism.

Has having a mixed-background ever led to difficulties in your life, or even discrimination?

Sometimes from my dad side of the family, they might tease me on being part Irish and not fully Iranian but mostly I don’t experience any sort of discrimination really for being from Iran, but mostly from the assumption that all people from Iran are Muslim, so many just assume that I am Muslim and I may get backlash for that.
Did you grow up in a religious household? And has religion effected your national identity?

Yes, I grew up Roman Catholic despite my dad being Muslim. I suppose both of my parents wanted to have their input on what religion I was, so both Islam and Christianity were shoved onto me from a young age, but I would identify with the Roman Catholic church more so than Islam. That’s another reason I would identify more with Irish people than other Iranians.

Nasreen, unfortunately, couldn’t stay much longer for an interview, however from what questions she could answer and from my previous conversations with her, she shows how having two backgrounds but ultimately living in just one of those backgrounds native countries tend to lead to favouring or preference for one over the other. Of course, everyone’s situations and relationships to their heritage and cultures differ and one cannot tell from a single example how to answer questions on how cultural integration works in Ireland or in other countries without answering on a purely personal level.

What Nasreen has done however, is not answer how it is being multicultural in Ireland for everyone, but given me a valuable and respected insight to her own experiences. For the majority of countries and communities nowadays, having people of mixed backgrounds and cultures are not a new phenomenon, and I believe there is nothing more valuable than educating yourself on different cultures and being introduced and confronted with broader and contrasting worlds than your own.
Make new friends, listen to their stories and experiences, and be open to sharing yours, learn more than you ever could in colleges and become schooled in more ways than academic. It will most certainly come back to you in the future, I promise you that and regardless, it’s important to not close yourself off to those who are similar to yourself and learn to appreciate differences and see fun in them.
So maybe, if you have a friend or know someone close to you, who have their own unique backgrounds and experiences, interview them, discuss with them your differences, your similarities, and learn more about each other. Hopefully both of ye will come out more positive from the experience and you might even develop a stronger and more understanding friendship.
The key in enjoying this life, is being open and excited, not scared of change. Nothing is more vital than understanding this.
by Sarah Jane Hayes Martindale