By Agata Natalia Kozak, founder of Cossac.
Unlike our parents, grandparents and great grandparents whose identities were largely shaped by a singular ethnicity or the country in which they were born, our identity is less about our heritage and more about how our lives are shaped by the people, language and culture we are surrounded by.
Thus, we are the sum of our experiences, and that experience is local.
So ‘multi-local’ means that we are influenced by the cultures and places where we consider ourselves local. I am multi-local. And if you’re a millennial – like I am – it’s highly likely that you are multi-local as well.
Part of the ‘wanderlust’ generation we millennials love to travel and explore. We crave authentic experiences. We live in the world of possibilities. We move countries for education and work opportunities. We learn different languages. We seek meaningful human connections. We care about social responsibility. We desire to live life in harmony with the environment around us. We are experiencers.
So it makes sense that many millennials would identify as ‘multi-local’.
For me, Poland my birth country and where I grew up, Turkey and Spain where I studied design, London where I launched my career in fashion and where I am currently based, and Istanbul, China and Tokyo where I regularly travel for business and pleasure, are my ‘localities’.
When people ask where I’m from, it’s hard to put that into words. Do I tell them my country of birth because it’s what’s printed on my passport? Or do I give them a complete itinerary of how I came to live in London?
Plus, the question ‘where are you from’ can lead to stereotypes and judgements based on the response. Considering Brexit and the increased racial attacks on immigrants, this question can also seem discriminating.
Instead of using the language of ‘nationality’ and using one of ‘locality’, we begin to share our complex identities. By sharing stories of multi-localism, we help break down preconceived ideas attached to a person based on their ‘country of origin’ and accept them for the unique individual that they are.
I am proud to be ‘multi-local’.
Taiye Selasi, in her TED talk, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, Ask Where I’m a Local, explores the concept of multi-localism and shares the idea that we should identify a person based on the “three R’s: rituals, relationships, and restrictions”—and not on their genetics or passport.
This is the cultural context that I most relate with. I too am best defined not by a singular place, or country or nationality or language but by a set of experiences and amazing people that have shaped my life.
When I reflect on my rituals for example, I can see I make coffee before I start work. I practice yoga. I celebrate Easter and Christmas with my family. I drink green smoothies. I greet people with a kiss on the cheek. These are just some of the rituals I’ve adopted because I’ve lived in certain places.
Next is my relationships which are not bound by a singular country or place. I am frequently in touch with family and close friends around the world. Without them, there would be no ‘me’.
In terms of restrictions, I have a passport that provides me with legal boundaries but it’s not just my passport that provides these limitations. Work and opportunity restricts me from living in certain places; it’s why I relocated to London in fact. As one of the world’s fashion epicentres London would pose no restrictions on my fashion career.
So multi-localism defines our complex human identity in ways that nationality does not. It tells of a human story enriched by the many people and places we’ve encountered along the way.
So tell me, are you ‘multi-local’ too?