Cultural plurality enriches New Zealand heritage

Rahul Chopra – 

Culture is our attitude, thoughts, expectations, goals and values.

It constitutes the rules that may and may not be acceptable in the society.

Each of us learns these rules when we interact with each other, initially we learn ways of doing things, generating ideas and appreciating values from our parents, then at school and then from a number of people around us.

As we continue our learning in life our understanding of culture evolves.

Minor differences

Multiculturalism is the realisation that each of us is a different person.

Each of us has different likes and dislikes; these are neither good nor bad, but just different.

Multiculturalism is not imposition of ideas or way of life of a majority on minority or the expectation that minority must change their ways of life to adapt to their new place of residence.

It is acceptance of different ways of doing the same thing.

These things can be as small and simple as sleeping, dressing up, eating or getting to work. It could be how we go about doing our household duties, answer a phone call or greet a friend and stranger.

It is only natural that each of us will do each of these and many other things differently.

Migrant history

Based on historical information, New Zealand’s first immigrants arrived in 1250 AD, followed by first European James Cook finding New Zealand in 1769.

Thereafter, New Zealand has had regular migration flows initially from Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, the United States and Canada.

After World War Two, New Zealand received migrants from Hungary, Greece, Italy and Poland.

Due to a lack of skilled people, New Zealand liberalised its immigration policy when Parliament approved the ‘1987 Immigration Act’ which came in to affect in 1991.

New Zealand’s decision to invite people to live and call New Zealand their home has resulted in 120 different nationalities and 200 different ethnicities residing here.

Over 13% of the total population (approximately 595,000 people), identify as ethnic in one way or another. And Hindi is now the fourth most common language in New Zealand after English, Māori, and Samoan.

Positive contribution

Migrants have contributed positively to New Zealand be it with their skills or adding to the Kiwi food platter. We now see migrants employed in all sectors of the economy.

Some of them have excelled and earned their place representing New Zealand in sports, business, community and in several other areas.

Equally New Zealanders have welcomed migrants with open hearts. They have provided opportunities for settlement, employment, and business growth as well as celebrate festivals and cultural events of old and new migrants with same energy and level of participation.

Indian Newslink, which celebrates its 17th anniversary with the current edition, has played an important and commendable role in connecting Indians to Kiwis and vice versa.

Recently, while shopping at a supermarket I came across a British woman who was dressed in a churidar suit. At the time of paying for my purchase, a Pacific Island couple complemented the woman on her dress who with a great degree of excitement said that she was celebrating Diwali with her Indian husband.

Another European couple who were also in the queue said that they also marked Diwali every year.

New Zealand is a nation of migrants and hence accepts each of us irrespective of our country of origin. We can say with a sense of pride that New Zealand has a tolerant society where everyone feels at home.

Rahul Chopra is a postgraduate in Public Policy from Auckland University of Technology. Climate Policy, Climate Change, Environment and Migrant Affairs are among the subjects that evince his interest in research and analysis. He is currently employed with Parliamentary Services in the office of MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.

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