When my family decided to move to Canada for my father’s job, I was less than happy about leaving my friends, but as a child, I never really realized how different things could be. Landing in the midst of a snowstorm and tasting snowflakes for the first time was only the first indication of all the new things I would learn about. Despite being born in India, I’d never lived there, but Dubai—where I grew up—was a pretty good second option. In 2000, just one year before I moved away, at least 40% of Dubai’s documented population was of South Asian origin, though the actual number probably much higher. It is likely the biggest “Little India” in the world.
There’s an unspoken expectation for people of a different heritage to not only be “ethnic,” but to also be “North American,” which usually means speaking English well and being in touch with all the latest trends. These expectations came from everyone, even ourselves, and emerged as the safety net of childhood fell away.