“I have lived in six countries throughout my life, and speak three languages. Before I came here, I was looking for a place where I could be ambitious, creative and social.
I thought Ghent is as good a place as any to start my life after university, and six years later, I’m still here. I found my tribe here, in art school. I met open-hearted, open-minded, and interesting people. They showed me a culture in Belgium that suited me well. So I was able to make a genuine connection to the country and town I live in.
People are definitely the key to that. Now I have put down my social roots here. It was very special for me to move to Belgium, because it was the first time that I felt my identity didn’t rely so much on the past, my surroundings and other people. That new start was what I needed. I fell in love the first time here, had my first real job here and was able to explore my artistic ambitions.
I definitely feel like an outsider, but I’ve always felt that way, having moved around with my family since I was ten years old. To me that feeling is the norm. But now I embrace it. As a result, I feel I’m less inclined to worry about being different, politically, or otherwise. I eat differently, think differently and am not afraid to be controversial. I don’t feel I have a geographical home: I was born in Wales, but neither of my parents are from there. The longer I’m away, the more I feel alienated by British culture. My accent has morphed over the years; British people can’t even tell where I’m from now.
I’m glad to contribute to the social diversity of Ghent. Diversity makes the world feel a bit bigger for all of us. Locals like practising their English on me. Also, professionally I am doing a job only an English native speaker can do, which is translating Dutch texts to English for museums, art galleries, artistic centres and individual artists here in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Being a migrant is being me. Not being from here heightens my awareness of how much harder it is for other people. I think it makes you more sympathetic to other outsiders.”
This is a story by Christine Strotmann.