Experiencing Downward Mobility: From Bangladesh, To Holland, to Canada
Written by Nerissa Harrypersad
I met Shawn a cold Sunday night. As always, he was well-dressed and well-groomed, wearing a slim-fit pair of jeans with a wool business casual grey sweater. His facial hair was shortly trimmed suiting his slim face, and his hair style consisted of medium fade with his hair longer at the top of his head. He is twenty-four years old and identifies as South Asian from Bangladesh.
Although Shawn is only twenty-four years old, he has moved quite a few times. He was born in Bangladesh and left the country at the age of five. He then moved to Holland, where he spent most of his childhood. Later, he moved to Ontario, Canada where he has remained in Mississauga ever since. His father has always been the deciding factor on the family moving; Shawn, along with his mother and sister, would simply follow what he decided.
Shawn and his family first moved to Ontario, Canada in 2008. They have lived in Mississauga since then, in two different places. Shawn described the first place he lived in as a townhouse next to retirement home, down the street from where he lives now. He currently lives in the Erin Mills area. Interestingly, he describes his old house as located at “the dark side of Sauga.” As part of his description, he states that he lived next to a drug dealer.
Shawn’s parents rented this townhouse for one year, before deciding to move. His father decided it was time to move because he was tired of paying rent each month. Shawn stated that buying a house was a goal and aspiration for his family. His father made the decision to stay in the Erin Mills area because “everything is there [and] it’s like Beverly Hills but in Sauga.” The desire of ownership was a driving factor for this Shawn’s family to move, where location and convenience each played a significant role in deciding to remain in the same area. In 2009, the family purchased a semi-detached house. Shawn gladly reveals “when I moved I knew we kinda made it.” Purchasing their new home and having a sense of ownership meant that they had fulfilled their aspirations.
Moreover, an interesting discussion approached during the topic of socio-economic status and they type of people who live in Shawn’s current neighbourhood. When asked to describe the people who live in his neighbourhood, Shawn immediately said “mostly like middle to upper class. A mix of Brown and Arabs. Also Pakistanis.” He related his description first to class, and then to ethnicity. When asked if they are similar or different in terms of their socio-economic status, Shawn said they are the same for the most part, being middle class. His answer to whether this has always been the case is intriguing.
Shawn describes that his socio-economic status had moved downhill after moving to Ontario, Canada. Due to immigration, his father had difficulty finding employment after their move to Canada. His credentials and education completed in Bangladesh and Holland were not recognized here. Shawn revealed that his father was not provided with assistance for education or training due to his age. As Shawn said: “we were well-off and we are not as well-off here.” His father was financially secure in Holland, but had to deal with insecurities after struggling with employment in Canada. Also, his father experienced downward social mobility, due to his education not being recognized in Canada.
Despite the struggles Shawn and his family experienced as immigrants, Shawn stated that he would not change anything about the area he lives in now and would not want to live anywhere else. The story of Shawn’s family, especially the experiences of his father, illustrates the inequalities that immigrants experience once settling within Canada.
Nerissa Harrypersad is currently a senior student at the University of Toronto- Mississauga, completing a Specialist in Sociology and a Major in Criminology. Raised by Trinidadian parents and coming from a rich Trinidadian culture, she is particularly intrigued by other cultures, while consistently learning something new about her own culture every day. She loves the study of culture and what it means to come from a particular ethnic background.