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Identity and Migration

Sibel Karamaras - M.Sc. Psychologist Psychological Counselor in Amsterdam

Sibel (MSc) specialises in anxiety, interpersonal dynamics, anger, self-esteem, stress management, and migration challenges. She has received extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) applications, and uses schema-therapy, mindfulness and psychosomatic symptoms to guide her practice.

Last Updated on October 13, 2023 by It’s Complicated

Having been born and raised abroad, these past two years don’t quite feel like just two to me. This is now my third country and fourth city, and I can clearly see how all these journeys have shaped my sense of self.

Migration is a transformative journey that can reshape one’s sense of identity.

Migration and the Changing Self

Arriving in a new country can often lead to a fading sense of belonging, leaving one feeling foreign, lonely, and incomplete. Similarly, the disconnect between the idealized image of the new country and its reality can lead to disappointment. The same contradictions can arise when returning to one’s home country.

Many immigrants facing these challenges often find themselves in a liminal space, not fully belonging anywhere. This feeling can be accompanied by a sense of not belonging “here” anymore, yet not belonging “there” either—creating barriers in how we define ourselves.

Identity is not only an individual concept but also a social and relational one. Socially constructed labels influence identity, with factors such as gender, ethnicity, class, education, status, and religion playing crucial roles in self-expression.

Migration exposes individuals to different social expectations, cultural values, and interaction patterns, giving rise to diverse identity perceptions shaped by multiple social, economic, and political systems.

In this process, how immigrants shape their identities and the contributions of various social relationships play significant roles. New relationships may challenge and transform immigrants’ cultural values.

For instance, when I moved to my current country, I initially struggled with certain cultural norms vastly different from those in my previous country. Through interactions with locals and forming new friendships, I began to understand the underlying reasons behind these cultural practices. This understanding not only broadened my perspective but also made me more accepting of diverse cultural values.

Cultural Identity and Enrichment

Cultural values are integral to our personal identities as they form the foundation of our beliefs, behaviors, and decision-making processes, providing a sense of belonging and coherence in a rapidly changing world. However, when faced with new cultural values, immigrants often find themselves reevaluating their existing beliefs and adapting to the new environment.

Moreover, building new relationships can indeed serve as a coping mechanism when feeling the weight of different identities. Connecting with like-minded individuals who share similar experiences can create a support system that eases the transition and fosters a sense of belonging.

Throughout my journey as an immigrant, I’ve come to realize that embracing change and incorporating various cultural elements into my identity has enriched my sense of self. It’s essential to recognize that identity is not fixed but rather a dynamic aspect of ourselves that evolves over time.

In conclusion, the experiences and identities of immigrants go beyond a single category and serve a function that helps them adapt to changing societal conditions. Embracing new relationships and cultural values can lead to personal growth and a more inclusive identity.


La Barbera, M. (2015). Identity and migration: An introduction. In Identity and migration in Europe: Multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 1–13). Springer, Cham. Mao, J., & Shen, Y. (2015). Cultural identity change in expatriates: A social network perspective. Human Relations, 68(10), 1533–1556. Scurry, T., Rodriguez, J. K., Bailouni, S., & Doherty, N. (2013). Narratives of identity of self-initiated expatriates in Qatar. Career Development International, 18(1), 12–33.

About me: Psychology has always taken a very special place in my life where I get inspired from different cultures, different experiences and different people.

I am currently working as a psychological counselor for adults as well as an organizational trainer in corporate companies through online platforms. I have moved to the Netherlands, after living in Norway and Turkey.

My expertise is in anxiety related issues, interpersonal / anger / self-esteem and stress related concerns, migration and adaptation related struggles.

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