Monthly Archives: September 2015

New and Old

Both of my parents are from Vietnam and such I  have grown up with the Vietnamese/Asian culture all my life. However, I was born here in America and when I began to attend school, this Asian culture began to fade. There was a heavy emphasis on me achieving high grades so I needed to learn the English language. I feel that from here on I began to “dilute” my existing Asian culture and began to adopt the American culture within my own life. Though both cultures have aspects and habits that reside within me, I think that it worries those of the older generations of my family that this culture and tradition is being slowly washed out among the younger ones.

As I grew up, I became more absorbed in America, through its schools, people, television, etc. At some point, I lost the ability to speak Vietnamese, the first language I was able to speak. I had spent so much time in contact with the English language that it eventually became my primary language. Now, I have trouble speaking in Vietnamese, though at the very least I am able to understand what others are saying. Also, the best i can manage is basic phrases and responses that I make on reflex when being talked to in Vietnamese. In addition, when looking back on the readings, especially DeVita chapter 6, I have noticed that I have a tendency to be overly casual with my elders if I am not a stranger to them. My parents have scolded me about this on occasion, but most of the time it just flies over my head. Slowly over the years, I began to embrace the idea of being independent, trying not to rely on others or follow in someone else’s path. My mother had a strong desire for me to go into the medical field in the future, but I refused and am now studying in the engineering field. Though it may annoy her, me trying to forge a path different than what is expected or desired of me is something that I am proud of.

Despite all this, there remains aspects of my Asian culture that I hold dear to me. First and foremost, my family is of the utmost importance to me. Though I may not openly show it, the traditional Asian ideal that the family is held above all else is something I still believe in. Both this and last year, I have spent large sums of money for gifts for my sister. I still address those older than me within my family with the proper titles in Vietnamese, unlike I do with those outside my family. Though I have forgotten much of the language, I hope to one day be able to learn it again so I can communicate with my family in our native tongue.

If I were to describe myself in terms of my culture, I would have to say that I am Vietnamese but a very Americanized one. It may not be actually “bad,” but I would still like to keep my family’s original culture alive as we grow over time. I can be who I want to be, but I should never forget the roots of where I came from.

The Great Melting Pot

Being raised in a Hispanic household has often prompted me to think about my culture. It’s hard to think that despite living in a household in which many values and beliefs are taught or even passed onto you subliminally, I often have an identity crisis. I like to believe that I am just from a Hispanic/Mexican background, but often times I see myself past that. Many people like to label me as just “a Mexican” girl, but that is not just the only thing I am.

What many people do not know is that my grandparents are German and Italian; however, because of the clashing of identities, it’s hard to know what culture I am. There are strict rules that people like to categorize people into certain identities and cultures and base who they are and what their culture is based on them. Many people believe if you do not religiously follow a cultures ideas, then you are not a part of their culture, which is definitely not true. However, I have to understand I do often to that to other people. I often ask, “If you are ___, then why don’t you ____.” As it is for everyone else, It is easier to put someone into a certain stereotype and base who they are and their culture by an appearance, but it does not necessarily reflect who they are.

As I start to reflect on my own culture, I realize many things I believe and act upon do not fall under the normal shared values and beliefs of my culture. I often feel like that “lone wolf” because I feel like an anomaly. I do not feel like i belong with my culture often times. Coming from a family that has a Hispanic culture and religiously led culture, when I think of values I should share with them, I do not see myself agreeing with it.  However, I see myself a mix between the Hispanic and American culture as I was raised in America, therefore many values and beliefs have been indoctrinated into me.

It is like in Ojeda’s Growing Up American, there is a clear stereotyped view of American culture. Usually, it is often called individualism, where we often like to take control of our own fate and our own decisions. Ojeda states that in her culture, they respect the elders while in America, we do not. I see culture differences in this and it makes me question where I stand as I often refer to the elders in a formal manner, but it just depends. It’s hard because in these types of situations I wonder what I really fall into. America is often called the Great Melting Pot and I believe it.

Despite everything, I still do not know what kind of culture I fall into- if there is any group I belong to. However, I hope that along the process of going to study abroad, I learn who I really am. While I am abroad, I hope to reaffirm my culture and know that is is an inherent, nurtured part of me.

Reflection of My Culture

When someone first looks at me, not much of ethnic diversity usually comes to mind. Instead, most just file me under the tag of “white girl American”. While I am a proud American, there is another part of my culture that often goes unnoticed even though it is very important in who I am today. My grandparents are from Italy, so for every Christmas, Birthday and Thanksgiving, there was some kind of Italian tradition that came along with it. When my grandparents would come over to my house, they would often talk about how things were like in Italy and similarly to Ojeda in “Growing Up American: Doing The Right Thing,” it made me question what the Italian people were like. One act that always makes me feel connected to my Italian culture is listening to, or playing the accordion. It was the first instrument that I ever learned how to play. When I was only seven or eight years old, my grandpa bought me a child’s accordion and he would try to teach me all the classic Italian songs that he learned in Italy from his father. Though I don’t play it now, every time I hear an accordion playing, I think of my grandpa and it brings me closer to the Italian culture. Another large aspect of Italian culture that I feel particularly connected to is Religion. Italy, especially Rome, is largely known for it’s religion. Being Catholic, I’ve been going to Mass pretty much every Sunday since I was old enough to remember. Though the Italian culture is not the only culture that is strongly Catholic, the history of the country still relates back to many scenes in the bible. This is shown in many classic museums in Italy like the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Religion has had a huge part in shaping me into the person that I am by making me a more grounded, humble and forgiving person. As well as being strongly religious, Italians are known for being very expressive, when it comes to their affection for people. Growing up, my grandparents always greeted anyone they  met with a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t think it was strange until I had a friend from school come over and she became frightened that my grandparents were so affectionate towards her. I am very much like that with my friends. Of course I don’t kiss them on the cheek, but I do greet them and leave them with a hug. There are several other  things about my personality that I notice that are derived from the huge impact Italian culture had on my life growing up. Small things such as using my hands whenever I’m talking in a conversation with someone,  No matter what that conversation is about. Similarly, my taste in food choices is very limited and is often something that is comparable to the authentic Italian food that my grandparents would make me while I was growing up. Whenever I am at a restaurant, the first thing that I look for is a pasta or pizza dish of some type, because that is my comfort zone when it comes to food. It’s what I grew up and it’s what I still choose to eat most days today now that I’m older. Though I’ve only been to Italy one time, there are still several characteristics of my culture practices that are straight from Italy.

Culture Conflict

Culture at times can be used to diverse people in many ways, yet is that always the best method to divide people? Cultural conflict is a conflict that occurs when two or more different cultures come into clash. The basis of cultural conflict can be explained, when two or more cultures clash in values and beliefs. Usually anthropologists try to explain cultural conflict, as two or more people having different beliefs and values. But what about the explanation of a single person having a cultural conflict from within? Amparo B. Oejeda, scholar in the department of Anthropology and Linguistics has open a new idea of thinking in term of cultural conflict. An idea that caught my eye, yet along with opening a new way thinking about my inner cultural conflict.

Being born in the United States always opens a door for one to allow American values to become a big part of a person’s life. Not only being born, but also raised in the United States has opened a door for my cultural conflict to exist. The reason being that my parents were not “Americans”, nor they did value American culture, or attempt to incorporate Middle Eastern culture with American culture. This method of keeping cultures divided and diverse is a good way of valuing the different cultures that the world brings. Despite that, it opens a door for people to have an inner conflict when born into two different sets of values and beliefs. As a being an example of having an inner cultural conflict, I can give an ideal example to justify my way of thinking.

The example is when I was growing up and being taught to be independent based on different definitions from two completely different cultures. Independence is different when described in the American culture and in the Middle Eastern culture. I was faced with this dilemma everyday day, especially in my late teenage years. Where I was given independence to get my own job, my own car, and to make other important decisions. A foundation that can be seen in the American culture, regardless of who it may be. My independence was always halted in some way, and thanks to the reading by Oejeda I finally understand why. I always got into arguments with my parents and simultaneously I misunderstood why. I always felt my parents never trusted me or trusted my independence when growing up.

Yet after reading this piece by Oejeda, I came to the conclusion that is was because of my Middle Eastern culture coming into conflict with my American culture. As a man who had bought a new car, had a nice job and able to make to financial decisions. It was hard to understand why I wasn’t able to move out and acquire my own place. In the Middle Eastern culture, it is wise, smart, and traditional for the man not to leave his family home until he reaches an ideal age of 28.(Approximated Age) Whereas, the American culture a person can leave their home, usually at the age of 18.

This inner culture conflict is something that can explain what most bi-cultural people go through. The term cultural conflict is something that should be addressed and taught in America. Especially where many bi-cultural people live and face problems that stem from an inner cultural conflict. Oejeda was faced with a cultural conflict, when deciding what culture to emphasis or teach to her daughter in America. This explanation gives me an insight of the tough decision that my parents were going through. But also the reasoning why I never fully understood the institutions that my parents had set upon me while growing up in America.

To go, or not to go

My plan was always to study abroad in France. You would understand my obsession just by glancing around my bedroom walls. There isn’t space for another Eiffel Tower photo or figurine. However, that plan changed this past summer, when I began investigating going to Morocco. A few months later and here I am, accepted to my school of choice, Al Akhawayn University, in Ifrane, Morocco.

Post acceptance celebration, I started hearing a few negative things about the safety in Morocco. I heard from various professors that I would need to dye my hair as it isn’t safe to be blonde in that region. I heard from a student who had visited, that as a woman I would be subject to catcalls and be followed through the streets. I read online that Americans are often lead to places by locals and have to pay the locals to be taken back to an area that they are familiar with. It is amazing to me that there are places on this earth, where humans can be traded or bought, but my dad heard a story of a woman offered a camel if a man could take her friend.

I never really thought of my culture and how it defined me until I started thinking about entering another culture. I found that a lot of the things that define me, aren’t widely accepted in other places. Because I am not among the minority in America, I just assumed that I would be fine as a minority in Morocco.

I don’t find myself really attached to any of the aspects that make up my culture. I’m a white, blonde, middle class female. I attend a university, I am not sure where I stand politically, or religiously. I grew up in the south, but recently moved to California. I’m 20, so I’m still trying to find myself and my purpose. I don’t affiliate myself with any groups that really nurture any of these values. I know I am who I am because of my culture, but I haven’t really stopped to think about any of these things until recently.

I realized that most of the things that define me, have the potential to hurt me. It is amazing that in this day and age being white, or a female, or having blonde hair, could put you in more danger than being a brunette, or a male, or someone of color. I never grew up with an attachment to these values or ideas of culture, because this is just the way it has always been. I am blown away that there is a place on this earth where if I want to go there and increase my level of safety, I should dye my hair brown. How can you judge a person based on their hair?

But then again, how can you judge a person based on their skin color?

It’s been a lot to think about, and I’m now (once again) looking into schools in France. I’ll keep you all posted on where I end up, I am so excited for the adventure of a lifetime.