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OPINION — Culture from the cultural side of things

The words ‘multicultural’ and ‘melting pot’ are often used to describe the diverse and unique cultures in our communities.

The words  ‘multicultural’ and ‘melting pot’ are often used to describe the diverse and unique cultures in our communities. And while we often celebrate the colours, flavours and highlights of a culture, there are many aspects of global differences we rarely think about. 

As one of those people with a diverse culture, the whole social aspect of living here — the big picture, not the traditional food or history of migration — is what I see as the main difference. It’s what defines me, and I think gives me a wider world-view. 

We live in a world that pays homage to the creation of a globalized atmosphere, whether it’s through trade, citizenship or exchanging ideas. However, for many of us—especially those of us with strong cultural connections to another part of the world — on a daily basis we interact with diverse communities and experience behaviours we might not be accustomed to.    

Some characteristics are not identified within every part of the spectrum on the globe. For example, it may be socially acceptable to move in with a partner before marriage in western culture—due to the importance of expressing individual needs— in contrast; it might be shameful to do so in another culture that establishes collective behaviours and might view moving in with a partner before marriage as wrong. Ultimately, understanding both decisions and responses requires a deeper level of understanding.  

As a child, I remember experiencing an interaction with my father's friend—a Somali man— who asked me who I was. I repeated my first name multiple times…but the answer seemed to leave him with questions. Following his frustration, he began to quiz me about my lineage and dismissed me when I answered incorrectly. I remember leaving the conversation feeling insulted and diminished. I then learned, as a Somali individual, bridging a connection and introducing yourself with other Somalis the expectation is that you identify with your father's lineage—a collective view that I was not used to.    

As a first-generation Canadian, where the self is promoted and differences are often celebrated, the social stigma was conflicting. However, safety in numbers is one of the results collective groups may create—there is beauty in that too.     

But it always makes me think how settling in one part of the world—large or small—can create so many contrasting ways to engage compared to what I identify with—even if it is as simple as discourse.  

Ultimately, these experiences are vital to experience growth or even understanding another individual's behaviour. But to get through these situations understanding yourself and excepting how others present themselves is the most valuable trait you have when engaging with others.  



About the Author: Rahma Dalmar

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