Impact Of Certain Identities On My Development
In this paper, I will be discussing the impact of certain identities on my development as an individual. Culture is a broad concept and considering all that I have read and learnt about it, I can confidently say that culture constantly impacts and aids in shaping identities, life experiences and worldviews. People from different parts of the world, view things from a different perspective. Their thoughts and perspectives are influenced by the culture and the environment that they grow up in. People living in cities will have a different perspective than people living in rural or suburban areas, people living in developed countries will have a different perspective than people living in underdeveloped countries, people who follow different religions will have different perspectives from each other. For example, the practice of eating dogs in Korea. Korea is one of the major countries where dog meat is consumed and it is considered a delicacy. But when people from other countries, for example Americans, hear about this, they get offended. This is because in the U.S., dogs are loved and most families take them in as pets.
A worldview is a perception of the world that directs one’s behavior and feelings. There is evidence that culture affects worldviews. A study by Yang, Harlow, Maddux, and Smaby (2006) discusses the impact of cross-cultural experiences on worldviews of Chinese international students. The results of the study showed that the worldviews of Chinese international students who had been in the United States for 4 years or more, were similar to those of the European American students but differed from the worldviews of the Chinese international students who had been in the United States for 1 year or less. This tells us that the period of time that people lived in the United States was a factor that impacted worldviews. Hence, the Chinese students that lived there longer were affected by the American culture and this change in the environment had affected their worldviews. Migrants encounter different cultural contexts which could span from either being similar to their culture of origin or drastically different to it. These encounters aid in shaping their cultural identities (Lemzoudi, 2006).
Similarly, also migrating to the United States from India as an international student, I can say that the American culture has affected me in multiple ways and has had an impact on my thinking, worldviews and some aspects of my identity (Pan, Wong, & Ye, 2013). Even before I started living in the United States, I was exposed to the American culture through different forms of media, which has had a huge influence on my choices in music, other media and thoughts and feelings in general. This ties to remote acculturation, which means coming into indirect contact with a different culture that has a separate geographical and historical context. This sort of acculturation has been made easier through globalization (Ferguson, Muzaffar, Iturbide, Chu, & Meeks Gardner, 2018).
Having lived in the United States for a little over a year now, I have been exposed to a whole new culture and one that I have had to adapt to. Although acculturation can occur without having to be physically present in the new cultural context, I tend to associate some aspects of it with migration. When migration occurs, some degree of acculturation also occurs but not vice versa because as I mentioned earlier, physical immersion in the host culture is not necessary for acculturation to occur. Schönpflug (1997) viewed acculturation as a “migration-induced process of individual development in various developmental domains” (p. 53). He discusses that development refers to change in the behavior and personality of a person and therefore according to him, an individual’s development is not distinguishable from changes that occur in acculturation.
Migration can be associated with major life events such as staying away from one’s home country for a long period of time and living alone. This aspect of migration in particular, I would say has had a huge impact on me. Staying away from my family and friends, although voluntary, was not the easiest thing to adjust to. The first few weeks of university are probably some of the most crucial weeks of a student because that is when one meets a lot of people and tries to settle into a whole new setting that is much more different from their high school experience, irrespective of whether they are a domestic or international student. Another thing that has really affected my development as an individual is living alone. I have people in my life to fall back on but I’m not living with my family. In India, I had people to look after me and being the youngest in my family, I was pampered. When I started to live alone, I accepted multiple responsibilities. I had to arrange food for myself, do the laundry on my own, take responsibility for certain financial matters that otherwise my father would have looked into. The experiences that I have had while living alone, have shaped me into a more responsible person and has somewhat prepared me for what is to come in the future.
Furthermore, living alone has also taught me to not get carried away with certain things. It has taught me how to balance my personal life and academics and to take every day one at a time. These experiences have made me more mature and patient. I have learnt how to maintain my relationships better and prioritize people and things that are more important. I value and am more thankful for people and my life than I used to be. Staying away from my family has made me appreciate what they do for me, more.
American culture has also had an impact on the way I feel about certain issues in the world. I was never really exposed to certain issues because they are all very subtly embedded in the society and they were not usually talked about. And hence, I never took any interest in them. Talking about politics used to bore me. But after migrating to the U.S., I have been exposed to many more political issues and societal stereotypes. I have become more aware about and more sensitive to things such as sexism, racism and politics in general. I believe that this ties to individualism and collectivism. People in the western culture are more independent and speak out more for their personal rights and hence these issues are talked about more in the United States than in India. This is not to say that people living in an individualistic society are better off than people living in collectivist societies. I am simply trying to make a distinction between the two on the grounds of freedom. People are constantly discussing these issues and there are many events directed towards them. Thus, being present in a culture and environment where these issues are prevalent and so important has had an impact on how I see them too.
Acculturation is the process of adopting traits and traditions from another culture as a result of direct or indirect contact. As I mentioned earlier, acculturation and migration go hand in hand. Remote acculturation has played a big part in my development as an individual. I was always exposed to the American culture through my constant contact with different kinds of media present in the States. Globalization has facilitated the growth of remote acculturation. The advancements in technology has impacted countries all over the world and virtual contact between different cultures across the world has become easier.
Acculturation has influenced me in many ways. I have been exposed to multiple forms of media and acculturation has influenced the genres of music I listen to, the movies that I watch and also the books that I read. Ultimately, how I feel and think. Music is an important part of my life and I have been influenced so much by American pop music and other genres like country and hip hop.
Additionally, looking at physical development, some of the food I eat is also influenced by American culture. Burgers and french fries are a staple diet of Americans. This has influenced the kind of food that people eat in other cultures, including mine. It has become a popular delicacy in my culture as well. A study by Ferguson et al., (2018) also discussed remote acculturation to U.S. culture among adolescent mother dyads in Jamaica. They found that people who had stronger American behavioral preferences ate more unhealthy food and watched more television.
Having been brought up in a nuclear Hindu family, the importance of respect towards other people, especially elders, was always drilled into me. The family values that I have been brought up with, have played an extremely important part in my development as an individual. I was always taught to respect elders, peers as well as people who were younger to me. I considered my professors in high school to be authority figures and when I moved to the United States, at first I was taken aback with the casualty with which the students spoke to the professors. The study by Yang, et. al (2006) also shows that they found that Chinese international students treated professors and academic advisors as authority figures and would accept their opinions without question.
Coming from a collectivistic society, I have always thought about how my actions and choices might affect the people around me (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2008). I have seen my parents consider my grandparents’ feelings before making important decisions because it would affect the whole family collectively. It has always been expected even of my siblings and I that we think about the consequences of our actions and how it might have an impact on family dynamics. Although my parents have always taught me to have an open mind about everything, this is an expectation that has always been around because the family’s importance in a collectivistic society is huge.
My grandfather always talks to me about the importance of hard work to achieve success. He went through a large amount of hardships when he was young and an entrepreneur. He used to go to different retail stores to sell his stationery and after all his hard work, he started running a business that he is proud of. He discusses the problems he faced and gives me examples of how I should overcome adversities in my life and how success can be achieved only through hard work. His values and morals have moulded my thoughts and how I approach problems and adversities in my life.
“Putting others before yourself” has been one of the most important values that I have been taught and one that I stand by strongly. My father has been the biggest influence in my life. I have seen him give up so many things in his life just to satisfy or make his parents or wife or children happy. I have grown up seeing him go to great lengths just to help a family member, friend, colleague or employee out. It is one of the qualities that I really admire about him and I try to emulate it as much as I can. I have not known a more kind or helpful person. He has set a huge example for me and this value has been instilled in me. It has played a big part in the way I interact with people. Another family value that I stand by is treating everyone equally.
Although there are lots of family values that I follow and stand strongly by, there are some that I do not understand and do not wish to follow. I would call these superstitions rather than values but I have always been told to follow them and I never questioned their validity until I moved to the States. I was told by my parents earlier to not cut my nails after it gets dark. When I would ask why, I was always told that their parents had told them that they should not but they never had a valid reason for it. I never understood it but followed it anyway. During one of my classes in my first semester, I remember talking about superstitions and that is when I questioned that whole practice. My mother, by that time, had also realised that it did not make sense and told me to stop following it. I think it had become a routine for her. She was part of a somewhat orthodox family and when she was a child, she never questioned anything her parents said. So she followed it just because they asked her to and it just fell into a routine.
Another thing that people believe in is that when women are menstruating, they are “impure”. I was always told to stay out of the kitchen and the temple when I was menstruating. I never understood it but I still had to follow it because my grandmother was particular about it. As the years have gone by, my mother has become less particular about it. Just like us, I think she was forced into believing things like this and because she never had the power to question it, she had to follow it. Although values are important, I have learnt to question certain things that do not make sense to me as an individual. This ties to being present in an individualistic culture which has influenced my thinking slightly.
Family values have been a huge determinant in how I view my development as an individual. They have taught me things that are going to stay with me for the rest of my life. These values have shaped my identity and how I perceive the world. Moving to a different country and being present in a different culture, has not made me reject the values that have been instilled in me since I was a child. If anything, the importance of these values have increased for me.
Cultural identity influences a person’s interactions with individuals from other cultures. The values that have been impressed upon me since my childhood, like being polite, kind and putting others before myself, affects the way in which I treat people and communicate with them. The traits that I have developed because of migrating to a whole new country and adapting to the new culture, also affects the way in which I interact with people. Cultural differences could also influence interactions between individuals from different cultures. You can say a lot about a person by watching the way they communicate what they have to say.
All these identities that I have discussed have influenced my development as an individual and my worldviews. They are important parts of my individual self and I am grateful for these life experiences because they have shaped me into the person that I am today.