Culture can pose as one of the defining differences that can be found between groups of people and individuals. Wikipedia states that, “Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups.” Everyone is part of a culture. Components of a culture are different things for different people. Differences can bring people together and strengthen relationships. Differences can also tear people apart and make a relationship a thing of the past.
When you engage, or interact with someone of a different culture you may be faced with similarities. One will also notice contrasts when experiencing a culture that is different of one’s own. Similarities we find to be reflected in other people, especially people from different cultures, always provide the opportunity to bond. Can you imagine learning a language from across the world, visiting the country of its origin, and then having a pleasant time showing the locals an appreciation for their form of communication? This kind of sharing happens all the time in Miami, Florida, as the city acts as a melting pot. In Miami, there has to be hundreds— if not thousands— of different cultures mostly coexisting with one another.
Did you notice I said mostly when acknowledging how various cultures exist together throughout the streets and homes of Miami? ..Yeah, I want to bring attention to that word at this time because it is also important to recognize that differences in culture can open up opportunities to disagree as much as they can create unified moments. There are cultures in the world where women are seen as a second-class citizen. I think it is safe to say that the western world does not share in that perspective. Places like Saudi Arabia have only recently granted women the right to contribute to the political process meanwhile women in the United States have enjoyed the privilege for generations. From this perspective, westerners and Saudi Arabian people might get along better than they would have 20 years ago but contrasts remain. I actually have a friend in Saudi Arabia and she tells me about some of the cultural challenges she has to face. In fact, my very friend has gotten sexually assaulted in public in front of a member of law enforcement and the officer did nothing. That wouldn’t have been the sequence of events I would have expected if the story took place in the United States.
I once dated a guy from a really different culture from my own. We were young and we tried to make things work, but over time his culture dominated and toxified the relationship we had. My ex came from a culture where speaking over people was respected, lying was normal, , and where being violent was tolerated and used as a tool for excuses. His parents, the people to first introduce culture to my ex, taught forms of abuse and manipulation. When I dated their son, they sought to get me to conform to what they valued and saw as important. My very individuality, my personality, my form of communication, my opinion on lots of things clashed and clashed with these people. I was an Americanized young woman who was aware of a lot of things and they weren’t. Biggest culture shock of my life.
All in all, culture can be something we can enjoy having differences and similarities in but in some instances, we can see worlds collide. A person’s culture will always teach them to give certain things a value but that does not mean that everyone values the same thing. Very stark differences in culture can put people at risk physically, mentally, and even emotionally. It is important to respect the differences you have with others even if some don’t respect the differences they have with you. Under these circumstances, often times a lack of understanding on the antagonist’s part is to blame as culture can even impact the education level received and or pursued by a group of people. Let’s try to be kind and thoughtful as we explore and interact with the people and cultures in the world around us.
Featured picture by: Haseeb Jamil,