Describe a moment where you felt you didn’t fit in or understand a situation due to culture or values either in your personal life or work. How did you handle the situation? Was it successful? What would you change if faced with a similar situation?
What are some reasons why people have difficulty interpreting and/or functioning in a culture that isn’t their own?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and growing up as a child, I was often referred to as an “ABC” by my family members. The term “ABC” simply meant American Born Chinese, and refers to children who are Chinese, but are unfamiliar with Chinese culture, traditions, and customs due to being born into American culture. Looking back at my childhood, I remember Junior High School was a very tough time for me to get through as I struggled to relate to my cultural and ethnic identity. The school I attended was diverse. However, I still felt like I did not belong in my school community. Being Chinese and coming from a cultural background that is considered a minority, I was often bullied at the school I was attending. I felt ashamed about being Chinese, and I started to speak my native language less frequently.
During JHS, I don’t think I handled the situation very effectively, as I often felt depressed and ashamed about my identity. One thing that boosted my self-esteem about my ethnicity and cultural upbringing is meeting and hanging out with new friends from the same cultural background, who accepted one another for who we are. JHS is a time where teenagers are figuring out themselves, and we cannot technically change how others act or behave. According to Lynch & Hanson (2011), we often see ethnicity, language, race, and cultural influences in others easily, rather than in ourselves. With age, time, and maturity, I learned to embrace my cultural and ethnic background. Today I am proud to be Chinese and proud to be bilingual, speaking both Cantonese as my native language, and English as my second language. This is a part of me I never want to lose and learned to fully embrace to share for future generations. Our cultural background is more than what meets the eye. Culture is more than what we see, such as race, ethnicity, or the language we speak. Culture is what shapes our values, beliefs, and behaviors, which can be influenced by our personal experiences, socioeconomic status, education level, and so much more (Lynch & Hanson, 2011).
Due to the recent pandemic, I was faced with a similar situation. People from Asian descent were faced with a lot of backlash, racism, and verbal harassment. Instead of being sad about what is going on, I spoke up for myself and for my community. Maybe, because I am older now and I am more aware, I did not feel ashamed about being Asian, rather I wanted to help those who were affected by the pandemic both physically and mentally. I joined AAPI movement to advocate for Asians and to bring communities together.
Lastly, I want to say that not one culture or ethnicity is 100% alike. Culture is one thing that is continuously changing and evolving as there are many factors that shape our behaviors, beliefs, and values. It is important for everyone, including myself to be culturally aware and sensitive to one’s own cultural identity, as well as other cultures that differ from our own. According to Lynch & Hanson (2011), we cannot generalized people’s actions and/or behaviors based on their cultural or ethnic background, as there are many other factors that come into play that influences behavior.
1. Was there a time you experienced cultural shock? If yes, how did it make you feel?
2. What are some reasons people have difficulty interpreting and/or functioning in a culture that isn’t theirs?