By Manisha P
Whether it is our relationship with someone or our perception of people around us, there are several cultural interactions we constantly experience. Most of that interaction often happens within our head. Yes, we talk to ourselves. It is beyond uncomfortable when your friends wear shoes inside your parent’s house when you grew up taking shoes off outside the door. Or when that awesome friend’s mom who makes martinis for you, when your mother would never, EVER, offer you an alcoholic drinks – besides wine – because it’s supposed to be good for you. Yeah, that interaction, my friends, is cultural.
Culture is not just about ethnic traditions – it could be any set of norms, regardless of your race or ethnicity. I mean, do all brown people eat spicy food? No. Do all white Americans eat steak and potatoes every day (like most of my Nepali folks assume)? Absolutely not! There are many people that belong to the same ethnic background, or are from the same city, and have very different cultures.
Being a Nepali girl, it annoys me when nearly everything I do is presumed to be something adopted from my “culture”. Well, here’s my culture, and I bet a lot of you (without being a short brown female) can relate to:
- I clean my place most times, but definitely before guests arrive (got from my momma)
- I am sarcastic and often not good at it. It comes out when I’ve had some drinks (adopted it from my father)
- I need my alone time at least once a week (never had it growing up)
- I instantly have and show respect for elders (was forced to do that as a child)
- Punctuality in my book is still a struggle (have been made to wait a lot – it’s NOT just an Asian thing, y’all)
We can go on and on. A lot of our behaviors and personality traits are affected by our culture, or should I say our individual culture is shaped by the pieces we adopt from a variety of cultural groups we belong to – family, ethnic groups, intellectual groups, academic groups, interest groups, place of residency, workplace, etc.
In short, I am not a good representation of the Nepali culture – and I will argue that no single person can do that. Not every Nepali eats rice every day nor does speak Nepali. There are hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in that little country. What I do have are variety of cultural traits that I share with most Nepalis and people around the world.
Do you ever get frustrated when your mother does not exactly tell you what she wants? Most Nepali moms I know are quite direct in communicating what’s on their mind, except for things that you want them to be direct about. She will tell you who not to talk to. She will most likely not tell you that she does not like the guy you’re interested in. However, she will give you hints. Lots of them! I learned about how much impact the multiple cultural groups we are a part of has. Now, I don’t think it’s just Nepali moms that are like my mom – many non-Nepali moms are like that. Dads, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles are, too.
*What traits are part of your culture, whether it’s your ethnicity, race, religion, city you live in, etc? Please share!