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Culture is the summation of several different aspects, most often accounted for by geographic locations. Some of these aspects include traditions, norms, and religion. However, it can certainly be even more refined than that. To me, an adequate definition of my culture would include several different realms. Some of which would include the religious beliefs of Islam, family tradition, and food preparation. Culture is very important to societies, especially those who travel outside their countries, such as myself. I hold on to certain traditions because they allow me to be back home in cognitive ways. The type of culture I would like to discuss is my culture back home and how I cultivate it while being in the United States still.
I can remember the first time I thought about culture. It began with my trip to the United States; what a long process that was. I remember finally getting off the plane and where I landed in New York City. Everyone was pacing frantically and had confused and stressed looks on their faces. Even this environment made me feel weary. As I passed down the stairs and many hallways, I saw a family praying next to a restroom. This gave me a wonderful memory of my family back home. I remembered us praying together during Ramadan; the holy month. The organization and positioning of this family felt so much like home and like my culture that incorporates both principles of family and religion. These two aspects are significantly important within my culture.
The way this family looked, was a memory that forever will be engraved in my memory. They have a look of pure happiness and joy. This was a family that stuck together, who genuinely cared so deeply for one another. We have a saying back home that ‘a family who prays together, stays together.’ When I first noticed them, a warm feeling went in and out of my entire body. Many things came to be known during this time to me . I realized that I would be in the U. S. for quite some time, unaware when I would arrive home next. Social media and communication application were about to be the basis of my relationship with my family for quite a while.
I was quite surprised that the family did not notice me gazing at them. For I must have observed them for about 20 minutes. I just felt as if time had stopped, and that I was back home engaging in these same activities. Culture never really entered my mind until this moment. I never realized how similar or different cultures can be. I mean I never would have imagined my first thought of culture in America would be so close to home. That it wouldn’t arise from some crazy culture shock situation. I figured this experience would arise from the moment I realized that I should have practiced English more. Or possibly planned better for any given situation. This family and their prayers was probably the last thing I would have found my first thought of culture from.
Throughout my years here in the United States, I reminisce on this day. This defined culture for me. I use to think that culture separated people, that each was specialized and including independent components. But I have realized now that cultures are way closer than we know. In the United States, there are certainly more differences than similarities when comparing it to my country of Saudi Arabia. However, I have noticed many components that also unite our cultures.
Religion is one of these similar, yet abstract concepts. See, there is a separation of government and religion in the United States, but that is opposite in Saudi. However, Christianity practices and Islamic ones are quite similar. Both religions pray, meet in temples or churches, and have religious leaders. Not to mention that many books of the Bible are also located in the Quran. Religion directly directs my mind to the thoughts of culture. This is because it is so immersed in my society. Although it is not as integrated here in the United States, practices are still spiritually personal. Many people I have met claim to pray and fast during obligatory dates. These are traditions and parts of culture. Although many do not realize these aspects until specific times. Like that time I was in the airport.
Another amazing aspect of culture is the food produced. I’ve always been a foodie. After my realization of culture similarities at the airport (when I finally stopped stalking this family), I was extremely hungry. There were many foreign signs of food establishments, but deciding which one was a difficult task. I remember reading the sign for ‘Chipotle’ and I had no idea what was served there. But, that was what I decided upon. At this moment, I realized culture again. I was stuck deciding upon a list of unfamiliar foods. I wasn’t sure which I would like. After consuming my chicken bowl, I realized that this experience was a pleasant one. I have not tried many foods outside my own cultural ones. I was always hesitant, because I don’t generally like new things. I have a selective taste, that’s for sure.
Who would ever have imagined that an experience as simple as trying new food would generate thoughts of cultures. I find it truly beautiful that each culture brings different spices and tastes to the table. Since I have been in the United States I have been way more adventurous in my food selections. I have tried wonderful foods from all sorts of cultures such as Indian and Chinese. Each are very unique and atmospheres are also quite interesting and culturally impacted.
Although he food may taste different from culture to culture. Preparation can be somewhat consistent. Many of the foods I have tasted have had similar mechanisms of cooking. Rice is one of these categories. Many cultures use rice as a staple, the United States, not so much but Indian and Chinese cultures do. Rice is also washed in these cultures before it is cooked. It is unimaginable how many similarities you notice between random and unusual things. I never thought I would be discussing these realizations today. Nor did I think I would be practicing my culture and tradition as much as I am now.
Here in the United States, it can be somewhat difficult to express all aspects of my culture. Mainly because there are many varying religions and cultures in the United States. So, of course some cultural practices cannot be conducted. But, I have luckily, found mutual ground on these issues. I practice cultures of two now, not only a singular one. I integrate cultural practices such as visiting the Mosque, eating traditional food, and praying five times in the United States. I also enjoy eating fast food, watching Sunday football games, and American cars.
I have learned how to live in two cultures and this is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m not saying that it’s extremely hard, but it’s all about balance. Each person has their own culture but it does not define all aspects of life. Life has too many components to only regard a few aspects. We as humans must figure our true selves out, and establish values and behaviors. Some of my cultural components are unacceptable in the United States, and I respect that. The theory of when in Rome do as the Romans do is very applicable in most situations. Throughout my experiences here in the United States, I have certainly learned a lot about myself and others as well. Culture is something different to many people but in the end, it connects all of us. Cultures bring others together to create new and exciting situations.
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