Sunday, March 21, 2010

Merging cultures

I am a result of a cultural merge. A cultural merge occurs to one who experiences a mix of often two or more cultures, combined as a form of travelling or shifting from one country or geographical place to another. One of the main dilemmas we, travelers, meet merging into a new culture is the decision of whether we should keep up with our old traditions and ways of life, or if we should adapt to the ways of our new home country. Either way, we lose something, but which loss is bigger?

First of all, when a traveler leaves for the voyage ahead, he not only packs the most valuable materialistic goods but also carries a baggage filled with olden traditions descending to the voyager´s forefathers. Traditions relating to his people filled with patriotism and nationalism. Traditions describing and reminding where home lies. These traditions, morals, values and principles build up the traveler from the inside, and indicate an identity and personality spectators could relate to. In an encounter with a new culture, many immigrants find it hard to let go of their identities they have often spent their entire lives building up, just to be accepted by the people of their new culture. The new guests in the new culture, when asked to let go of their past traditions and ways of life, sometimes describe the gesture as assimilation. Therefore, when a traveler starts his journey, he often promises that he would never lose his identity, where his roots, culture and traditions remain buried.

On the other side, when travelers arrive their new home, the host prefers them to adapt to the country´s culture and traditions. Moreover, the host calls the process: integration. In many countries the government has established committees working with the process of safe integration to help newcomers adjust to the new environment and adapt the country´s ways of living.  Many residents of the new country state that it is important that the immigrants learn the lifestyle and culture of their new home, in order to be respected and be able to adjust with the people already living there. In addition, some also choose to follow the advice of a famous man who once uttered, “Do like the Romans, when in Rome”. According to one of Paulo Coelho´s books, “Veronica decides to die”, he commences a debate regarding the righteousness of the majority of the society, but also states that in order to be accepted by the society, you must follow the majority. Hence, the majority of the new country often advices and demands for the new arrivers to adapt to their lifestyle, because the newcomers are “guests” in someone´s home.

Today, in our so called modern times 2010, we have all three consequences of cultural merging: assimilation, integration and stubbornness. We have people who want all new immigrants to be like themselves, and demand for them to give up their traditions and cultures completely to adapt their new lifestyle. We have people who want a little bit of both worlds, and who advice keeping up with their old traditions but also adapt the new traditions. Thus, live with the “best” traditions of both the worlds. Finally, the third kind of people, who possess the commonly known quality of stubbornness, and refuse to change and practice the new traditions and culture. These cultural differences as a result of merging cultures have created communication problems mainly due to the different traditions each group of people possess. Then the question of what a traveler has lost following one of the above mentioned paths is diagnosed. 

I am a result of cultural merging. I chose the path of integration in order to be accepted by the society and be equal to the rest of the population in the eyes of my hosts. I sought for acceptance, knowledge and better communication. Likewise, I lost a major part of the traditions I treasured. I became more radical. In addition, adapting to a new lifestyle has given me deeper insight into what universal principles such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness means for someone of a different heritage. To achieve my broad-minded understanding and integration, I lost and sacrificed a huge deal of my baggage. Oppositely, if I had chosen the path of stubbornness or assimilation, I would have lost even more. I would have lost my personality and my identity and dignity, treasured values a traveler promises not to lose. 

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