Does our culture define our identity? When faced with more than one cultural code, which are we meant to take?
The cohesion of two, or more distinct cultures is one that many people experience on a day to day basis.Personally, I generally find myself facing decisions with the moral values of two clashing cultures in mind. Being the child of two Turkish Cypriot parents; although born in London; I have always considered myself as Turkish rather than simply British or a Londoner. (Not that there is anything wrong with either!) This stems simply from the fact that I have gained large amounts of pride in my parents’ background and enjoy exposing others to what my background has taught me. Something that makes me different from others.
Although it is not intentional, I have found the last few years have facilitated the development of my British identity in cohesion with my original cultural heritage.This however has not flourished without minor problems. As age brings greater independence from the immediate family and adolescent life, my autonomous development as a person has been influenced in a number of ways. Greater time spent with friends of mainly British/English background, the dreaded but exciting move to university and a romantic relationship with one of another cultural background has inevitably broadened my cultural thinking and opened myself up to accepting my British culture also.
The problems I have faced generally involve daily decisions and mundane tasks which at times can be a great nuisance. I blush to admit that I have previously felt torn between two cultures when deciding whether I can go to certain places or stay out to a certain time (when my friends are largely free), choosing what to wear, or even the choice of selecting “White British” or “Other” on the largely ironic “equal opportunities” section of job application forms.
All of these I’m sure are faced by others and can cause irritation where it really shouldn’t. From an outsiders point of view these minor choices shouldn’t be an issue, however it leads me to the question of how much our identity defines us. Should we be living our lives to fit cultural confines or ideas?
After staring at the screen for longer than my eyes and approaching headache can bare I have come to a conclusion that I have no conclusion to my previous question. What I can say is this, culture is part of ones identity and can sculpt us into the individuals that we are. This does not however mean that our culture defines us. There may be two roads, but in my opinion these two roads do eventually meet. In the words of Margaret Mead…
“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.”