Culture has a great impact on individual identity. The background of a person shapes the rest of their life regarding character, interests and most importantly their identity. According to popular belief, the past does not define the present. However, for a growing child, experiences of ones childhood shape the individual he/she becomes. Experiencing different culture at a young age can be very confusing while it is good for character development altogether. Encountering a culturally diverse childhood is plays the role of a good foundation for life.
Living in a familiar environment is the comfort zone for all humankind. Leaving a familiar environment and venturing into a new space helps an individual to learn and expand their scope of thinking. However, this change and transition come along with a myriad of challenges. My story is no different. I am a child of African descent; Ghanaian to be precise, brought up in Japan and currently chasing the American dream after immigrating to the United States of America. It is simply to mean that I am an international citizen.
A quick look at my map shows that I have lived in three different continents: Africa, Asia, and America. Each of these continents is diverse and entirely different. However, their people are very similar in the sense that they strive to achieve similar goals. The difference in culture and cultural education is contrasting and similar in some aspects. Culture shock is something that I have probably become a veteran of overcoming steadily. Living half my childhood in Ghana, the other half in Japan and finally maturing in the United States gives me a worlds perspective of diversity.
I was born in an African country at a village with a traditional setting. Our culture in Ghana required us to respect highly our elders and hold them in very high esteem. More to that education was paramount to the whole community. The older generations passed down traditional beliefs and practices to younger generations in adages of experiences of our forefathers. I can only describe my Ghanaian background as a very humble beginning. My environment was that of few infrastructural development and mostly rural-urban. I had a happy childhood and was too young to realize the troubles that my parents faced in a tough African Economy. Parents in this economic situation had to teach children on how to survive hardships. Fortunately, amidst all the challenges, our family was privileged to relocate to Japan.
Living in a nation where the majority of the people speak a language that I could not understand was not easy. Learning a new language, new schedules, and a different education system were among the first challenges that I had to overcome. I also learned even those around me were adjusting to the sight of a child from a different race growing up in a Japanese dominated local town. At the time, there were very few people of African descent living in Japan. Initially, our children made fun of me at school but eventually I was making good friends. Having new friends gave me a chance to understand the Japanese culture. Adjusting to a fast paced environment compared to my former home in Africa was an exhilarating experience. Japan is a very developed and industrialized nation with a homogeneous society as compared to Ghana.
The predominant language in Japan is Japanese (Nihongo) besides other linguistically distinctive ethnic and regional dialects (Zimmermann 93). I had to learn the language because it is the official language in the education system, the government, local businesses and the mass media. After some time, I was getting better at relating with the locals, helping my mother prepare local cuisines and performing well in school. Eventually, we moved to another region in Japan, and I had a similar experience to when we first moved to Japan. But this time, I had more experience and to the surprise of many I understood Japanese correctly. I was a fast learner and a good performer in school. My family and I became Japanese citizens. Most of the Japanese population is interested in technology. We now had a national identity and a new home. However, my parents were now intent on living the America dream. I had a good education basis by the time we moved to the USA.
The USA was quite different from Japan in so many ways. Their culture, religion, food, dressing culture, how they eat and sit at the table, how they relate to loved ones was a new encounter. Here I was again, a black immigrant who speaks English, some African dialect and Japanese. I was the only person of my kind at my new school. However, USA is different. There are more people of African origin and other multi-racial individuals as compared to Japan. As a result, there are different cultures; each of which has contributed their distinct touch to the American culture. I have also learned that the American culture has a relatively high influence on other cultures from all over the world. I could see traces of the American culture from my previous local towns in Japan and Ghana.
The United States has the highest immigrant population in the world (Zimmermann 95). People immigrate to America from Africa, Europe, South America and Asia. My thoughts are that it should be called the meeting place for people all over the world. Different groups of immigrants integrate into different ways. The majority of them have embraced the American way of life, but the still talk their language, prepare and sell their cuisines and practice family traditions. Americans sample all cultures and pick up trends from other peoples culture. The level of cultural interaction in America is undeniable. Various restaurants in cities sell Chinese, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Russian, African or Mexican dishes. Nearly all language in the world are represented in the United States, and there is no official language prescribed by the US government. In religion, every known religion is practiced in the United States (LiveScience.com). Most of the states are dominantly Christian unlike religions in Japan. However, the Japanese uphold their cultural originality when compared to the Americans.
The world has an extensive collection of cultures, religions, traditions, practices, businesses and character types. All these have an enormous influence on individual background, identity, interest, and talent. Culturally diverse individuals are the most welcoming people that one can find anywhere in the world. They can interact easily with people of any race or religion. Focusing on the positive aspects of every culture helps an individual to understand it well.
LiveScience.com. Retrieved 7 December 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/28945-american-culture.html
Zimmermann, K. (2015). American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States.
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