What it’s like being in a cross-cultural…anything…

I’ve gotten goosebumps just starting this sentence…that’s how long it has been since I last wrote. It’s probably because I’m too afraid to see what I end up creating…

The last 8 months, has definitely been one hell of a rollercoaster, let alone the last entire year! Going from uni, to graduating, to travelling, to starting my first full time job, and then life in between…I can’t say it’s been boring.

It has definitely been a pivotal year for me, I like to convince myself that everything that has happened, good or bad, has been a blessing in disguise, because it’s shaping me every single day, and I am absolutely embracing it!

I have definitely learnt a lot more about the world, not just literally; but I mean when your little shell/bubble gets burst, you have no choice but to put yourself out there and experience all the things that school doesn’t teach you, or at least has trouble teaching you.

Cross-cultural…defined by the the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘relating to different cultures or comparison between them’.

You can have different types of cross-cultural in a society:

  • Cross cultural friendships
  • Cross cultural families
  • Cross cultural relationships
  • Cross Cultural communication
  • Cross Cultural management

…And the list can go on and on!

In the last few years, by few I would say 10 years, there has been a change in society’s values and their way of thinking. Gay marriage became accepted by the majority, identifying your gender became your choice, girls in engineering became high in demand, programs for refugees and immigrants became more popular and multiculturalism started to be accepted more!

Growing up in an Islamic school, around an Arab community, which I am so proud of, I would say my scope of friends was pretty narrow. Which was not bad, I had a great childhood, and I embrace my identity.

I love who I am, although I couldn’t help but feel I was missing out on some experience. It wasn’t until I grew up a little, got a job, then another job, then went to university, travelled around a little, that I actually started to take notice of my environment. For so long I knew one kind of people, and was only ever comfortable around them. The shell had to go, and I began to see so much more, I started to meet people that were polar opposites of me, different culture, different religion, different…EVERYTHING!

At first, my mind couldn’t really cope, it was like being thrown into a class of 6 year olds when you’re only 4, it was too much to take in, and I guess I didn’t know how to handle it. You know when you get asked to hold a new born baby, and you just stand there uncomfortably thinking to yourself “what do I do with this if it makes noises?!”; yeah well that was me, with people though…strangers.

It wasn’t until I started to meet different people, and get to know them, share experiences, share opinions and thoughts, that I realised it was so refreshing! I had someone to bounce ideas off, conversations to have, information to exchange, knowledge to receive and provide, something you don’t really get if you’re stuck in what I like to call “The Bubble’.

I bet anyone can relate, growing up with the groups your family chooses for you, you really only learn one way of doing things, or one way of seeing things, which again isn’t wrong, but it ends up being all you know. I believe that’s where a lot of bias opinions are formed, people clash with people who are not the same race or culture, and everyone ends up in their “own” group, knowing only what they tell each other. Just like me, talking to anyone else becomes too difficult and too much effort because they don’t “get you”. Right?

Victoria, is known as apparently one of the most multicultural states in Australia, yet you still see divisions; because it’s like everyone is too scared about what the other person has to say, and crossing over becomes a difficult thought process. I get it, everyone would rather stay comfortable, believe in their own things, make their own assumptions, and stay with their biases, because befriending someone else that’s “different” to you, involves too much work.

I’m not going to lie, it does, but it is so worth it! I would say in the last year and a half, I’ve made more friends than I made in my entire 21 years of living so far. That’s because I got rid of my little selection criteria. “They need to be this tall, speak this language, be this religion, and love cats”…it’s harder than you think to find a friend that matches that criteria I can tell you that.

Once I put my guard down, and put myself out there to start accepting people of all different races and nationalities, political opinion and what not, I began to learn more than I ever did in my 14 years of schooling. I started to see, that no matter our identity we all had similar stories. Some of us came from a traditional family, some of us had older siblings, some of us travelled or loved travelling, some of us were cat lovers. We had the same issues, needing to find a career, finishing school, needing money, wanting to travel, wanting to get fit…we had so much in common.

Then involve the cultural discussions, your childhood; you realise you both have Grandmas who love feeding you, or the auntie that’s always wanting to marry you off, or being spanked by a spoon as a child, or the annoying siblings that drive you nuts at home.

Slowly you get to know how both your parents/family came to Australia, you share stories about different past experiences that have shaped who you are today, and through opening up and breaking barriers the juicy conversations begin. Clearing up misconceptions about each others cultures or religions, being able to open up someone’s thinking, introducing them to a new concept, things start to get more and more interesting.

I know it’s hard, but it’s probably the most valuable knowledge you can receive from life. Being able to shift parts of your rigid opinions to be more open minded, or even better get someone to be more conscious of their misconceptions and sharing your understanding or knowledge with them, is honestly beyond rewarding. It creates a mutual respect between you as friends, or partners or family. The respect you gain, is much different to the respect you gain from your inner “known” circle.

It’s just frustrating to see that we live in such a diverse society, yet we are still told who we can be friends with, or who we can be with, or told to “watch out” of that individual because of their identity…when really we’re just restricting each other from becoming one WHOLE society, and instead becoming more of a divided community.

It’s not easy having to explain why I voluntarily choose not to drink, or eat pork products, or why I choose to dress a certain way, or why I pray, fast, don’t celebrate Christmas…and the list goes on. It’s all annoying and tiresome, but it’s a skill you can only learn to master when you actually make the effort to.

I’ve learnt the more I open myself up, the bigger my circle gets, the more I learn, the more I educate others, the more I can bring back to my community, and correct them on their bias opinions that they like to stick by.

Change is one of the hardest and life-altering things to do, it’s scary, people hate it because they’re not in total control, it’s not what they know. That’s why for so long people stick with what they know, because it’s safe. I can tell you, being friends with people who are completely opposite to your family doesn’t make you any less of a person, or being in a relationship that meets none of your community’s “requirements”, does not mean you’re leaving your identity behind. It’s quiet the opposite really, combining two, three or five cultures together, in whatever shape or form; work, friendships, relationships; only creates a stronger bond, with double the knowledge, enriches your life with more festivities and families, and more importantly it makes a statement to the world. A statement that we have been trying to make since the dawn of time…

No matter your colour, religion, race, culture or identity, there should be no division, we’re all the same, born the same and the same bones lie under our skin. Who you are shouldn’t change who you choose to share your life with.

 

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