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Essay: Cultural identity

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
  • Reading time: 4 minutes
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  • Published: 8 October 2015*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 1,062 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)

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The United States is the most diverse and cultural country in the world today. However, if we were to choose one race or culture to represent America, we would never be able to come to a concrete conclusion. I honestly do not think that we can call America a melting pot of cultures. When we blend many cultures together we are trying to create one definite ethnicity and/or culture. I would call America a bowl of trail mix. Each culture still maintains its own traditions but when mixed with others, can still create a diverse and cultural entity.
What is identity? Identity can be defined as the characteristics of determining who or what a person is or where he or she is from. I was born in China but my parents brought me over to the United States when I was only around ten months old. To this day, I have spent almost 19 years of life living in the United States. If a person asked me if I was proud to be American or Chinese I would have no answer for them. I can’t say I am proud of being Chinese because I was born in China or say that I am proud to be American because I grew up here. What I can say is that I am proud that my parents introduced me to both cultures. They brought me to America so that I could have a better life. It was my parents that taught me to bilingual and I owe everything I have to them.
Growing up in America, schools basically taught me everything about being an American. I learned the customs and traditions of American culture through my teachers and peers. However, at home, my parents took care that I did not forget about my Chinese roots. At home I would use chopsticks to eat while at school I would pick up a spoon or a fork. As soon as I would enter my house, I would greet my parents in Chinese with respect while at school I would fist bump my friends and throw around the ‘hey what’s up.’ At home my parents do allow me to speak English with them, however, I try my best to communicate in Chinese to stay connected to my ancestral roots. As a child my parents sent me to Chinese school every Friday, saying that I needed to learn my native language to balance with the English I learned as my first language. I believe that I am very lucky to be bilingual. Language plays a huge part in defining my cultural identity because everyone around you can identify you by the way you speak. In a way, speaking a different language from others around you can automatically show how culturally different you are and ultimately makes your own cultural identity even more distinctive from others around you.
Holidays have always been a big part of cultural identity. I celebrate both American and Chinese holidays. As a child however, I would be more excited to get red envelopes with money rather than opening a new game system gift on Christmas. I think that is just my personal taste because I like the feeling of money in my hands. Anyways, parties on holidays would consist of groups of Chinese families going to one Chinese restaurant to celebrate together. I would only see a sea of Chinese people speaking in their native languages. It would be impossible to hear one of them talk in English. However, I liked this because I would be able to learn more about the Chinese culture that I wouldn’t learn from my parents. Even though we do celebrate American holidays like the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, we usually celebrate with the same groups of Chinese families. At these parties we would have both American and Chinese cuisine, which made each party a great experience. Through the different holidays I celebrate I was able to experience the best of both cultures even if it involved more Chinese than Americans.
Although I did grow up in America, I was still brought up in a Chinese household. Like all Chinese parents, mine would push me to my limits to get good grades and never skip school. I was always considered to be the ‘Asian’ one in my group of friends because of my work ethic. However, I embraced trying to be the perfect Chinese child while embracing the laid-back culture of Americans. In school I did everything any American child would do; I attended sporting events, spent time with friends, and played video games to pass time. As a matter of fact my parents were accepting the American culture as their own, allowing me to make decisions for myself just like American parents do. Although they encompassed the strictness of Chinese parents, they still accepted the fact that children in America need their own freedom. As a college student right now, I’m glad that I was introduced to both the American and Chinese cultures as a child. I have the work ethic to succeed in school and I have the laid back personality that allows me get out and have fun with friends when I want to. One can say that my personality is 50% Chinese and 50% American.
After growing up learning the beliefs and traditions of two cultures I still get puzzled about which culture I identify myself as belonging to. It is tough for a person to choose one culture over another when they love being a part of both of them. I believe that it is easy for someone to adopt a certain culture through learning the language, living styles, and beliefs but it becomes hard to actually say that you are now of that culture. Going back to the question on whether I am proud of being American or Chinese, I can say that I will never be able to answer that question with one definite answer. I can say that I am 100% Chinese because of my parents and birthplace but I can also say that I am 100% American because my entire life was spent growing up in America. I strongly believe that it is this diversity between these two distinct cultures that make up my cultural identity. It is this diversity that has molded my personality into what it is today.

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