It doesn’t take travelling across the globe to another country to experience a clash between cultures. I’m not talking about culture shock, the frightening or extremely surprising feeling when you encounter a contrasting cultural practice from your own, but the all-too-common phenomenon when different cultures cross and tension is likely to bloom from the interaction. It happens in everyday life; whether you’re aware of it or not, travelling to a different region, people there might have a different accent; getting introduced to a bunch of new people, this group of friends might have a tradition of their own; talking with your grandparents, there might be opposing views on literally anything in life.
Sometimes these differences are too apparent to be left unnoticed, or for some reasons, you are hyper-aware of these clashes of cultures, especially when it comes to stronger, deeper things like ideologies, mindsets and values. In some cases, you find yourself stuck in a predicament, a dialectic push and pull. Not everyone handles this the same way nor does this happen to everyone in the same manner, but let’s imagine a couple of scenarios.
You are here on Earth, living as a fellow member of multiple groups at the same time – it can be your class, your university, the student association that you just joined this year or the country holding your passport, you name it. One day you come across a post on social media about changing your way of thinking. It makes sense at first and you feel yourself nodding in agreement until later, you realize that what you just read depicts a whole new direction of life that is surely different from the values your own community holds dearly.
Tell me, what are you going to do?
You can accept it, absolutely. You can twist it a bit and make it align with your own, sure. You can also reject the values from both sides that you don’t resonate with and adopt what you do believe in – sounds like a good idea. Or you can frantically question yourself, your background, your surroundings and whatever can influence your point of view, and fall into chaos between the values that you grow up with; the murmurs of this complex world whispering in your ears in the forms of people, objects, social media posts or newspaper articles; the sense of belonging and group membership; the taste of something novel; …too many things that can make you lost, lost in a maze of this clash of culture. This can even spiral a bit further, into an identity crisis and the feeling of being alienated.
The solution to this, you ask? I’m afraid I can’t tell you because I haven’t found it myself either. Besides, whoever you are, see things in another light. But maybe I can offer you a piece of advice – keep yourself grounded. What is your name? How old are you? Where are you right now? What can you see and taste? How are you feeling? These questions can’t offer you the right way to escape, but they hopefully can pull you out of the storm a bit and focus on the very presence that is in front of you. This world is dynamic, things change and you will change – the fact that you are stuck does not make you a bad person or lesser as a person. Maybe you will find the way out, maybe you will get into another complicated identity chaos, or maybe this will be the thing you ponder for a bit too long, but I believe you will figure things out, no matter how conventional or unconventional that might be.
Author: Bao Thu Nguyen
Editor: Gwendolyne Cheung
Illustrator: Ira Lizenko