I grew up in Canada, where there was a lot of Indians and Indian culture. It was so easy to get exposure to our culture and customs. But here in Vancouver, WA it’s much harder. This is why it’s so important for families to expose their kids to their own culture, language and community. I was lucky enough to have lived in Canada and go to school with people who spoke the same language and had the same background as me. It’s important to get diversity but it’s even more important to make sure you know who you are and where you come from.
At home my family speaks Punjabi. We attend Indian functions, wear the traditional clothing and jewelry, go to the temple, and eat traditional foods.
My younger siblings were never completely surrounded by our Indian community like I was. They barely know how to speak Punjabi, let alone understand it thoroughly. And this is hard to understand considering they grew up with parents who speak to them in Punjabi. Because of this, they don’t fully enjoy spending time with their grandparents due to the communication barrier between them. It breaks my heart that they didn’t get the exposure I got having gone to school in Vancouver WA. When I was younger, many kids were narrow-minded towards my race, culture, language, and because of that I never appreciated my background, I didn’t like who I was. I wanted to be like the other students.
Now that I’m older I have learned to embrace myself and my culture. I’m not afraid to be who I am. I’m proud that I have a different culture. I can speak a foreign language. I have different customs and ways of doing things compared to most people at my school.
When our family first moved to America, we used to watch Bollywood movies all the time, and we would watch Hindi shows, listen to Hindi songs and go to lots of Indian parties. We rarely spoke English. But the longer we stayed here, the more we drifted from our background. We never watched Bollywood movies anymore, rarely listened to the music and only sometimes did we go to parties and see our community.
We still speak Punjabi in our house, since it’s my parents’ first language, but not as much as we used to. Its crazy how much can change the more separated you are from your community. I’ve noticed that the smaller the community is, the harder it is to keep in touch with your cultural side.
Culture and background make you who you are. It’s a huge part of your life and what shapes you to be the person you are. It’s vital to embrace who you are and where you come from. Your culture can give you a connection to different types of social values, beliefs, religions, customs and unity. You know why you may think or believe in certain things, or why you have moral values that may be different than others. Your culture gives you an understanding on why your family has different customs or may do things much different than other families.
Culture influences your life, your moral values, views, desires, and fears. Culture provides an easy way to relate to others who share the same mindset and values you do. Society cannot function without culture. Culture is a beautiful thing that can bring so many different people together. It’s so intriguing seeing different cultures and people and how different they can be from my own.
Because my culture made me, I live in a colorful world.
Words & Photos by Emma Kang