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Adapting is a two way street

It is often taken for granted that people automatically adapt to their environment. As an immigrant, I had to face living in a place with a different culture, language and ethnicity than mine.

My parents ensured that I knew how to greet people properly, talk, dress and eat properly (just like the white people). I had to forget my culture when I stepped outside my home. Whilst times have changed, and people are much more aware that there are different cultures, one thing remains the same. You have to adapt to the western world.

'Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilisation.'
- Mahatma Gandhi

Imagine if the roles were reversed.

Growing up, I had some friends that found it difficult to adapt to my culture when visiting my house or parties. What? Do you eat with your hands? Don't expect me to do that! Can't you drink alcohol or smoke in front of your elders? What nonsense! I had a friend who found it hard to be the only white person in the room. I did meet people who seemed to forget that just as I adapted and respected their culture, they should adapt to and respect my culture when in my house.

Don't get me wrong. I was blessed with great friends of various ethnicities. We loved comparing and exploring each other's cultures, food and music. We loved hanging out in each other's homes, but it came with a risk. Imagine being at a dinner and being told that your kind is awful - present company excluded. Or that your food stinks or what you wear are weird. In the Netherlands, in the 70s and 80s, this tended to happen when visiting your white friend. I never talked back or called it out. I never tried to combat the ignorance, as the blatant disrespect was shocking and rude. As an immigrant, you did not want to rock the boat.

I wonder how those same people would have reacted if they were the minority. Would they have been less disrespectful or rude towards my culture? Would they be more tolerant, considerate and open-minded? What do you think?


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Processing my life's traumas, 'death by a thousand cuts' through writing. Thank you for taking an interest. As a lifelong learner I look forward to your feedback.

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