Adapt to your environment

Updated: Jan 24

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 made sure that I knew how to greet people properly, talk, dress and eat properly (meaning just like the white people). I simply had to forget my own culture the moment 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? You eat with your hands? Don't expect me to do that! You can't drink alcohol or smoke in front of your elders? What a nonsense! I did have that friend that 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 others cultures, food and music. We loved hanging out in each others homes but it came with a risk. Imagine being at a dinner and being told that your kind of people are awful - present company excluded. Or that your food stinks or what you wear is 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?

Portrait picture Aruna

Hi, I'm Aruna

Marketing expert, wife, mother, immigrant, and strong believer in diversity, equality, inclusion, and empathy. I am the sum of more than half a century of experiences. I invite you to walk in my shoes for a moment and see the world from my perspective.

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Diversity. Equality. Inclusion

These values matter so I am sharing my life lessons with you. Hopefully, my stories will provide you with a different perspective, some food for thought.


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