Blog post

The meaning of being between two cultures

By Joanna IK

A very good morning! This is my first post for the blog and for 2018. How do I feel about it? Well, like a child entering the playground. Holding onto that feeling, I am all set to share thoughts and feelings which bring us closer and help us to better understand each other.

It was during our afternoon coffee chat when a new friend of mine asked me if I am “half and half” of origin. I took some time to respond. I needed to understand first what it means to be “half and half” and hence somewhere in the middle… What does it feel like to be between two cultures?

There are moments when it feels as if your inner self is divided into two parts

It feels as if one part belongs “here” and the other belongs “there” – it doesn’t matter where exactly. What matters is that each part bears its own history; its own wishes and anguish; its own needs and worry. The “here” part has been shaped in its own way. So has the “there” part. Somewhere in the middle, you aim to build a channel of communication between them.

You wonder whether you as well can acquire a sense of belonging to a group, big or small. After all, this is considered to be a basic human need for all. If your inner self as a whole is not embedded within the “here” or the “there” part, is it feasible to develop a full sense of belonging? Be confident that you will enjoy all and not half of the group privileges. Feel accepted even if those around you find it hard to fully understand you. Disagree openly and directly, resolve differences and carry on creating together. I like the word “creation”.

You realise that you may need to try a bit harder in order to get to know yourself well

There are two cultural identities as a whole doing their best to find a common language. In doing so, past experiences would surface calling for your attention. You would like to understand “where” they have been shaped and how they have influenced your path to knowledge. You wouldn’t judge or reject. You aim for balance.

You know that if you wish for others to understand you, you need to understand them first. You would start by recognising the need behind the questions about your origin, here and there – true, there as well; by reminding yourself that differences rather than similarities attract attention more often. There will be times when differences are being regarded as unfamiliar by some; as something weird or fearsome.

Fear tends to manifest itself in different ways

You may feel sad with something you see. Sadness may grow deeper, and silence may feel like the only choice. Could this be a satisfactory choice? You think about it. Not when silence denotes fear. It may not be easy yet you can achieve more through discussion. You hear and you get heard.

So what does it mean to be between two cultures? My understanding is that you learn to appreciate the parts that surround you, displaying understanding. You learn to actively listen to yourself and to others; to observe and to think a lot. You may feel fear and uncertainty. You may get stuck. You then make a choice and move forward. You don’t choose one part over the other. You choose the way you wish to lead your life. You choose to practise understanding embracing the challenges and joy of life. Somewhere in the middle, it becomes clear that choice means life.