Culture is a culmination of customs, social behaviors, and traditions. It creates a lifestyle that seems comforting, providing us with guidance. When asked about culture, I am often met with the response, “It’s tradition.” Sometimes culture and religion get mixed up and seem to have a relationship with skin color, but in reality, culture is its own standalone, its own shade of life.
For many people, culture dictates behavior, what we can contribute to society, and acts as a guiding hand for when we feel lost. For other people, it is something to rebel against, something to question and overcome.
When your domestic culture clashes with the society you live in, it becomes complicated. How far can you allow one culture to show without it overshadowing the other? It becomes a question of fitting in, so slowly you begin to change. Traditional clothes morph into jeans and t-shirts, bhangra becomes generic pop songs, and Bollywood marathons are swapped for one-hour-and-30-minute bitesize Hollywood films on topics you would not dare discuss in front of your parents, aunties, cousins, or neighbours. The only thing giving you away is the color of your skin. But for some people, this is not a problem.
Culture can get us sucked into specific behaviors, looking deeper into how we are supposed to act, because we are Asian, because we are Black. But we often have parts of us that pull us away, pull us into enjoying soft pop songs resembling the color of blush pink or into the sounds of rock music and the Goth aesthetic. Our culture clashes because we have never been taught how to fuse them together, so they resemble a harmonious melody rather than nails scratching on a door.
The culture clash is unrelenting; it rips you apart until you choose a side of yourself you like. Because it feels like you need to pick a side. It’s hard to follow a method in a life of madness due to customs that don’t sit quite right and traditions that make you think, “Why would ANYBODY agree to this?” But pursuing another avenue feels wrong, sacrilegious. After all, if our ancestors lived like this, why can’t we?
My own experience with culture clash was hard. Unforgiving. Growing up in a Pakistani household but emerging in a western society was conflicting. My ideas and aspirations never truly felt like my own; my clothes, hair, and music taste felt compromised, but I was too shy to show it. But like with everything else, there is growth. When I started to branch out, to really hunt for the things I liked—the hair styles, music genres, the films I liked—I started to merge my cultures. I started to unify traditional elements with contemporary, East with West, and myself with my home.
And now I feel proud of the person I have become. I am proud of the things I have done and the things I allow to represent me. But getting to this stage was difficult and took time, confidence, and effort. It cost me friends but allowed me to gain ones I still cherish to this day.
The clash of cultures was what made me, but it is something so many people go through, and some people are not as lucky as I am. Having this made me realize that even though we have a range of cultures and traditions that feel like they need to be carried on, they can be done in a way that suits us. This clash allows us to be more in touch with the world around us and aware of the differences we celebrate to this day.
The clash is hard, unforgiving, beautiful, and eye-opening. It is ours to do what we can with it.