For those of us fortunate enough to have grown up in multicultural societies, we most likely have adopted certain behaviours from the various cultures we were exposed to. The people I went to school with and the people I currently know come from a multitude of countries and reflecting back on this made me realize that I certainly did assimilate some of their mannerisms.
I do not think that we innately inherit habits from a certain culture because let’s face it, we all started off as crying and pooping machines that had more important things to worry about (i.e., when our next milk break was). Instead, I believe that our cultural identities develop not only through the teachings of our parents/guardians, but also through the idiosyncrasies we acquire from the culturally diverse environments we are members of.
For example in my case, I was born to Senegalese parents, was raised in Kuwait, lived in Canada for a good portion of my adulthood, but was constantly surrounded by South Asians. Due to this I bargain like a Senegalese, show patriotism like a Kuwaiti, have good manners like a Canadian, and eat like a South Asian. I do not think I act in a way that is particular to one culture.
There are so many people out there that I know who can relate. The question now becomes: Is this a form of identity crisis? Perhaps, but I see it from a different perspective. Personally, I see this as a way of being a citizen of the world, being mindful of cultural differences, being able to comprehend unfamiliar traditions, and being ambassadors of the communities that we are drawn to.
Ndéla Faye, a freelance writer and a third-culture kid, wrote about how one’s identity is defined based on one’s upbringing and she so eloquently summed up my notion on multicultural identity that I would love to share:
“I love being able to choose to be whoever I want, wherever I go. My many masks are a storyboard of all that I am. I’ve gradually built myself an identity that is a collection of pieces, each of which I’ve handpicked; choosing the best bits in order to create a whole. I’ve realised that those pieces are not mutually exclusive, but that they are all dependent on each other. Being rootless doesn’t mean I don’t belong to any one place; it means I choose to belong to many.”
With that I say cultivate your roots, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to tend to the ones you have developed through your life’s journeys.