We are all part of a specific culture to which we identify ourselves, partly because of the need of belonging to a cultural group and partly because we are raised in the values of a particular group. In a multicultural nation such as the United States, most citizens would say that they are U.S. citizens but most importantly they would say that they are part of a specific cultural group. People identify themselves with a specific cultural group only to certain degrees, depending on how much they interact with other people from their ethnic group and on how much they live their lives in the values and norms of a cultural group that they feel close to. Many immigrants that come to America tend to respect their cultural identity, but the generations that follow usually start to draw apart from identifying themselves only as belonging to a specific cultural group and start to borrow values, norms, beliefs and social practices from other cultures that they interact with. This is why many second-generations in America find themselves caught between the culture that they were taught to identify with and the culture they live in.
People identify themselves with a specific cultural group that represents who they are based on ethnicity, common values, practices and traditions. Cultural identity is very important to many people, especially in the U.S., because it represents a sense of belonging to a specific group that has certain values, morals, attitudes and beliefs. All of us identify ourselves, to a certain degree, with a cultural group that we feel that best represents who we are. I feel a strong identification with the Pakistanis cultural group and by claiming that I identify myself as Pakistanis means that I also adhere to the group’s prevailing values, morals, attitudes and beliefs.
Culture is “a learned set of shared interpretations about beliefs, values, norms, and social practices.” According to these elements, each culture is unique as it values its own set of values, norms, beliefs, and social practices. The Pakistanis culture is certainly a special and rich culture, with its own set of values that are particular to it.
A belief is an idea that people assume to be true about the world.” A true Pakistanis would guide himself according to the Muslim religion, which provides beliefs about every aspect of our life. The religious beliefs of the Pakistanis cultural group form their approach on any aspect of the world. Religion is definitely the basic belief of Pakistanis as it dictates our life in every aspect of it.
Religion represents also the guideline in what concerns specific Pakistanis values. “Values involve what a culture regards as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, just or unjust, beautiful or ugly, clean or dirty, valuable or worthless, appropriate or inappropriate, and kind or cruel.” As in most cultural groups, religion plays a very important part in the life of a Pakistanis, no matter if he is an American citizen. For a Pakistanis, religion guides our actions as it dictates what is good or bad, our sense of just and basically every other aspect of our behavior. Although the interaction that I have with other cultures may have given me the opportunity to adopt some of the values of others, there are specific values that I believe to be absolutely linked with my identity as a Pakistanis. A common and treasured value of the Pakistanis culture is that of family. The most important thing in a Pakistani’s life is family and family values are very much treasured. Family gatherings, caring for every member of your family and basically spending time in your family are the most important values for a Pakistanis.
Norms are the socially shared expectations of appropriate behaviors. When a person’s behaviors violate the culture’s norms, social sanctions are usually imposed.” As most Pakistanis are Muslim, norms of appropriate behaviors are largely dictated by religion. One example of norms of behavior specific to the Pakistanis culture is that public display of affection, even between married people, is usually blamed. Pakistanis people learn at early ages which behaviors are acceptable and which aren’t and public display of affection is not encouraged, even when living in an open society such as U.S..
Out of the four elements that form a culture, social practices are perhaps the most noticeable. Pakistanis are identified as being Pakistanis by other mostly because of their social practices. This is the obvious element that classifies someone as Pakistanis. “Social practices are the predictable behavior patterns that members of a culture typically follow. Thus, social practices are the outward manifestation of beliefs, values and norms.” Social practices are easy to identify as they refer to obvious behaviors such as eating or dressing habits and on a more formal representation, rituals and ceremonies. The Pakistanis cultural group has several features according to which it can be easily identified. First of all there is the Pakistanis cuisine, which is very much appreciated even by people outside the group. Pakistanis are proud of their cuisine and this is one aspect that is clearly distinctive about this cultural group. Food is often an element that immigrants keep for several generations as it is a direct and constant relation between them and their ancestors. Traditional cuisine bonds Pakistanis and distinguishes them from the rest. The traditional dressing habits of Pakistanis also represent a distinctive element of the cultural Pakistanis group. Although American Pakistanis do not wear traditional clothes on a daily basis, the traditional men wear, shalwar kameez, and the traditional women wear, ghagra, are still wore at traditional holidays and at family reunions. Pakistanis are encouraged by their family to marry among their own kind, in the desire to preserve traditions. Traditions are very important to the American Pakistanis because they represent the link between them and Pakistan.
While most Pakistanis identify themselves with the believes and values of their cultural background, the experience of leaving in the United States makes it impossible for them to fully adopt norms and social practices. As a child, I was mostly embarrassed with my heritage as I was more eager to blend in. However, things have changed and I am now, as a mature person, proud of my heritage and very much devoted towards maintaining Pakistanis traditions and passing them on to the next generation. I believe that we all should embrace our cultural heritage because this is the only way in which we can truly express ourselves. Although I am not wearing the traditional clothes, I am no longer embarrassed by them and I understand that this is a differentiating element and one that is bonding me to my ancestors.
Another cultural group that I can relate to is Bangladeshis. One of the main reasons for this closeness that I have towards Bangladeshis is the traditional good relations between our countries. Given the geographical proximity, many cultural elements are similar to both Pakistanis and Bangladeshis cultures. Perhaps the most important bonding element between the two cultures is the fact that the majority of both populations are Muslim, therefore the basic beliefs and values are the same. There are also many similarities between the Pakistanis social practices and the Bangladeshis.
On the other hand, a cultural group that I am not comfortable with is Indian, because of the historical differences between Pakistan and India. These tensed relations that we are all witnessing even if we do not live in Pakistan makes it impossible for me to feel any closeness to Indians. So, despite some common cultural background, I perceive Indians as a totally different cultural group that I feel uncomfortable with because of the history that is in the relationship between our countries.
Cultural identities often develop through a process involving three stages: unexamined cultural identity, cultural identity search, and cultural identity achievement.” Taking into consideration these three stages, I would position myself in the second stage – that of cultural identity search. I am aware of my cultural background and I always have been, but the fact that I live in the multicultural American society made it hard for me to fully embrace my cultural heritage. I am at a stage in my life when I feel the need to understand my culture in order to better understand who I am. The fact that I am aware of my cultural appurtenance does not mean that I completely embrace my cultural identity. Learning about my cultural heritage is the path towards better understanding who I am and identifying myself with the cultural group that I belong to.
Culture of Pakistan, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Pakistan;
Sharmeen, Hassan, the Pakistani identity crisis, available at http://www.pakistanlink.com/Letters/2004/oct04/08/04.html;
Chapter 4, Cultural Patterns andCcommunication: Foundations.
Chapter 6, Cultural Identity, Cultural Biases, and Intercultural Contact.
Chapter 4, Cultural Patterns andCcommunication: Foundations, page 87
Chapter 4, Cultural Patterns andCcommunication: Foundations, page 88
Chapter 4, Cultural Patterns andCcommunication: Foundations, page 91
Culture of Pakistan, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Pakistan;
Chapter 6, Cultural Identity, Cultural Biases, and Intercultural Contact,
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