Is it Possible to be Born into the Wrong Culture?

I have friends who have mentioned that they were born in the wrong time because they identify more with values, ways of dressing, customs, etc. of a different time period than the one they’re currently living in.  Does the same work for cultures, languages, countries?  There are words for people who are especially fond of other cultures like francophile, russophile, anglophile, etc.  So what does it mean if you are one of these people?

There are expats who have moved to another country and found that they feel more at home here than in their native land.  Does this mean that our culture isn’t nurture but rather nature?  What are the implications of such a feeling?  Although one may feel that this new culture is their true home, are others from the new culture as accepting?

It seems that so many intercultural scholars spend a lot of time talking about our culture but don’t speak about people that don’t fit into their native culture.  Of course many scholars recognize that broad generalizations are just that and don’t apply to everyone.  But has this sub-culture ever been studied?  I personally find it very fascinating how people change and surf between cultures.  It just goes to show how our culture isn’t static.  And, although we may know the rules of our own culture, it doesn’t mean we agree with them or feel that they apply to us.

Who feels that they were born into the wrong culture?  What have the implications, if any, of this been?  What values does your native culture have that you don’t share?  Which language(s) do you feel are closer to the real you?

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20 Responses to Is it Possible to be Born into the Wrong Culture?

  1. craig says:

    I feel like I don’t have enough culture(s) in my life. I wish I could culture-sorb all day. So yes, I feel like I was born into not the wrong culture but a world that expects me to limit my cultural influences.

    • JMS says:

      Thanks for the comment. Very interesting perspective…perhaps being born into a world that expects you to limit your cultural influences IS being born into the wrong culture because a better culture/world would be one that doesn’t expect such limitations? What do you think?

  2. Dina says:

    I feel that I was definitely born into the wrong culture. I am, by all physical appearances and statuses, a white, American, female but my father is a mix of many Asian heritages. Though I look more like my white mother, I have always felt that I belong in Asia, with my paternal family. Of my heritages, I am most strongly influenced by Japanese culture so I feel that when I speak Japanese, I am speaking as my true self. I am very mindful of respect and loyalty, which I feel are two things that American culture severely lacks so the fact that courtesy and respect are built into the language, allows me to rest assured that, unless I try very hard, I will most likely not offend anyone. There are many small facets of American culture such as diet, language, morals, and manners that I do not agree with. And because I have experienced many Eastern cultures first hand, I know that I am not cut out for Western life and all of its brashness.

    • JMS says:

      What a fascinating perspective! It’s really interesting how appearance can make you feel like you should fit into a certain culture but a deeper part of you is an outsider. I’d love to know more about your experiences. Do you have a blog/site?

  3. Mendelssohn says:

    I am from Canada and I have always felt like I was in the wrong culture and the wrong time. I have never liked music from this continent. Mostly ancient music from Asia and Europe from 5000 years ago. I had been a critical thinker at an early age and rejected the Christian teachings my parents were teaching me. I developed my own philosophies that I now see line up mostly with Zhuangzi and other eastern philosophers. I love science and I’m not into anything paranormal, but as far as aethetics go I always think hinduism is very beautiful as well as other ancient asian forms of art. I was slightely bitter about it when I was a child. I wanted out of the culture here, I thought it was horrible, I hated the people. Now I don’t feel that way, because although I have always loved those other cultures the people are still the same, only raised differently. I have learned to accept wherever I am and enjoy the nature around me and the life at a distance. The need to identify with things can cause problems when you are different, so it’s better to just drop that effort and accept yourself and others =)

    • hi mendelssohn, my name is piyush, i’m hindu by birth, but i never got conneced with the people out here, i was attracted towards english culture, christianity, and always get the feel of closeones with white english speaking people, and i too get the feel of english as closer to me, i will like to have more conversation with you, you can add me on facebook, id: piyush.jaiswal6@gmail.com

  4. Kediset says:

    I totally feel that… it’s kind of sad because I am born into a culture of very rich heritage (Chinese) but I just don’t connect with it. I’m more Canadian than anything xD anyhow, I feel like I should have been into the Arab or Indian culture. Seems kind of odd for me to feel that way considering how notorious a lot of their cultural practices are but I just love all the positive stuff about their cultures (their language, the music, the dance… so captivating!)

    Just the other day I watched a video of a dance flashmob in Lebanon that had a mix of one of their traditional dances (dabke) and hip-hop (not really sure that was hip-hop but that’s what it said in the description) and after watching that, considering how hyper I was afterwords, I thought for sure I should move to the middle-east and just get lost in their culture :p course I’d have issues keeping my mouth shut about women’s rights o;

  5. Heather says:

    I was born in Canada but sometimes I wish I was born somewhere else. I love to travel and experience other cultures, but it isn’t enough. For example, when I see an Indian woman dressed in a beautiful sari, or people effortlessly dancing salsa, I wish I could have been brought up in those cultures. Sure I can buy a sari or take salsa dance lessons, but it is not the same. I actually feel quite depressed at times about it. I never really thought that anyone else would feel like they belong to another culture, but I guess there are people who feel they are born the wrong gender so I guess it’s possible. What frustrates me is that people from all over the world can move into Canada, but I can’t just move anywhere I want. I don’t have the right amount of money, or the right skill set. I also hate that borders and passports separate people. Even if I could immerse myself in another culture, my problem is that I wouldn’t be able to decide where to go! I see beauty in so many cultures. If I didn’t have a husband and a child, I think I’d like to be a wanderer of the world.

    • Heather says:

      I also want to mention that while I would love for there to be more freedom to travel the globe, I also feel that cultures need to be preserved. In Canada, there is a giant mish mash of different cultures. One time, a professor of mine asked me to define culture in Canada and I couldn’t think of an answer. We have so many different cultures that I can’t think of one that is truly Canadian. People come to Canada and they do things the Canadian way – work, spend money, sleep, work, spend money, sleep, etc. Canadians don’t have special foods (except maybe poutine and beaver tails???), we can’t dance, we don’t have special outfits. Anyway, like I said before, cultures need to be preserved. I believe too many cultures are becoming Westernized and I don’t like to see that. Westernized = boring in my books.

      • Matt says:

        Heather, I really liked what you had to say =). I agree completely. I’m from Canada too. It’s interesting that you mentioned yourself as a wanderer. I constantly have this image of myself as a wanderer, wandering through traditional areas, not getting attached to certain groups of people. Learning from people and experiences as I face them. My other option is to be a hermit, and live away from this society that seems to have a negative impact on me =P. I can be free to have my own culture and act as strangely as I want. I strive for both of these, non-practical goals!
        Where in Canada are you from? =P

  6. Stephanie says:

    I have felt like that. I never identified with this white Christian “American” culture. I always wanted to have levels of respect, elders to be cherished, and many other things that typically go along with Asian cultures. I had various friends of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ancestry in my life and absorbed of that I could. In high school, I was given the opportunity to study Korean at the local community college and since then it’s been a perfect match. Korea and Korean really resonates in me. Perfect Korean accent. I also took up Korean traditional music (gayageum) which a part of me just loves. I took a short class in Korea (1 month) and freakishly got the professional calluses. One Korean person even said I that I reminded them of a “middle-aged Korean woman”. I’m finishing college and planning to teach English as it’s the only way I can be longer term visas (rather than tourist) to stay.

    I’m in the middle though. I do get harassed in the US. I don’t go around dressed in a hanbok, but I study abroad to Korea in the summers now, listen to Korean music, read stuff in Korean, etc. Co-workers will come up to me and go “Ni hao! ni hao! Ni hao” or “arigato” or whatever and it annoys me mostly because those aren’t Korean and because it just feels like leave me alone. Then I’m never considered normal in Korea even if I speak Korean, I have white skin, light brown hair, and blue eyes.

  7. Sandra says:

    I was definaitly born into the wrong culture, i’m from jordan (in middle east) but i have never ever felt like i belonged. The ideas and ways of people here are so not mine. i don’t even fit among my family. i even have a greek name, i always spoke english and foreign languages better than arabic (my home language) and i always had a feeling like i belong to east europe…. i always played those spartan games and enjoyed watching those movies about such countries.. when now i met my lover of life, my soul mate who is from a country in east Europe… his family loves me so much especially his mum (opposite of my mum who always treated me bad all the time and treated all my brothers and sisters better than she did with me..) i always felt sad and different. but i don’t think i did anything wrong.. it was never my fault. I was just born into the wrog culture/language/family.

  8. S says:

    I’m from England. I’m of Indian heritage but feel more at home in an Arab culture as I’m very traditional and share nothing with my ethnic British-Indian compatriots.
    At the same time, although I love England, I feel I’m straddled by colour on one side , an absence of Indian culture and an alien culture which doesn’t like people of a different culture or colour(although British people are very courteous). I’m just unable to participate in any culture, which in your youth matters a lot.
    I’m sorry this sounds mixed up- it’s just a reflection of me
    I hope it makes sense in some way

  9. SRG says:

    I am Indian but I simply love German culture. I admire the German thinking, their lifestyle, their work ethic, their communal spirit.. I had surprisingly little problem learning German, and “thinking” in the language which means that I don’t have to literally translate things from English while speaking. I was so happy during a short summer internship in Berlin that I simply didn’t want to return. I find it very difficult to come to terms with India and other Indians and am planning to apply for work and live permanently in Germany. I wish someone could explain why I feel this way…

  10. This resonates with me completely…As an American citizen, born & raised, I feel lost, depressed and downright homeless, because I feel as if I were born into the wrong culture entirely…I should be living in India as a Hindu….I feel completely displaced and unhealthy living the American life (raised Catholic, but don’t identify with it what-so-ever)…Anyone not experiencing this, doesn’t “get it”…it’s a lonesome, isolated feeling of despair :(

  11. Wiking Balt says:

    Hi, my name is Kristaps. I found it really interesting reading everyone’s stories on here. I myself come from the Baltic’s, to be more precise Latvia. I live in Scotland now but but from all cultures i feel more drawn to my own culture and that of the Viking Nord’s. I myself believe that i could have lived a past life in the Baltic pagan times but might have travelled there from pagan Norway. I dont feel as if i belong in this time and age nor the in the modern day cultures. The biggest indicator of this is that i enjoy old Viking and Livonian music from the pagan era and im more drawn to their believes and traditions such as the Summer Solsters which we Balts still celebrate to this day as it allways has been the most important day of the year to my culture in particular, marking the Longest day and Shortest night listening to old pagan music and dancing around the bonfire. But in Scotland its harder to do this as people kinda look at you as if you were weird.

  12. Madison says:

    I’ve always been very “in tune” with Asian culture since I was at least 4 years old. I’m in love with their sense of family, friendship, love, and education. I had a Korean boyfriend for about 3 years, and I always felt so at home with being around Asian friends and their family, eating authentic meals, and learning about their cultures, values and beliefs. I find their sense of humor to be hilarious, and American humor to be dull and tasteless. When I tried to connect with my boyfriend’s parents, it was really hard because there was a language barrier (on top of me being white and not asian). I often feel disappointed now, because I face the physical block of being white instead of someone who can fluently speak and is of their decent. I’m slowly learning languages, but much like you all, I just feel like I must have been Asian in a past life, or maybe my soul just accidentally landed in the body I’m in now.

  13. Jana says:

    hey, i see that this thread is a couple of years old but i thought i post anyways. I`m not a native english speaker, instead was brought up in germany speaking only german. expet for the bit of school english mostly every school kid has to learn from the age of 10. somedays i feel as if i was born inot the wrong culture, perhabs language. although my english is far from being perfect or versatle, ever since i spend a year living in ireland and scotland i have felt so much closer to myself and lived a lot more expressive – only though when i was able to speak english. its like some inhibitor is being pushed out of the way allowing my thoughts and feelings to come out less cencored. english touches me more deeeply and its sounds are so much more reflective to my emotional inside.
    im hesitant to believe its me being born intot the `wrong`culture, i rather tend to imagine it may be due to negative experiences with the german language or expectations from outside regarding my performance that caused me being stuck up when having to rely on german as my means of communication. although there is no certain evidence for that. could be that i felt just at home in any other non-german language, unfortunately i don`t speak one.

  14. ronnkerocks says:

    for me its two ways, as a young child, i was mesmerized with the 80s and old hollywood. music from the era of mj, frankie lynon, whitney and opera stirred me so much. i wanted the simple things of life, to get married to a strong man who did things like farming and have babies. i didnt like school and couldnt concentrate. i wanted to teach and sing especially sing on stage as a star….well most of that got knocked out of me by my family and the society around me. i live in africa where thinking like that could put you in serious trouble. you’d be considered naive and every tom, dick and harry would want to take advantage of you. after many failed attempts at trying to actualize my dreams, i just gave up and got a job. i get depressed a lot but it keeps everyone happy. besides how in the world do i go about it?

  15. ronnkerocks says:

    i am in my 30’s now and marriage seems to be the next step, im no longer interested though. i live in a culture where you are expected to do what you DONT love. if you want to marry, its the wrong time to, when you dont, its time to…lol. i dont know if its my culture or my family but the madness of it is mind boggling.

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