Willamette World News

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Living in Two Cultures


By Guadalupe Torres

As a Chicana I practice the Mexican culture but I have also been exposed to the United States’ culture and have encountered several differences that have been a shock to me. These differences have been difficult to grasp because it can be said that I am living in two different worlds.

Growing up, my parents taught my siblings and me to speak to elders formally, using “usted” instead of the “tu” form, which is the informal. By speaking formally to a person you are showing respect. When I started to learn English I was really concerned to speak to people older than me because I did not know how to speak to them in the “usted” form and since I did not want to offend them, I avoided using “you.” Later, I found out that there is no formal way to speak to elders in English, which was a surprise to me.

What has been a definite shock for me has been the definition of family for the Mexican culture compared to the US culture. In elementary school when teachers asked us to do a project about our family, the first thing that came up to mind was: “well this is going to take a while.” But then I saw my classmates that would get done with their projects really quickly and I was so confused because I was not even halfway done with my project. This is because for Mexicans family members are mom, dad, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews, second cousins, etc. Furthermore, for Mexicans family will always come first. This was difficult to grasp growing up in the United States because at home I was taught to put family first while outside my home the message that I would receive was to focus on myself, in other words to put myself first then others. This was a great contradiction in which I used to struggle, but I came to determine that for me family will always come first since they are the ones who will always be there during the good and bad times.

Growing up in the United States and having a different culture has made me realize that it can be difficult for those who do not practice the dominant culture. In addition, it has also taught me to respect every person’s culture and not to force a person to change their way of life just to fit in. Everyone is unique and every culture should receive the respect that it deserves.

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