26 June 2018 • by Fady Mikhail
Growing up in two cultures: a hurdle or a blessing?
During a network dinner at my faculty, I was asked by a degree programme manager what it is like growing up in two cultures. It got me thinking. I would like to bring you into my world to experience what it is like to grow up in both a Western and a non-Western culture.
The Egyptian culture
I always feel a sense of homecoming when I return to Egypt. You probably recognise this – the smell of a country when you step out of the plane. ‘Aaah, lovely.’ Home again. I always have to get used to being in Egypt. The language, the people, the culture. It is not that I do an 180 degree turn. It is more the mindset and awareness. We Egyptians are naturally very hospitable. You can always go to someone to drink a cup of tea. The Egyptian kitchen is also a plus. It is not low on carbohydrates though. Almost every meal is served with pasta or rice. Whether I ever get a flat stomach is doubtful.
The people are very open except in the area of open mindedness. I don’t want to tar everyone with the same brush as there are plenty of Egyptians who are very open minded. It is a generalisation, but it seems like the people have a particular tunnel vision. It’s a very nationalistic country.
Yes, the two cultures sometimes clash. We Dutch call a spade a spade. We say what we think. I do too. If I am talking with family members from Egypt, I hear later that I should be more careful with my words. This surprises me. Why? ‘You’re too direct, Fady.’ Realisation dawns that I have a foot in two cultures. Or if I am in Egypt in summer when it’s boiling hot and I want to wear shorts in public. This is not the done thing. It is not the custom to wear shorts on the street. I have to say that this is changing though.
Hurdle or blessing?
I had to think before answering the degree programme manager’s question. My answer was a definite ‘It’s a blessing.’ I am proud that I have had the opportunity to grow up in two cultures. It has enriched my empathetic world. It is important to understand the other, and the best way to do this is to experience other cultures and happenings.
This was my last blog for this academic year. I will bring you into my world again next academic year. I’m looking forward to it already! But for now, enjoy the summer holidays!