In the first place, a lot of facets of my experience depend on my physical characteristics, such as my female gender. Being of that gender, I have a different kind of experience with other people, as it seems easier to bond with girls than with boys on certain subjects, and some aspects of physical work and sports are naturally harder for me because of my weaker constitution. In addition to gender, my life is also impacted by my ethnic origin and religious tradition. Being Turkish and Muslim, I tend to follow the rules and norms prescribed by our faith.
Thus, I pray five times a day, observe the Ramadan, and attend meetings in the local mosque. As a result, my lifestyle puts me in contact with a lot of Muslims who constitute my immediate circle of communication. In communication with other cultural and religious groups, I have to recognize that my principles and habits are different from most people. Many of my peers, for instance, find it strange that I do not eat or drink by daylight for the entire month of Ramadan.
This makes me pause and explain to them the significance of the fast and what it means to me as a Muslim. Being Muslim does not in itself give an exhaustive description of my cultural identity since I have also been exposed to a number of other cultural influences. I am Turkish, and our culture differs in many ways from that of Arabic countries or that of Iran. In addition, I speak English as a second language and went to a French high school. Thus, for me, as for many of my younger countrymen, European cultural influences proved a great impact.
I have been watching European movies and read European books since childhood. Knowing English, I was also exposed to the US cultural influence, watching Hollywood blockbusters and interacting with American peers. Belonging to a certain category, one is always an easy target for stereotypes. Thus, it so happened that I am an only child, so many believe that I am spoiled. In a talk with a classmate at school, I had to give examples of household chores that I do at home to dispel his notion of my being utterly spoiled.
He only believed me after I told him how I could cook myself the whole dinner for the family at the age of 10. On the other hand, communicating with older people, I have to correct their understanding of college students as spoiled, rough, and careless. Sometimes, I feel as if these qualities are attributed to me by default simply because young people are portrayed in this way in a variety of movies. I try to combat this stereotype by taking time to talk to them at length about my studies and future career plans.
I think it gives them an idea that I am serious about college as a way to a better life, not just a socializing event. In this way, my life has been infused with a variety of cultural influences that made me the person I am. At times, it can be difficult to balance many of them, such commitment to my faith with realities of college life here in the US. However, I do my best to try and find a sound approach that will dispel stereotypes and allow me to retain my unique identity.
Reference Neuliep, J. W. (2000). Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach. Houghton Mifflin.