Thursday, February 14, 2008

Living Across Cultures

InterCultural Studies is a subject dear to me heart and one I have not written much about on this blog. I studied it, along with TESOL, in my Master's program, and I was a student of other cultures long before I entered grad school. Since my husband and I are preparing to move overseas, I love reading blogs of folks who live in cultures not their own. I especially love reading blogs of moms raising children in other cultures. A friend of a friend wrote an amazing post about living cross-culturally and trying to embrace a new culture without losing one's own. It is a difficult balance, not without sacrifices and misunderstandings from both cultures.

On the same topic, I highly recommend the movie The Namesake. My husband and I just watched it the other night. The book, by Jhumpa Lahiri, had been sitting in my pile of books to read, and I finally got tired of looking at it and loaned it to my mother-in-law. I might have to get it back now. The story follows the life of Gogol Ganguli, an Indian-American born to first-generation immigrant parents. It is a fascinating exploration of what it means to grow up between two cultures, but it also has wonderful insights into parent-child relationships and the source of one's sense of identity. I admit that the movie lacked something. I think it had to be cut and edited too much to fit into a decent time frame. But that just made me all the more eager to read the book!

My favorite part of the film is at the beginning, when the young married couple first arrives in the US. The husband had been studying there and came home to get a wife. Having left her home and family, her entire support system, to live in a strange country with a man she is just getting to know, the wife experiences great loneliness and isolation. I love this part of the film because we non-immigrants don't often think about this. What would it be like to leave everything you know and move into another culture with no friends and no support structure? This is especially hard for international students and their wives. My husband and I have enjoyed befriending international students, having them in our home, learning about their culture, and helping them to find friendship in what could be a very isolating environment.

So if you want to learn more about living across cultures, read the post, watch the film, and befriend an international student. You have no idea how much it would mean to them to be invited into an American home, to have someone take the time to show them the ropes, to listen to their fears and loneliness. And you will find so much blessing in return. You don't have to live in India to learn to navigate the cross-cultural waters.


Catherine said...

Thanks for the recommendation! It was so fun to see you read her blog! You know she's the one I originally went to India with, right?

Anyway, you know that I too love this topic, but also almost never write about. I wish I did. I'm teaching Diversity class right now, and though that would spur something to come out my fingers. Not yet though...

wheelsonthebus said...

Living abroad (even in a country where they speak the same language) with children is interesting to say the least. We have learned and grown, but we are very, very tired.

Jimmie said...

Let me be the first to welcome you -- before you even arrive! :-) Thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting. Living abroad is an adventure. Sometimes an inconvenient, annoying, mundane adventure, but an adventure nonetheless.