My Cultural Identity
Defining my own cultural identity by Stefanie A–ttl Culture is one of the most difficult concepts in the human social sciences and there are many different ways of defining it.It is often argued that culture is a learned behaviour pattern shared by a specific group of people.Culture is about shared meanings, and language is the privileged medium in which meaning is produced and exchanged.
People sharing one culture interpret the world in roughly the same way. Defining my own cultural identity seems to me quite difficult. I actually have to admit that I am not quite sure which culture I belong to.
I was born in Austria but my father comes from South Tyrol, the northern part of Italy, where Italian and German are spoken. Therefore I have Italian nationality but I have only some basic knowledge concerning the language. Although I live in Austria, there are still some traditions and cultural aspects in my family that are not Austrian. Not only is there some Italian influence, but also Canadian due to the fact that my mothera€™s stepmother is British but emigrated to Canada. I havena€™t got Canadian nationality, but I was brought up bilingually (German/English).
Furthermore I spent half a year living in Chile and therefore I was influenced by the Chilean way of life. Understandably I sometimes get quite confused about which culture I really belong to. There are several parameters for defining onea€™s culture, such as nationality, language, the country you live in, gender, social class, occupation, interests, educational levela€¦. But the question is, which of these parameters is to be considered the most important. I have Italian nationality, but due to the fact that I dona€™t really know the language I dona€™t really feel Italian or a€? Southern Tyroliana€™.
And although I am not Canadian by citizenship I sometimes feel more at home there because of the language. Still, concerning some traditional aspects, I am more familiar with the a€? South Tyroliana€™ ones but I dona€™t really feel that I belong there because I dona€™t know Italian nor do I really speak German with a a€? South Tyroliana€™ accent. I believe that not knowing the language could be seen as a barrier keeping me from really experiencing Italian culture. I strongly believe that one can somehow adopt a culture by learning specific behaviour patterns, values, moralities or more precisely, a certain way of life.
I experienced this while living in Chile and I can say for sure that it was far more difficult to adjust to a new way of living and learn how to react in certain situations than learning the foreign language. Despite all these influences of different cultures, I still feel very Austrian due to the fact of actually living in this country. The parameters which I believe to be very important in order to define your culture are first of all the is the country you live in because your culture depends very much on what is happening around you.
The second important aspect is language through which thoughts, ideas and feelings of a certain culture are represented. The least important thing in my opinion is the nationality because I believe this to be a very official way of defining your culture. But, as I already mentioned, I sometimes dona€™t really know which culture I really belong to. I believe I am a mixture of all of them. Understanding home by Michael Pelitz “the night is your friend, your only friend the center stage, a moonscape as you walk. alk your head is a thread; your head’s a thread the eye of the needle becomes indistinct we’re just a sadder song away we’re just a sadder song away the mountaintops, the rainbow drops the fires from the temples and palaises. hurray the hierarchy that swallows me the pavement emptied out by night we’re just a sadder song away we’re just a sadder song away we’re off to understanding home we’re off to understanding home we’re off to understanding home we’re just a sadder song away”
Just as I reached Radetzkyplatz, passing by the Hotel Garni Lind, a€? Understanding Homea€? ept rotating in my disc player. a€? a€¦The center stage, a moonscape as you walka€?. The display warns: a€? BATTERY LOWa€? , but Alexa€™ apartment is right across the square, so I decided not to worry about it. I suddenly remembered a letter I read on the internet, written by an Austrian social worker after his return from his social service year at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Detroit: a€? When being abroada€? , he wrote, a€? you become a true patriota€?! He stayed in the U. S. during the international crusade against the Austrian government in 2001.
I started to remember all these artists who cancelled their concerts in Austria, and every single e-mail I had to send to my American friends, explaining a€? the situationa€?. And I had to think about all these desperate and aggressive anti-Moslem e-mails my mum received from a friend of hers who lives in Virginia, fearing that her son might not return from Iraq safely. I glanced over my shoulder to check on the traffic lights. Red. Suddenly I was confused, even a bit aggressive. I felt terribly blank despite the music, or maybe, because of the music. The whole world (including me) seems to be talking about sending, I thought!
Sending e-mails, sending troops, sending messages, sending money, sending support, sending social workers. Mobility is the keyword of our times. Nobody seems to be talking about the sense of belonging. a€? You become a true patriota€? , returns to my mind. I thought of how much I detest the concept of patriotism. To me, patriotism leads to flag-waving, flag-waving gives beautiful pictures, beautiful picture are very likely to be shown in the news, satellites enable worldwide broadcasts within milliseconds, and the media have an incredible manipulating impact.
I know the concept underlying the word a€? patriotisma€? is not that easy, but I am sure that patriotism is a great source of misunderstandings. The next moment I pictured myself at the soccer stadium singing the national anthem. Again, it leaves me confused. I felt exhausted. It has been a long day. An estimated 750 metres, the way from the U4-metrostation LandstraAYer HauptstraAYe to here, lay behind me. Another two and a half miles to the 23 rd district, where Ia€™ve parked my car, 102 kilometres to MA? zzuschlag, my hometown, an additional 87 kilometres to Graz, the city where I live, and yet another 8944 km to Portland/Oregon, the place where I spent the most wonderful year imaginable, describe my route. I think about my travels, the times I was sent, the times I mobilized. The batteries ran out on the final lines of the song.
I would have loved to listen to the outro and the repetition of the chorus. I pushed the doorbell and heard the buzzing of reality. Maybe all of this is not as contradictory as I thought. Maybe the understanding of our cultural identity needs to a€? travel lighta€? in order to find its way back home. And in its backpack it carries all the concepts we fear, detest or treasures so much. a€? Wea€™re off to understanding homea€? , I repeated, as suddenly the front door opened and I entered the building. Cultural Identity by Ana Flac A couple of years ago I found myself wandering between cultures, customs and different traditions. At the beginning of this “cultural voyage” I was torn between contradictions which forced me to ask myself: Who am I? What makes me a Croatian? Six years ago a specific incident happened in Osijek which triggered off these thoughts .
Morete mi reci da ide vlak za Cakovec? (Could you tell me when the next train goes to Cakovec? ), I asked a railway man as I was on my way home, after I had taken my entrance exam at Osijek University in 1998. The friendly man smiled and begged my pardon. He did not quite understand me. At this point I realized that I was no longer in my home town in Medjimurje and that all the competence I had in speaking my dialect which I’m so proud of could constitute a burden rather than a merit. This was the first time I perceived myself as being different from other people in Croatia.
Some of my fellow students in Osijek rejected their dialect but I was proud of it and it made me somehow stand out from the crowd so I could be easily identified by it. I realized that my Medjimurian dialect was a part of my cultural identity. As time passed by I got to know many different people from the Slavonic region, their customs and their way of living. Since this region was greatly affected by the war, a very critical attitude towards Serbs had developed there. Most of the inhabitants often expressed their fury mostly against Serbs and emphasized Pan-Croatian nationalism.
I noticed I wasn’t prepared to emphasize a Pan-Croatian position and I didn’t want to perceive the whole Serbian nation so destructively. I just couldn’t identify myself with all this Pan-Croatian nationalism and I mainly disagreed with people who had this kind of attitude. I kept my distance and withdrew into my regional cultural frames. After having spent two years in Osijek, I continued my studies in a completely different country, in Austria. I was very much excited about the new faces and new culture I was about to meet. And then one day I encountered a girl on the campus and we started talking.
I found the conversation quite neat. Apart from other things, she wanted to know where I come from so I told her I was from Croatia. Ah, aus Kroatien.. those were the next words she said. They sounded strange, as if she got the whole picture of me when she found out about my origin. At this moment I realized there was not only no place left for my Medjimurian identity, which I am extremely proud of, but there was also hardly even any left for my Croatian identity. I was differentiated from other students by labels such as another ex-Yugoslavian or inhabitant of the Balkans.
For the first time in my life I felt ashamed of my nationality. And from that moment on I was somehow torn between my Medjimurian pride and the feeling of shame for who I was in Austria. I was trapped in some generalized prejudices about myself that I did not want to have anything to do with. My identity was on the verge of being formed by some stereotypic views which I could not accept. But inspite of all these confrontations and contradictions I had to face and which scared me and disoriented me at first, they were also the one that gave me strength and motivated me to figure out who I really am.
My Cultural Identity by Camilla Leimisch If someone asked me if I was proud to be Austrian or Finnish, I would not answer a€? Yesa€™ right away. Ia€™ve always felt that proud was not the appropriate word to describe my feelings towards the country where I was born or the country where I grew up, because I find it hard to be proud of something that I did not decide or that I did not achieve on my own. But I do not want to be misunderstood: I am proud of my parents to whom I owe my bilingualism and who introduced me to both cultures right from the start (Finnish from my mother and Austrian from my father).
I am also happy to have kept this bilingualism and I consider myself lucky to have two native countries. Although I was born in Finland and I was only two years old when my family moved to Austria, I have never considered Finland to be my second home country, in the sense of second best. This is because I have a family there, too, and I spend every summer in Finland. This is also because my mother took care that I did not forget my Finnish roots in Austria, so I could develop feelings of the same value for both of the countries, as well as an understanding of cultural awareness that is closely connected to the feeling of home.
As I see it, not only my nationality is an important part of my cultural identity, but also what I have done and what I am doing in my country and in its society. Austria is the country where I live and study. As my main subject is music, and Austria is a country of great musicians, music has become a big part not only of my personal but also of my cultural identity. I also appreciate Austrian folk music which I consider a very relevant and unique cultural tradition in the country. With Finland, ita€™s different. Ia€™d rather identify myself with Finnish people than with Austrian people.
It is not easy to explain why. All I can say is that Finnish people are very attached to nature, and that I often share their moments of melancholy which are even more intense when they are far away from their own country. Ia€™ve already said that I am happy about my bilingualism. In fact, language is an important parameter for defining my cultural identity, because other people also define or identify you by the way you speak. Certainly you become most aware of your language when you find yourself in a foreign country where no-one speaks your language.
What Ia€™ve noticed is that if you are among people who do not only speak differently, but also behave differently and look different from you, you suddenly distinguish yourself culturally from the others, and your cultural identity becomes much more evident. The frequently asked question about whether I feel more Austrian or more Finnish is not easy to answer. I am not 100% Austrian and not 100% Finnish. But I think that this diversity which has shaped my personality is also the key to my cultural identity.