I’ve grown up and lived in northern Sweden for most of my life. Although Sweden has naturally influenced me the most, I come from a mixed family which has resulted in one big blend of cultural influences. Growing up in a country where there’s a big lack of cultural and national pride and traditions, my culture starving self unconsciously and consciously devoured all the cultural goodness that my Sami, American and Puerto Rican ethnicities had to offer – beautiful Sami handicrafts, myths and folklore, Puerto Rican food, language and rhythms, the outdoor life of a northern adventurer, the lifestyles and characteristic patterns of behaviour, the holidays.
My childhood and teenage years consisted of many cultural elements thanks to my family, and as an adult it has so far been more or less because of my own efforts to honour my ethnicities and make them all a bigger part of my life. My upbringing and endeavours have, so far, given me fluency in English, a determination to one day become fluent in Spanish (hello Swedish Spanglish!), the desire for out of the country travels in the hunt for the feeling of belonging, and a whole bunch of new traditions, habits, and ways of being – an ongoing process of learning, applying, adapting, discarding and blending.
As an opposite of oppression and violence, culture can be something that creates beautiful diversity, deep connections, great wisdom and a whole lot of joie de vivre. There are so many ways to satisfy our thirst for culture, nowadays even from the comfort of our own homes.
Whether you want to honour your own ethnicity, learn more about the culture and ethnicity of your parents or spouse, the culture of the country you live in or just somewhere you find yourself feeling at home, here are 5 things that will channel that desire into tangible adventures and bring you closer to all that goodness:
Are there any foods that are typical for your culture or home country? Whip something up from your grandmother’s old cookbook and let the memories of your childhood flood your mind, or perhaps go borrow that book about Vietnamese food you’ve always thought about borrowing! Every nation has its speciality and that’s also an important part in what shapes its national identity as a whole!
Celebrate the holidays
This is such a fun thing to do. If you’re not doing this already, I encourage you to try it out! It might be hard in the beginning if you yourself have never celebrated the holidays before, but if you ask me, it’s totally worth all the time spent on researching and asking questions and for help.
I celebrate most Swedish holidays since I’m currently living here, but I also celebrate the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. Next up on my “holidays to celebrate” list is Día de los Reyes and celebrating Christmas Puerto Rican style.
Do you know how to say “I feel like eating a hamburger” or “please pass me the donuts” in your mother tongue? These are really important things to know, people!
If you don’t know the language already and you wish you could, take a class, surround yourself with people who speak the language, travel if you can, give the Telenovela Method a try, or perhaps an app like Duolingo!
Music and dance
In many countries, music and dance play an important role and are more than just entertainment – they are a part of life. Does your culture or ethnicity of interest have any traditional or typical kinds of music and dance? Do some researching! Listen to German folk music on Spotify, take that Salsa class, watch every Irish step dancing tutorial you can find on YouTube and ask your neighbour if she can teach you how to play the timbao.
If you are not actually living in the country you or your family are from, I encourage you to go there if you can. Living there makes it possible to get up close with the culture and people of the country. It is also a lot easier to study behaviour and do things the way the locals do it. If you’re not able to travel, how about arranging a cultural meet-up or create a Facebook group for local people with the same ethnicity as you? Or go ahead and invite people over for a potluck dinner where everyone brings food typical for their culture! This is a great way to get to know people where culture is the common factor.
Now how about you? Do you think it’s important to preserve your culture? Are you actively doing anything to honour your ethnicity? We’d love to hear!
– image credit: Briana Carrion