Adaptation or Assimilation

Hello! Let’s talk about cultures today, or rather cultural dilemma.

I grew up in Turkey and moved to the US when I was 25. I am Turkish at my core, but now when I go back to Turkey, people notice I don’t live there anymore. I do not even need to speak. They can tell even from posture or gestures. I was even told that it sounded like I had an accent in Turkish (by which, I think, they meant my pauses were different -not the actual sounds-, which leads to some unnatural sounding sentences). I still eat Turkish food; that is what I cook. I also kind of dress in more Turkish-style than American. But other than this, I feel like most of the cultural association is not there. The way I approach most things in life is not Turkish anymore. This means approach to social issues as well as future concerns. I don’t mind traditional ceremonies as much. I am more like, it would be nice to have them but we do not have to have them. I have zero idea about Turkish dramas (and believe me, people ask a lot). But fair enough, I did not watch them even in Turkey. Is this all bad? I do not know. I like being able to navigate between cultures and had a cross-cultural vision in mind even as a kid. So, this mix actually makes me happy. But when I see people from other cultures really hanging onto their traditional ceremonies or expectations, I feel weird. Granted, this is partly due to the fact that I did not find a Turkish community here; you assimilate more when you are not within a cultural unit. But now I am thinking, where do we cut the line on adaptation and assimilation? Where do I stand?

Let’s discuss this today. Also make sure to share your experiences if you have any.

Betul


15 thoughts on “Adaptation or Assimilation

  1. An interesting issue, Betul. I think it is most important to live your life as an individual. That is, of course, a traditional American value. I have always had an interest in people of every culture. It must be slightly unnerving, though, that your Turkish friends find you changed. Whatever path we choose, some things are lost and others are gained. No regrets! <3

  2. I like this thought-provoking post, Betul. Thank you for sharing.
    I grew up in India with a large, close-knit, extended family. I knew about the existence of a larger world outside my little world of family, culture, and friends of different faiths. My education broadened my mind and informed me about other countries, their history, geography, and culture.
    I moved to England in the mid 70s. I tried to adapt and assimilate to English culture without compromising my Indian culture, personal beliefs, or principles.
    Then moved to the US after 21 years. Again, the same process of A and A began in the new country of my residence.
    I was fortunate because wherever I resided, I found an Indian community. Also, I visited India whenever possible. So, my husband, children and I never lost touch with my culture. And my children learned to A & A too.
    I am a human being first, a global citizen next, and an Indian at heart.
    I believe in adapting and assimilating at one’s comfort level and without compromising one’s set of core principles.

      1. IMy family and friends don’t think that I have changed much in my manners or behavior. They notice that I have learned a lot from living in different places, interacting with diverse people and experiencing life with its ups and downs as a migrant and
        I did not have a pronounced accent to begin with (unlike the wrong portrayal of most Indian characters in movies with thick accent!) Neither have I acquired a British or an American accent.
        I have A @ A-ed, learned, while holding to my core principles.
        Best wishes

  3. Good question Betul! I lived in 4 different countries, all of them in Europe. I think I managed to keep my identity but also assimilated new cultures, at least to some extent. I always have had a open mind but I am changed, in the sense that I learned a lot from other cultures and the people I met.

      1. My family and friends don’t think that I have changed much in my manners or behavior. They notice that I have learned a lot from living in different places, interacting with diverse people and experiencing life with its ups and downs as a migrant.
        I did not have a pronounced accent to begin with (unlike the wrong portrayal of most Indian characters in movies with thick accent!) Neither have I acquired a British or an American accent.
        I have A @ A-ed, learned while holding to my core principles.
        Best wishes

      2. They notice changes in perspectives not behavior. And in my accent when I speak but this is not important to them (and to me neither).

  4. I think it’s a gift that you can move through two cultures. And of course you are changed by both, but you probably have a better understanding of the two worlds than most of us. I long to understand other places and people!

    1. Maybe. Often, it feels like I am forgetting one in favor of the other. But if I stayed in my home country for a bit longer, maybe it would come back.

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