Life within two culturesBi-cultural experiences of students and teachers
The student editors talked to teachers and students about life within two or more cultures. For example, we spoke with Ishana, a student at Social Work, and Cheryl, a Social Work teacher.
More than 4.7 million people with a migration background live in the Netherlands. These figures include both first and second-generation migrants. A huge number of people in the Netherlands are bi-cultural, which means that there are influences from two cultures.
Rotterdam is a multicultural city with people of many origins, more than 50% of the Rotterdammers have a migration background. Many grow up within multiple cultures such as the Indonesian culture and the Dutch culture.
There are also many bi-cultural people within the INCLUDED team, from Turkish to Cape Verdean culture and much more.
Your culture has a huge influence on your identity and is also a large part of that identity for many. Growing up in multiple cultures, this quest can be extremely difficult, especially if you know very little about the cultures you grew up with. In addition, culture always changes, just like your identity and there is always a search for who you are. We talked about this with Ishana and Cheryl, both happen to share the Surinamese-Hindustani culture and also the Dutch culture.
The Story of Ishana
Ishana is 26, a young entrepreneur, and is now in her final year of Social Work training. In addition to being a student at RUAS, she is also a 'student of life', "life itself already consists of metaphorical courses, modules, and tests from which I learn a lot". According to Ishana, this also includes knowledge about cultures and holistic well-being and vitality. Since 2016 she has been helping people to relax through massage therapy. Relaxation is an important aspect of her work as an entrepreneur.
She was brought up with the Surinamese, Hindustani, and Dutch cultures, but mainly received the Dutch culture from outside. “I experienced this as quite conflicting since the expectations at home were often very different from those in Dutch culture. When I was a child in an environment with many Dutch people, I noticed that the norms and values that I had inherited from home were of little use to me. The Dutch culture is very outspoken, but within the Hindustani culture I was often told to withdraw and keep calm.” said Ishana.
Now she experiences her culture as very rich because she has received something from many different cultures. “Many cultures have shaped me.”
She also indicates that it was really hard for her to figure out who she was. To find out who she is, non-formal education has made a lot of contributions, such as after-school activities in primary school such as singing, rapping, theatre, cartoon drawing, engineering, you name it. All these experiences make her much richer.
Especially when she participated in the Miss India Holland beauty pageant, she met many people who shared her culture with her. Before that, she didn't have very many people around her who shared her culture with her, except her family.
She is now much prouder of her culture, reconnecting with her culture through music and dance, and film, among other things. Her interest in the languages is growing more and more and she also notices that the fact that she does not have Sranantongo and Sarnámi (the Hindustani language) creates a distance between her culture and herself. Especially when she looks at her future, she wants to be a mother and wants to teach her children the languages.
Which culture do you feel most at home with?
“I especially feel at home within the Hindustani culture and especially find the piece of spirituality that is interwoven in the culture very beautiful. And yet also with the guts, spirit, and assertiveness of the Surinamese culture and the sobriety of the Dutch culture. In addition, I feel most at home with cultures that are hospitable and have humor, that's how I experience the Hindustani culture. The Cape Verdean culture, the Caribbean culture, and the Moroccan culture also make me feel very much at home because of the hospitality.”
In the future, she would like to go to India to connect with that side of her culture. She especially looks forward to being surrounded by people who look like her, an experience she doesn't really have in the Netherlands. She has a stronger connection with India than with Suriname because when she looks in the mirror, she sees a girl from India.
“It sometimes feels like I'm living two lives at once and that takes a lot of energy. I think if people like teachers, deans, and mentors only knew how much was going on in me on a daily basis there would be a lot more understanding.
The Story of Cheryl
Cheryl is a teacher at RUAS, and she also has many other roles in life: “I am a mother, a partner, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. She grew up in a small village in the Netherlands in the 80s and 90s, there weren't many people of color around her. She didn't notice the difference then until other people mentioned that she has a different skin color than the rest of the class.
At home, she always spoke Dutch and can understand but did not speak the Sranantongo. She now notices that other Hindustani find this very strange, while it was not a problem for her at first, it seems to be a problem for others. As a result, she is often treated as a foreigner in Suriname, while in India she notices that people don't see the difference until they hear her name.
The experiences she had then ensured that she does not experience that in places where she thought she felt at home. The feeling she gets within the Hindustani culture is a bit contradictory because on the one hand, she feels at home but on the other hand, she often does things that are not standard within the culture.
So, she makes her own home, and she teaches her children about the Hindustani, Surinamese, and Dutch cultures. By doing this, she makes new traditions by applying different elements from the cultures.
She thinks the great thing about being bi-cultural is that you can compose yourself and your culture, so she takes things from her faith and culture into the search for herself. A less beautiful side is that people often do not realize how difficult it is for people who are bi-cultural, because it is very difficult to find your place within your culture.
She wrote a book about this, 'de verstikking'. A book about families and culture, because the main character wants to do something different and thinks differently than what is expected from her culture. In the book, you can read experiences that are not always seen as standard within the culture, and this makes for an interesting book about culture and expectations. Read more about this in the tip of the week.