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Culture collision


            “Does your grandson speak Japanese?” a Japanese American was asked. No, she replied, but he understands it.

            “My friend’s 9-year-old son is fluent in Polish,” another woman noted. “His grandparents immigrated to the United States from Poland.

            Remarks from the discussion concluded that it is wonderful when a child grows up bilingual, retaining some of the family’s culture. The “cultural melting pot,” which the United States has been called, is “a metaphor for a society where many different types of people blend together as one … Some countries are made of people who are almost all the same in terms of race, religion, and culture.” Assimilation is the absorbing and integrating of people, ideas or culture into a wider society or culture … Full assimilation occurs when new members of a society become indistinguishable from others in the group.

            Culture is “shared perceptions and behaviors among a group of individuals.” Those things involve beliefs, customs, practices and traditions, even the way decisions are made and the way things are interpreted, according to Project AWARE Ohio at Miami University, which looks at the effects of these things on good mental health and well being.

            Mental health is “the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity.” Further, “ … definitions of mental health themselves, are rooted in value judgments that may vary across individuals and cultures.”

            Those who work with today’s youth or with immigrants in the work place or the community, have to consider cultural diversity. The influences of society, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status are just a few of the cultural issues that have to be dealt daily. Seems overwhelming, doesn’t it?

            Good mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well being, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental health affects how we think, feel and act, how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.

To maintain good mental health, it is recommended that you:

  • See a mental health professional when you need to.
  • Connect with others.
  • Stay positive and turn negatives to positives.
  • Get physically active.
  • Help others.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Develop coping skills.

            Well being involves living in an healthy environment, good quality of relationships, positive emotions and resilience, realizing individual potential, and overall satisfaction with life. Cultural adaptation is “the process and time it takes a person to integrate into a new culture and feel comfortable within it.” There are four stages of adapting to a new culture: honeymoon, culture shock, recovery and adjustment.

            At, Andy Molinsky, Ph.D., writes, “What’s really critical when crossing cultures is the ability to adapt and adjust your behavior in light of the differences that exist. It’s behavior flexibility that matters, not just cognitive awareness.” He recommends that you “find similarities, what you have in common” to build relationships and trust. It’s important to be able to adapt but also to be authentic, true to yourself and your culture.

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