cultural diversity from someone whose culture makes no sense


Recently, I watched a Ted Talk called How Culture Drives Behaviours with Julien S. Bourrelle. Julien discusses how in different countries, people behave differently. They display different types of affection, facial expressions, activities, etcetera.

It got me thinking, you know, what is the midwestern culture? I’ve lived in the Kansas City area all my life. Surely I should know what my own culture is, right?

A simple Google search told me that aspects of culture are as follows: symbols, language, norms, values, and artifacts. I’m going to break down each aspect and describe to you what exactly my culture is, and what I can take from it.

Symbols:

-Nonverbal symbols: are gestures. Midwestern Americans greet each other by a high five with friends, a hug with loved ones, and a handshake for business-like encounters. I typically flash a peace sign, or give a little fist bump. I’m not really one for physical contact, which is usually off-putting for my fellow friends and family.

-A prominent American symbol: is the American flag. Duh. And often, in American schools, you’ll stand every morning, put your hand over your heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Every morning. For me, this action has always been too militaristic and strange to wrap my head around, so I sit down. (Not to disrespect the Armed Forces, but because it’s weird.)

-Certain religious symbols: are common to the U.S., mainly the cross, or the crescent moon, or the star of David. You might also see a pentacle or five-pointed star with a circle around it, or any other number of religious markings. I can only imagine how alarming it would be to arrive here from, say, Morocco, where the primary religion is Islam.

Language

-The American attitude: is this: “If you don’t speak English, I’m offended.” Now, I hate that, but it’s true. I swore to learn at least two other languages before I graduated college. So far, I’m 1 down, 1 in progress. But many Americans never learn anything but English. The only place I’ve encountered such diversity is Disneyworld, where you could hear anything from Mandarin Chinese to Portuguese to Arabic. I’ve never understood why America is so set on speaking English, which came from… England. And why did we omit the English accent? America, you’re dumb.

Norms

Noise: Are you in public? Then you really should be quiet. Unless you see someone you know personally, in which case, it’s totally acceptable to go, “Ohmygosh, hiii!!!!!!” But if your child is too loud, you should do something about that. But not too loudly. However, it’s fine to mow your lawn at 6 a.m. Yes, a.m. and p.m. Because we like being confused. Anyway, you can be loud at a concert and at bars, but only certain concerts and bars. And if you’re at a restaurant where they aren’t playing music so loud you can’t hear yourself, you may only speak in mime. Got it?

Laws: There is only one: move to the right side of the street, the stairs, the road, politics—imeanwhat?

Table Manners: Elbows on the table are usually considered poor behavior, but everyone does it anyway. Don’t talk with your mouth full, but everyone does it anyway. Eat too much food, feel terrible afterward, but everyone does it anyway. Oh yeah, and when you’re done with your meal, crumple up your used paper napkin and toss it into your plate. (But always pass dishes to the RIGHT.)

Sexuality: All forms of sex are wildly appreciated and accepted, but NEVER TALK ABOUT IT. NEVER. Don’t mention sex in the classroom (except to explain what parts do what), don’t mention it with your family, don’t talk about it with your friends, don’t read about it, don’t even THINK about it. Unless you’re watching television. But you better not be a virgin in your 20s??? Because then you’re a prude???

Values

Body Image: Be skinny. No, not that skinny, because you don’t want to look like you have anorexia. It’s okay if you have anorexia, but just don’t look like you do. Look a twinge above it. Your ideal weight is hungry. Oh, but that’s only if you’re a girl. Because no one wants a man to look like a stick! Men must have MUSCLES. They must be INTIMIDATING and STRONG. Being weak makes you less masculine. But also, you should be sensitive. However, on social media, we’ll use #thickthighssavelives and market our clothing brands as plus-sized (though sizes only go up to 10).

-Productivity: Basically, always be doing shit. 25/8, do stuff, all the time, and post that you’re doing stuff, and tell your neighbor you’re doing stuff, and train your kids to be involved in 8 sports and be president of the student council and write three books by the time they’re twelve and meal prep like a bawse (even though meal prepping can take more time when you spend hours making pretty boxes to post on pinterest). BUT make time for those leisure photos at the beach! Have cookouts so you can show off all the money you spent on the perfectly manicured lawn that your dog will destroy.

-Money: Be so rich that you can afford a Tesla, which will make you feel better because it’s environmentally friendly, even though the electricity that charges your gas-free car probably uses natural gases anyway! Own at least three gaming consoles, never play any of them. Use #blessed when you post about the new Coach purse you bought with a credit card today. Be in GALLONS of debt but pretend you’re thriving. Buy “gluten free apples.”

-Education: You must get a college degree, and your entire middle and high school careers must be focused on getting a perfect ACT score. Take all advanced classes, be in the NHS and the SAC and the NRA — wait, is that the right acronym? — because if you don’t, you’ll never be on the dean’s list at Oxford and you’ll fail and you won’t make enough money to buy that expensive car and that house in Hollywood Hills and you’ll fail your parents and your children and you won’t hate your job enough to stay just financially stable enough to be trusted to have an insurmountable pile of debt that you’ll pawn off onto your children when you die from a heart attack that nobody knew you would have because you claimed to only eat things that came from God’s green earth #savetheturtles. Or something.

Artifacts

-Phone: The only acceptable device is the iPhone that came out this week. It it came out a month ago, it’s trash. It’s disgusting. But we’ll continue to make fun of you for buying the new iPhone because it looks dumb. You can’t win.

-Car: Like I said, Tesla. Or really anything that makes you look like you probably have a private jet to go with that, too.

-Food: Avocado toast! $7 Creme brulee latte with almond milk, but wait, don’t use almond milk, it’s bad for the environment! Coconut milk? No, there’s too much fat. Fat is bad. Use cashew milk. But make it yourself, because you don’t know if those are sustainably sourced cashews. Are you sure those coffee beans didn’t come from slavery? Fast food is the devil! Eat it really fast in your car, alone. Tell no one. Say you’re gluten free to make yourself more interesting at parties.

DISCLAIMER: This is SATIRE! I know I get a little joke-y on this blog, but rarely this much. So please take this with the teensy-tiniest grain of salt possible. I could rant about U.S. capitalism and glorification principles all day long. I hope you enjoyed. Please share this with that one angry uncle who always complains about the far left — it would quite honestly make my day.

— ellynn ❤