People’s opinions, values, behaviors, communication styles often appear so natural as if they were born with them. The fact that many people around us share the same beliefs and behaviors may make it seem that these are universal or even biologically-determined. Yet, it is important to remember that it is not necessarily true. These characteristic are learned through the process of socialization. It takes place from the moment a child is born and throughout the whole life, with the most intensive learning period being childhood and adolescence.
During this time the child observes the behaviors, reactions, communication styles and mimics them in order to learn to be a part of this social group. The child internalizes the culture of the group he or she was born into. While the process of socialization presupposes learning about the culture of society in general, it has its beginning in the family and starts with internalizing the culture practiced by child’s parents and older siblings or by any other group where the child starts to learn about the world. Thus, family makes up one’s first culture.
Looking back assessing the family I grew up in and comparing to other families I saw during my childhood and teenage years it does not seem that different from the families of my friends and those of other neighborhood kids. However, as my social circle grew beyond people who were like myself, I started to realize how different family culture may be from my own. And these profound differences tend to reveal themselves in small details of daily life organization, communication patterns, attitudes, and relationship dynamics that prevail within the specific family.
Within my family, during the years when my sister and I were in high school, the family members were relatively close and moderately involved in each other’s lives. Yet, everyone was doing what they do on their own schedules. We did not synchronize our time tables to have breakfasts or dinners together on weekdays. However, it would often happen that few of us or even all of us would be at home at one time to have dinner together. Also, we were usually having one shared meal in the dinning room instead of kitchen over the weekend.
We all woke up and went to bed at different times so none of us expected to do any of the routine things together, however, we did not mind each other’s company when it happened that we were getting ready for school/work together. Nor was anyone required to regularly free up any specific time to spend it with the family.
Although there was no specific time we spent together as a family, I would say that we were relatively close and involved in each other’s lives. We enjoyed sharing our days, telling stories about our teachers, colleagues, and friends to each other. We always engaged in a conversation when we were together at home, and silent pauses were quite rare. We also connected through social media a lot, reacting to and commenting on each others posts.
At the same time, however, it was not common to often express any strong feelings of affection or anger for one another. There were occasional hugs and phrases to emphasize warm feelings. Hugs and kind words were also used when someone was feeling very down or undergoing certain struggles.
Anger was rarely expressed. Rather, if someone was angry with someone, they would use a passive aggressive way for expressing it. Namely, it could be conveyed with a mean joke or pin made a dinner table, with a note on the fridge, or via instant message. It seems that my family tried to avoid conflicts at any cost. It may be regarded as not necessarily good way to approach disagreements but at that time I was grateful to my parents for not yelling at me and not fighting openly among themselves as it would be very disturbing to me.
My family was quite sarcastic in daily interactions. It was common to make jokes about each other. These jokes usually involved pin pointing various traits, habits, or deeds of another person. My friends who came to my house, would sometimes find such jokes unpleasant until they got used to them. For us, however, it was always fun and rarely offensive. We enjoyed laughing and were watching a lot of comedies and comedy shows. This went hand in hand with avoiding very serious and difficult conversations. When they did occur, they did not feel comfortable prompting us to end it as soon as possible.
When it comes to hobbies and leisure time, my family was moderately active. We preferred movies to sports, board games to walks, museums to hikes. We had people over at our house couple of nights per week and we enjoyed socializing with others. However, it was also common to talk about people and sometimes even judge them a little after they left. This is something I grew ashamed of after I have left my parents’ home.
Examining my family’s culture, I realize that I have picked up many opinions, beliefs, and approaches to handling communication with others from my family. Most of the things I have picked up are not necessarily bad but I still expect to review them as I study and start living on my own. Especially, taking classes in social sciences makes one to reconsider the usual ways of going about daily life. Thus, I have reasons to believe that the culture of my family will differ from that of my parents’.