Looking at my grandfather’s generation, I perceive a group that is communal and determined having survived the Second World War and colonization but still made something of their lives. My grandfather believes that this generation is vastly different from his generation, and I can see why after our conversation. To begin with, my grandfather believes that his generation was thriftier and tended to save more money for the future than the current generation (Bhaskar, 2015). Secondly, he also believes that his generation had different values and was more ‘old school’ in that they cared about morality, family values, and disliked the show of open sexuality in public as is now the norm on TV and in movies. He also stated that his generation was more religious than the current generation, while also admitting that his generation has difficulties with modern technology because they valued privacy and the plastering of personal or family information on the internet (Bhaskar, 2015).
The point on religion turned our conversation to the significant differences between Middle Eastern culture and American culture. In this case, my grandfather was adamant that the biggest difference between both cultures apart from religion was our perception of time, arguing that people in the United States prefer everything happen an orderly manner as expected without surprises (Bhaskar, 2015). Indeed, he laughed as he noted that people in the United States become angry when one is late for a meeting even when it is informal. On the other hand, he said that people in the Middle East believe in the flexibility of time and will spend almost five hours in a café even when they tell the waiter they are only there for two hours. Another difference that we talked about was our ties to the community, where my grandfather complained that Americans were too independent and wanted to take care of them-selves until they reached old age; compared to people from the Middle East who have emotional investment in community (Bhaskar, 2015).
As we were talking about these differences between Middle Eastern and American culture, my grandfather noted that the American culture had already changed me and that I was losing my Middle Eastern identity and culture by studying so far from home (Norris & Inglehart, 2012). My grandfather warned, wagging his finger, that short of losing my life, the worst thing that could happen to me would be to lose my identity. He argued that people from the Middle Eat who travel to America begin to think of their cultural and religious heritage a shameful and worthless, thus trying to change and become more American in order to fit in. Increasingly, he complained, people from the Middle East living in America had lost their human and spiritual values with Muslims afraid to profess their faith and instead behaving like Christians (Norris & Inglehart, 2012). In addition, they have also lost their family values and no longer believe in the eternal bond between children and parents.
We also talked about the importance of relationships with our relatives in the Middle East and why it was important to maintaining my cultural and religious heritage. In the Middle East parents play conventional family roles and everyone is expected to bear their responsibility in the home and the community (Norris & Inglehart, 2012). For instance, fathers play a more patriarchal role and are expected to always provide for their family, which results in many men feeling shamed if they cannot provide for their families and relatives. Increasingly, however, wives are also supporting families and their relatives although they maintain the more traditional home-making role. The mother is the most important person in the community as she raises and helps educate the children. While many Americans think that women are oppressed, women are also involved in business activities despite appearing as a housewife (Norris & Inglehart, 2012).
- Bhaskar, R. (2015). From east to west: Odyssey of a soul. Abingdon: Routledge
- Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. F. (2012). Muslim integration into Western cultures: Between origins and destinations. Political Studies, 60(2), 228-251