Bicultural identity: what it is and how it arises in today's society
Jul 16, 2021
In an increasingly globalized world, it is not unusual to find people who identify with two different cultures. Normally these cultures are that of the current place of residence and that of the place of birth or origin of their parents, which results in a mixture of different values, points of view, languages and even religions.
In herself, bicultural identity it shouldn't be anything bad, quite the contrary. Those who are part of two cultures are part of two different views of the world that enrich the mind but that, when mishandled, can be a source of discomfort. Let's delve into this idea.
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What is bicultural identity?
We can define as cultural identity all that identity that takes two cultures as a reference, usually the culture of family origin and the culture of the place of residence, the latter being able to coincide with the place of birth or not. It is about the personal condition in which the individual feels that he is part of two cultures to a greater or lesser extent, feeling how characteristics of their culture of origin and also those of the host culture intermingle, and may or may not lead to a conflict intrapersonal.
Between two worlds: clash of cultures
This idea is somewhat complicated since what we call culture is, in itself, another concept that is difficult to describe. What is culture? It is an idea of wide interpretability, although it is agreed that it is what includes behaviors and characteristics associated with a type of society, an ethnic group, or even an age group or gender determined. Mostly the idea of culture is related to the concept of people or ethnic group, including traditions, customs, worldviews, languages and also religion.
Culture is "acquired" through interaction with different social institutions such as the family, the group friends, school and other human and formal groups that influence our knowledge of a type of society. These influences affect our personality, since social norms have an important effect on the idiosyncrasy of each person. individual, mediating in aspects as personal as clothing and the type of relationships that he can establish with people according to his gender.
In the case of having grown up in the same culture of family origin, the set of social norms and cultural aspects acquire a lot of stability. The person does not feel that her identity clashes with what society is like because she is part of it and it is seldom considered that this can stand out. On the other hand, if a person is part of two cultures at the same time, or her family is from one culture and he or she was born in another feel how their values, social norms and beliefs may conflict, especially if the two cultures that are part of their identity are too antagonistic.
Being an individual who feels part of various cultural realities can be emotionally difficult and even suffer psychological distress depending on whether one of the two cultures has strong stereotypes towards the other or tends to reject. The person feels that he cannot go through the world saying that it is two things at the same time, that he has to choose because he believes that he will never be fully accepted on either side. It is difficult to convince society that you can be part of two cultures 100% if you speak in terms of half of one culture and half of another.
It should be said that not everything has to be negative. In an increasingly globalized world in which it is assumed that few people are culturally “pure”, bi and pluricultural identities are increasingly accepted and well valued. Far from seeing people with a different culture of origin and host as individuals halfway between two worlds, the idea that one can be a fully citizen of two societies is increasingly accepted different.
Having two cultures as your own is often synonymous with speaking at least two languages, understanding the vision of two countries, learn to value the traditions of two societies with things in common and things that distinguishes. You can even be part of two cultures with very different religions and acquire beliefs of both creeds, having a deeper understanding of them and also allowing develop more reflective and critical thinking.
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Biculturalism and language
Throughout history, language has been considered the essential aspect of all culture. It has been so important that on many occasions, especially from nationalist and pan-nationalists, the territorial domain of a language has been treated as synonymous with that culture and, also, of country and nation.
Although this point of view is not entirely appropriate to reality because in the same language domain there may be several regional identities, In any case, it is undeniable that every culture or ethnic group more or less identifies with a language and, within it, with an accent or dialect characteristic.
Language is one of the most important aspects of every culture because it is the oral tool with which people interact with other people in the same society. The language reinforces the ties between the people who speak the language, a cultural bond that strengthens the idea of the endogroup. If this fact is already important among the people who live in the place where that language is “their own”, it is even more so among the people who make up their diaspora outside their homeland.
The diaspora of a language community is made up of all those people whose mother tongue is a specific language that does not coincide with the language of the place where they have ended up. A person who, for example, speaks Spanish while in London and who meets another who also speaks it is very likely to interact, to feel like part of the same community, especially if they come from the same country Hispanic. They will feel part of the same group and will share their experiences as people with a Spanish mother tongue but living in an English-speaking environment.
Knowing two languages is a good thing, as long as you have an equivalent and high command in both. This ideal balance is very difficult to achieve since to preserve a language it is always necessary to speak it, even if it is the mother tongue. A person with a mother tongue other than that of the host place, if he does not interact with the members of that new language community, is hardly going to learn, whereas if that same person tries his best to learn the new language but avoids using his mother tongue, he is likely to lose fluency.
This difficult balance is the one faced by many people with a bicultural identity. You will always feel that you have more command in one language or another, and that the other is leaving it aside. If the one who is leaving the mother tongue aside, he feels like he is leaving the culture of her ancestors behind, while if the that does not seem to dominate at all is the new one, you can get frustrated when you feel that you are not adapting and, although in the curriculum it is valued bilingualism, a foreigner who does not speak the language of the country in which he lives is seen as a misfit, losing options for job.