Culture, Citizenship & Hiraeth (Part 1)


This weekend I started reading a book for work. The topic: culture.

Funny enough, the woman who wrote it is a fellow American Southerner who has lived in multiple cultures - I have to say that she beats me on that count by quite a lot.

As I read the book, I realised a few things.

First, I don't quite fit any culture anymore. If you divide the world into two types of cultures (this author uses climate which is one accepted way of doing it), I come from one type of culture (hot climate) and have moved to another (cold climate). I've still got those Southern roots, but I've also assimilated some into my British home (I'm definitely still learning).

My friends here in Britain think that my Southern drawl is sweet and laugh when I bring out my "jumper" (American English: sweater) when they think it is still summer. My American friends think I'm crazy when I use British English words but find it neat that Afternoon Tea is a real thing.

I'm not quite one yet not quite the other.

I've heard people cavalierly say that they are "Global Citizens". I don't think we can truly understand what that means by just taking a holiday (American English: vacation) in another country. When you're not sure where your roots are, that's when you start to think of yourself as a citizen of the world. Or perhaps more aptly a citizen of nowhere.

But I also learnt that American Southerners are a strange exception to that hot versus cold climate culture. We don't quite fit in any way. Which made me realise that maybe its not me.

Then I also thought that maybe the authors perspective on the South being not quite in either box is because she knows the culture; it is her cultural background, the one her parents taught her traditions from regardless of how little or much she actually lived there.

And maybe if it had been written by someone else from another culture, it would have been their culture that didn't quite fit into the box. Maybe the South would have fit neatly into a cultural box in their view.

Culture is after all just a lens through which we view the world.

In the ups and downs of all these thoughts, I was once again reminded that ultimately, my roots, my culture, my identity doesn't have anything to do with the stars and stripes in my passport or the British address that I put on all of my papers. I am after all a foreigner in a strange land. And I don't mean I am an American in Britain.

Which leads us to Hiraeth. But actually, I think we will leave that for next time.

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