Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cutural Differences

I was watching a movie late last night with a story line of how 2 different cultures clashed. A young couple was getting married with the bride being Jewish and the groom being Italian. Now both of them were Americans and had been in the US for several generations. The story goes on about how, even though they were both the same as in American, when they started planning the wedding and the 2 families started in, they might as well have been from 2 different planets.

After I had gone to bed and should have been asleep I kept thinking of the movie. I thought about how multicultural the Lower Mainland (Vancouver area) is. But I wondered if that really had anything to do with it. I come from a small town in Saskatchewan. The town was about 99.99% French. Every body was the same. I didn't know that the rest of the world did not behave or do the things that we did or believed in.

Even if I had just seen my grandparents a few days prior, if I was to meet them again it was with an embrace and either a kiss on the lips or one on both cheeks. Imagine my surprise when I left home and moved to the big city of Moose Jaw to find out that kind of behavior was likely to get you smacked across the head. I thought maybe it was because of being raised in a small town, but then remembered when my Quebec relatives would come to visit they did the same thing.

In the States their main holiday is Thanksgiving. Every one goes home for that holiday more then for Christmas but for the French it is Christmas. You go to midnight mass then to your grandparents for gift opening and a reveillon ( a full dinner). There was music and dancing till the morning. I have a very good friend who is 100% Italian and although French and Italian are miles apart we have at least one thing common in our cultures. Without your family you have nothing. Every single event is celebrated with your family and with food. You never knew you were poor cause there was always lots to eat. And when you are a kid, that is the most important thing!!

There are members at our church who are South American. They celebrate every thing with dance and music. South Asian culture the same. One could argue that immigrants bring these cultures from their countries. But my dad's family has been in Canada since the early 1500's, my mom's family since the 1700's. There has been plenty of time to change our culture but it hasn't changed.

What makes us so unique and yet in some ways, so alike? Is one culture more important then another? When do you stop doing things of the "old days" and start assimilating what is around you? When do we stand up for what we believe in and what is a part of us? When is it ok to let something go as not important anymore? Does that happen when we reach a certain age? Should people stand their ground? Do we give in too easily?

When we lived in Regina, every June was a huge event called Mosaic. It was a culmination of just about every known land and culture. It was a 4 day event that was spread out over the entire city. Every nation that participated would have a big arena, school gym, conference centre etc. to display what was important to their culture. It was free to attend. You could pick your actual passport at any Safeway store and as you went from one venue to another you would get it stamped. There was always tasters food tidbits that were free but of course you could also buy meals there. They all had entertainment going on from 10AM to 1AM. During this 4 day period you only had to show your passport to any bus driver and the bus fare was waived. So very few people drove.

I used to think all Asian people looked alike till I went to their venue my first year. First they had a female dancer in full national dress doing their national dance. Then they would have all 5-6 females coming on the stage at once and then you could really see the different characteristics that made each unique. At the French venue you had maple syrup and logging contests, lots of loud music, and of course the infamous Tourtiere.

I loved that event and we booked sitters well in advance so that we could go. During those 4 days there was never yours or mine, it was our country and we were all Canadian. I wish we had that still here. I miss being French out here. I miss speaking in French, I miss the traditions of everything family although people that know us here would wonder what I was talking about as we do everything with our children. But it isn't the same as being in a town where everyone was related to each other, every one spoke the same language, everyone was the same. Now I feel we are no longer Canadian. We are Indo-Canadian, African-Canadian, etc. At times I wish we weren't such a melting pot of cultural differences but were rather one and the same. Which of course would be French :-D