Different Together

Created By: Jumaana Abdu Jumaana Abdu

Cultural identity is a big part of who we are, but there's a lot more to us than our cultural background. Winner of the What Matters? Writing Competition, Jumaana Abdu, talks about cultural differences and how to overcome them.

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Culture is a big part of who we are but it’s not the only thing that shapes us.
Ever felt like you stick out; that you’re just different? You’re not alone. As part of my religion, I wear a headscarf and I’m proud of that. On numerous occasions I’ve had people tell me how easy it is to spot me, all they have to do is look for the bright yellow head bobbing through the crowd. All the teachers remember me because I’m easy to recognise, and honestly that makes me feel a little like a superstar (which, secretly, I am). In fact, by some people I’m known as ‘the girl in the bright yellow scarf’.

Sticking out

As the only middle-eastern girl in a school that has a heavily Asian population, there were times where I felt as though I was sticking out like a sore thumb. As it turns out, heaps of people feel like this at one time or another. It could be because all your friends speak a certain language (e.g. Chinese), watch a certain type of TV show (e.g. anime) or like a certain type of music (e.g. One Direction), that you don’t. And while you still love being friends with them, you might feel a little excluded. 

Then there are those moments when you might feel like people really don’t understand your culture; or you, for that matter. It happens, trust me. People have asked me things like, “Because you’re Egyptian, does that mean you still mummify dead relatives?” and “Are you related to Tutankhamen?” I think the worst one was when someone found out I was Muslim and asked, “So if I’m your friend, you won’t bomb me, right?” 

It can be upsetting, even embarrassing at times. No one wants to feel like they’re the only one of their kind. Maybe being one in a million isn’t all it’s banged up to be. 

Or maybe being different isn’t actually as bad as it can seem. Are you really the only one feeling different? No, actually.

You are more than your culture

Sure, culture is a big part of who we are but it’s not the only thing that shapes us. Even if someone is surrounded by people who share the same culture as them, they’re still an individual. Who knows, maybe they feel just as left out as you do sometimes. Ask a friend about it - I’m sure you’ll find that they’ve felt excluded at times, too.

Different but the same

Sometimes all it takes is finding one thing that everyone can relate to. With my friends it might be a TV show, a book series or a hobby. I know that it can feel like you have nothing in common with anyone else, but you can usually find at least one common thing that everybody’s interested in.

And if you ever feel like people don’t understand your culture, maybe you just need to take the first step in teaching them about it. Don’t be embarrassed! My friends love learning about new cultures! Just remember, everyone is different. It doesn’t get said enough. 

But, really, if we’re all different, doesn’t that make us all kind of the same?

Last reviewed: 19 November, 2014
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