Embracing Culture: A Two-Way Street

The beliefs that people hold about reality.

The norms that guide our behavior.

The values that orient our moral commitments.

Or, all the ways of life (including arts, beliefs and institutions) of a population that are passed down from generation to generation.

There is no one way to define culture. It differs from person to person. But while the uniqueness and diversity of culture is boundless, it is commonly where we find ourselves feeling most at home.

I’m a North African, so culture for me is expressed through generosity at the dinner table (often to the point where you are invited/made to continue eating long after you’re full), animated hand gestures while talking (and, sometimes, instead of talking), and the never-ending ability to make light of the direst of circumstances (seriously, Egyptian memes during times of turbulence are on a different level).

Another Egyptian might have a completely different set of answers to mine, depending on what life has exposed them to. The same goes for a Libyan, a Tunisian, a Moroccan or an Algerian. But, ultimately, there are things that bind us and make us similar. Language, passion, faith and mutual respect, to name a few. We are all North Africans, even though our experiences are not the same.

When moving to the UK, you may be of the opinion that the change in culture is something that will require getting used to.

That it will take you out of your comfort zone.

That it will introduce you to things that you don’t have, or see, at home.

More than likely, all three of those will happen. However, that is not something to be afraid of. Rather, it is something to be excited about!

Just as the Libyan embraces the Moroccan, any two people can learn about each other’s similarities and differences through sharing stories, food and values.

One of my favorite activities last year was sharing food and snacks with my flat mates while telling stories of home. We were in a Band C room in Battersea Court, and so there were 10 of us; Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, Pakistani, English and a French-Polish person! Naturally, the stories of home from India were different to those of China. But we found common ground in the desire to share what home is to us. What culture is to us.

We learned about each other, and about the world, while learning about ourselves. Identifying the specific elements of your background that give you a sense of belonging is as important as understanding what that would be for someone else.

In sharing our cultures, we are offered ways to ensure that different values and beliefs can co-exist respectfully and empathetically. Staying true to yourself is the best way to learn about other people, and moving to Surrey will provide you with opportunities to do this time and time again!