Tag Archives: culture

An Idea of Home

The more, and further, that I have gone from home the more I’ve realized exactly what home means for me; what being “Minnesotan” means for me, what being “Minnesotan” actually means, and how that has shaped me.

Until I left to finish my studies at Arizona State University I had always lived in the Upper Midwest. I was born in Minnesota, moved to Wisconsin at 10 (but went back to MN every summer), and then moved back to Minnesota at 15. While a rivalry does exist between the states, major differences in culture really do not. Maybe Wisconsin’s a little more Polish Catholic and Minnesota is a little more Norwegian Lutheran, but mostly they are the same mix of stoic Scandahoovians who’d give you the shirt off their backs but never they key to their emotions.

I truly do not think the culture that exists here is that far removed from the culture that exists in today’s Northern Europe, at least not from what I’ve seen both being there or on TV/in movies. We don’t ask questions, we accept the differences between people (at least outwardly- even if it makes us intensely uncomfortable), and we would rather set ourselves on fire than openly tell someone that we think they are a backwards heathen that will surely burn in hell- even if we actually believe it. Even among families negative emotions are not shared except between those who are closest to you. For me it is easier to cry when I am alone than it is to cry even in front of my husband (which is purely my quirk as my husband is the sweetest shoulder to cry on in the history of shoulders to cry on,) and I haven’t had a fight with any member of my family since the last time my cousin and I fought over dolls in elementary school. Dr. Phil could devote an entire year to all of the problems and messed-up dynamics that exist in my extended family but no one talks about any of them. Ever. Maybe it’s not entirely healthy but we love each other and we would rather forget that there was/is a problem than cause a rift or strife.

It is comfortable for me, but not so comfortable for Mr. MM who can never tell whether members of my family are happy, sad, excited, or angry and therefor, conversely, upset with him about anything. He’s not sure how to deal with that as, for him in his culture, there are a million nuances to read from Egyptians based on a million more body-language cues that direct how all social interactions go. Interacting then with my family is like trying to read a book filled with blank pages. Thank God my mother is more effusive, and from her I am as well, compared to the more stoic members of my family.

But, when I was younger I was drawn to the passionate interactions of Hispanic culture; I sought the intense interpersonal relationships and dynamics of immigrant friends. I embraced my Mexican friends, my Desi “adopted family”, and my loud Arab in-laws. Everything was brighter, louder, and more filled with color. I loved it.

But now, as I get older, it kind of exhausts me. I love the quiet, the silence, the lack of drama that I find with my Upper Midwestern friends and family. Of course I still adore my Egyptian family and the vibrant Muslim community, but I find myself craving peace and quiet. And I just CAN’T with drama. Nope.

And as I have embraced that quiet, Scandinavian part of myself I’ve thought back to my childhood and how much a part of me this culture is. And I have come to treasure it.

Especially now, in the fall. Something about the falling leaves, the crisp air, and the gradual approach of winter seems so very Minnesotan to me. I read an article online that said that Denmark has an actual word for the warm, fuzzy, cozy nostalgic feeling that you get and is attached to fall and winter: hygge.

When I was younger I wanted to leave behind the Scandinavian part of me because I was bored by it. Bored by the simplicity and the quiet, the sameness. And so I traveled, I cultured, I explored.

Now I’m older. And I like the quiet again. And I hope that no matter where I ultimately end up in the world, that I can still impart into my children the concept and love of hygge.

Cultural Relativity

Some cultural differences between Egypt and the US that I have personally seen.

In America:

Girl stands before mirror, “Oh My Gooooooooooooooooooood! My butt is so huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge!!!”

In Egypt:

Girl stands before mirror, “Ya ummi! I wish my butt were bigger!!”

Gillette commercial in America:

Hirsute model stands before mirror and shaves beard off right before a blond woman comes and fondles him.

Gillette commercial in the Middle East:

Hirsute model stands before mirror and trims beard into a beautiful pattern and then hirsute model stands in shower and shaves armpits.

American men wouldn’t be caught dead shaving their armpits but Muslims are strict about personal hygiene and hair removal.

In American thinner is supposed to be better, although I think that trend is changing with the prevelance of rap and hip-hop artists who are vocal about their body-type preference. In the Middle East women who are rounder and especially who have junk in the trunk are preferred and women who are skinny always get the aunties who pinch their sides and command them to eat more food.

Cultural relativity.