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Growing Up in Two Different Cultures

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – This past week, I went to a Tarkan concert. You probably have no clue who that is because he’s a Turkish popstar. I grew up in a Turkish household so I was exposed to two different cultures simultaneously my whole life. I always liked the fact that I wasn’t just American, but as I grow older my appreciation has reached a whole new level. Here are some of the things I had to deal with because of my ethnic background.

Image courtesy of Ayse Yasas

Two different friend groups
I’ve always had American friends in school, but I also had my Turkish friends, too. I even call them my cousins because they always felt a little closer that just friends. All of my relatives live abroad so my Turkish friends have always been extra special, because they’re the ones I’ve spent holidays with. We have this unspoken bond because they know exactly how I grew up and understand my culture. So shoutout to all of my cousins who aren’t really my cousins but I call them my cousins anyway.
Strict Parents
Growing up, asking to go see a movie with a group of friends is a much bigger process for us foreign folk. You have to name every single person who’s going and give every exact detail before you get the final approval. You might even have to hide certain things from your parents just to make everyone’s life easier. Explaining this to my non-Turkish friends, they may not have understood. So I would be a little more thankful to those friends that had to go through that same thing.
Unique name
If you grew up with a unique background, chances are your name isn’t easy to pronounce and you don’t exactly look forward to any professor or teacher taking attendance for the first time. You know it’s your turn when you see them look at that paper, their facial expression changes and they look up and start with “uhh…” before you raise your hand as they butcher your name and smile as you correct. I find that it’s easier to just laugh at this situation because it happens so often. When you tell people just how common your name is back in its country of origin, they find it hard to believe – but it’s all good, because you’ve got that ethnic flare to you.
Image taken from Wow Reads

The best part of my double culture is probably the food. I may be biased, but Turkish food might just be my favorite food of all time. Everything is so flavorful and delicious, it’s hard for other foods to compare. Nothing beats mom’s homemade lentil soup and and stuffed grape leaves. I also feel, since I’m so used to eating ethnic food to begin with, it makes me more adventurous when trying other foods. My tolerance for spicy food is also much higher than most of my friends. I mean, did you really eat a proper meal if you didn’t break a sweat?
Pop culture
As someone who loves pop culture, having a whole other set of musicians to appreciate opens up a whole new world of music and subculture to me. It feels like I have twice the amount of music than your average American. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Turkish soap operas. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t expose me to classic rock and American pop. My mom was playing Tarkan & Mustafa Sandal. This is where the feeling of living two different lives comes in: it’s fun, and it’s like a real life Hannah Montana situation – minus the blonde wig.
Anyway, if you are born to parents who are immigrants or just grew up with a different cultural background, you might be able to relate to all of this. I used to not think it was anything special to be raised this way, but now I know how lucky I am. I’ve realized how much my background shaped me into who I am today and for that I’m forever grateful, regardless of how many times I’ll have to hear someone call me “Ice” or “I-see.”