Friday, May 13, 2005

Survey Results 5: Cultural Identity

Stuart Hall has submitted that the future is equally as important in cultural identity construction as both the past and the present. The question posed to the respondents about the importance on which they place on their (future) partner or spouse having a multicultural background can be assumed to be indicative of what the TCK expects from his or her future.

Importance of multicultural background of partner
Just two individuals found it very important that their future spouse had a multicultural background like themselves, while another five consider it quite important. Those who look for multiculturality in their partner submit that what is important to them is a mutual frame of reference, in order to understand where the other is coming from. Barbara, for instance, has been married twice to mono-cultural men, but only when she met her third husband, with the same multi-cultural background as her own, did she finally feel that she had met the right person.

Many mention that it is important to them with regard to practical reasons – those who expect to move abroad in the future find that it is important that their partner will understand this wish, and especially be able to adjust to a new culture. In addition, Manuel mentions that it is important to him that his children learn at least two languages while growing up, submitting that this will be important if they are to cope career-wise in the future.

Those who find that a multicultural background is irrelevant (7), not surprisingly mention that “soul mates are better”, and that a multi-cultural background is not a prerequisite for character traits that really matter to them, such as a good sense of humour, and that essentially, love happens regardless of backgrounds. The values that a mono-cultural person has, no matter where he or she is from, are equally as valid as those of a multi-cultural person.

However, what does matter is a tolerance and respect towards other cultures, a trait which is equally found among mono-cultural as multi-cultural people.

Personal Cultural Identity
In terms of their own cultural identity, only Katrine and Dan regard themselves as Danish. Interestingly, Katrine is also the only person in the sample who has yet to move back to Denmark. Dan, on the other hand, expresses that while this is a difficult question, he has then adopted "Danish" as his cultural label, having his typically Scandinavian looks playing a big part in this decision. Being able to describe a label to someone is important he says, so as to facilitate communication. A national label, then, gives strangers a starting reference in order to "figure you out".

Many express difficulty in answering this question, explaining that they are confused and split between nationalities. Some describe their cultural identity in terms of percentages (50% this, 30% that and the remaining 20% a third nationality.) Natalie, Line, Jonas and Davis however, seem to have a clear understanding of themselves as belonging to a third culture. Natalie expresses that she is a citizen of the world, Line describes herself in terms of broadened horizons and easily adaptive to different situations. Jonas defines himself as a global hybrid, whereas David describes his background as that of the international school and everything that the international school culture entails - in particular the high cultural diversity among the pupils.

Influences on cultural identity include:
  • Friends (7 responses)

  • Living and traveling abroad (6)

  • Cultural experiences while growing up (5),
    (including growing up with other people from all over the world (2))

  • Upbringing, parents and family (5)

  • School and/or work (5)

  • Social activities (3)

  • Languages

  • Literature, music, food

  • Religion, history, heritage, news, politics, economics

  • Self-perception

  • Looks

  • Besides the culture which one’s own parents have brought one up with, central elements in identity construction are interaction with individuals from other cultures and experiencing other cultures especially through childhood. Religion, history and heritage have a low occurrence in influence, while communication, especially interaction is regarded very highly as a cultural influence.

    TCK identification
    In terms of relating to the TCK definition, just Britta and Mette responded that they did not identify with it at all. Britta explains that she in fact feels more attracted to people who have had a monocultural background, very much due to the fact that she found them much more interesting than those with the same background. However, she adds, her husband has in fact traveled a lot during childhood. Mette chose not to comment on her answer.

    Six respondents completely identified themselves with the definition, four respondents mostly did, and four partially did. Hannah, who completely identified herself with this definition, felt that non-TCKs would never completely understand her – Natalie concurred. Katrine, who mostly identifies with this definition concurs with Britta that she finds mono-cultural people equally as fascinating as TCKs. Line submits that while TCKs relate to each other easier, if non-TCKs are open-minded enough and are willing to try and understand the TCK background, then they can relate to each other as well.


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