The cultural divide.

I think this post is going to be awfully cliche, but it’s something I felt like writing about, since I guess a lot of kids living away from home for college go through this & might relate.

Basically, the way I’ve lived the last 10 years of my life has been different.
My family’s well aligned with the stereotypical parameters that surround most families that happen to move abroad. The parameters aren’t exactly set in stone, but have some simple fundamental features that give our upbringing a very patent distinction from the typical desi culture that we’ve originally come from.

For one, living in Saudi was different cause’ we had no evident concept of family systems. We never considered our uncles & aunts [both maternal or paternal] our immediate family, which wasn’t exactly our fault. We live thousands of kilometers away from them all year around, only spend 2 months a year with them & not hear from them for the remaining 10. So, consequently, we don’t really learn how to deal or even simply, talk to our relatives like most kids who’re brought up in desi cultures do. We tend to remain reserved, & have trouble opening up to them.
Normally, that isn’t usually a problem when you have your parents living with you. However, things change entirely when it’s just you alone. Most kids who come from the same background as me have the exact same trouble – we have trouble adjusting to a whole other environment.

Another thing is the way you dress. Back home, no one would ever tell me off for not wearing a dupatta or make a big deal if I walked outside in a pair of t-shirt & jeans without the abaya. No one would judge my friends for wearing non-desi clothes & no one would give me lectures on how jeans aren’t “Islamically correct for girls.
Over here, it’s a big deal. Most of the time, it’s actually pretty hypocritical. I get told off for not wearing a dupatta when there’s not a single guy in the entire premises of the house. It doesn’t matter HOW you wear it, it’s more like a formality to cover yourself, even if you’re barely covering anything at all.

The paradoxical bane of existence. It’s weird, actually. Food’s never been a major part of my life. Yes, I love good food, & I love how it gives me a feeling of well-being after I’m done eating, but it’s never something I’ve considered crucial. However, that isn’t exactly the real reason why food is troublesome for me.
I have read a lot about too many kids living far from home surviving on cheese crackers & having empty fridges all year long & somehow, I can see myself relating to that.
I am a very picky eater, I admit. I’m also very lazy like most people are, & so the combination usually leads to me having below average lunches & dinners. I can be called stupid for putting myself through this ordeal since I currently live with my distant relatives [my uncle, his family & my grandmother] who cook good food almost every single day – but being a picky eater leads to me facing too many dishes that somehow reduce my already diminished, picky appetite. There’s usually dal almost every other day, or some salan that makes it harder for me to eat it after each consecutive bite. I don’t complain, cause’ I know being picky isn’t exactly the most flexible way to live, but no one said it’s absolutely crucial to eat whatever’s cooked at home. So, instead, I usually make-do with stuff I have lying around for myself. Sometimes it’s just a glass of milk, or I have brinner [breakfast for dinner – thank you, Scrubs] or I just have ice cream before bed; life isn’t all that bad, except I miss having mum make food the way I liked it to be.

Also, I guess since I lived with my own family, they knew how to deal & adjust to my lifestyle & vice versa with lots more ease than people here. I’ve never been too social, & my habits have never made me stand out much. For one, the way I lived my life was very typical of the way most girls my age there lived theirs’. It was normal to go out shopping with friends till late at night, it was okay to stay glued to the laptops & mobiles there all day long, it was perfectly acceptable to have guy friends [or girl friends in the case of guys] there & talk to your mum about them with ease.
Pakistan is a place where things like these are considered taboo, especially when it’s a girl who’s right in the middle of this. Basically, even simply mentioning that you went out in a group that had guys in it is considered wrong, like you’re out on a date. Using the phone all day long makes people think that you must be most definitely be talking to a guy because you want to pass your time. Even barely mentioning a guy friend whom you’re close to will make people fear that you’re hiding something much deeper.
To be honest, I’ve never really thought of the darker shades of these things until I got here. I’ve always been pretty open with my mum about everything, I would tell her not because I feared getting caught, but because I genuinely liked sharing things with her.
I never felt the need to hide stuff from my parents because they always trusted me. However, within a few months of living here, things drastically changed. I’ve started seeing things from the desi point of view; I don’t agree with these views, but living here has taught me that not everyone can see things in purer light as you do, so you gotta look at stuff from their angle cause’ the majority always wins.

One other thing I noticed here, which I was not accustomed to, was how much people like to butt into your life whether you like it or not. Everyone has an opinion about everything, & most people here take it upon themselves to set things right, no matter if their opinion is welcomed or not. They don’t rephrase their words, they don’t rethink about what they’ll say & how it’ll affect the person in question or whether or not their opinion matters. That still isn’t the problem. The real problem lies within the fact that most people expect you to pay close attention to their opinion & then follow it, regardless of what your opinions are. Arguing is moot, they just take offense – especially if you’re younger. So again, you have to bend or twist your own opinions around them in such a way that it doesn’t counterbalance their ego & you’re good to go.

Living away from family, in a culture that is significantly different than yours is hard, downright difficult at times & it breaks down your spirit in ways that you could never have comprehended otherwise, but at the same time, it teaches you things – atleast that’s what I’ve been told. Either way, one thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to breakdown for a while, then pick up the pieces & move on because if you don’t, no one here will either.


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