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I grew up in the suburbs, and I had a typical suburban life. However, when I was in my 20s, I moved into the city. The culture of the city certainly changed my life. At first, I was shocked by the differences. In time, the city changed me.
First, urban life was much more brisk and time conscious. Growing up in the suburbs, people took their time and no one cared. Being late, doing things slowly, and just enjoying the moment was typical. However, moving to New York, everything was different. People had no time to meet up. People had to pencil me into their schedules. In time, I became the same way. I changed.
Second, living in the city, I realized that there were so many talented people. Everyone around me was incredibly accomplished. This changed me as well. It made me work harder and want to succeed more.
Finally, since the city was very international, I also became more international in my outlook. I've tried countless ethnic cuisines, travelled abroad many times, and most importantly made friends from very different backgrounds. The international culture of the city made me more global in my outlook.
Describe three different and distinct ways in which culture has influenced your world.
My first awareness of the influence of culture on my life occurred when I was in undergrad school. I grew up in a neighborhood that was over 99% black and attended schools that were also over 99% black. My senior high school had about 10 white students out of a total of about 3400 students. The undergrad school I attended had 18 blacks out of about 2300 students. I went from one extreme to another. I was the epitome of shell shock. I longed for my so-called “culturally deprived” forms of entertainment. While the majority students sponsored symphony concerts, the black students wanted a James Brown concert. While most of the students relaxed listening to rock bands, the black students listened to Motown records. While the white students were rocking with spastic gyrations to the homecoming band, the black students were seeking ways to attend the homecoming of one of the historically black colleges. We never thought we were “culturally deprived” and eventually we convinced the white students and administrators that we were just culturally different.
Going to school for a year in the Middle East for the first time revealed to me how Western I was. As part of my graduate studies, I studied a year in Saudi Arabia with Muslim students from North, West and East Africa, from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other non-Western countries. I had two roommates from Sudan. I learned from them the meaning of communal living. When the students had dinners, instead of sitting at tables with individual plates, the students would spread plates, each containing a different type of food, on a table cloth on the floor. Students would crowd around a group of plates and eat from the same plates with their fingers. The students not only shared meals, but also personal items. I had an iron and since I was sharing a room with two Sudanese students, they figured that I would automatically share my iron with them and with all the other Sudanese students in the dorm. More than that, one of my roommates had an Afro pick type comb. He would leave the comb on the dresser and other Sudanese students would casually come into the room and use the comb. My Western attitude was that “I got mine, you need to get yours.”
One of my biggest cultural longings while I was studying in the Middle East was my attachment to American sports. The first time I was in the Middle East, satellite TV and cable TV didn’t exist in the world. During the end of the summer, I longed to watch and keep up with baseball. In the fall, I longed to watch football (the main sport on TV of course was soccer). In the winter I was going through withdrawal pains not being able to watch basketball games. I had my father-in-law mail me back issues of Sports Illustrated for some satisfaction. I was so desperate that I would scavenge dumpsters outside of magazine import businesses searching for Western sports magazines. Today, I haven’t changed my attachment to American sports. On the contrary, the ability to view American sports has spread almost everywhere.
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