May 21st, 2024

Identifying with cultural values: Belonging

By Lethbridge Herald on September 26, 2020.

Second of three parts

Jacob M. Van Zyl
In addition to its social aspect, belonging can be connected to values, culture, places and belief systems.
It has been said that a person can leave his/her country, but it is hard to get that country out of the person. Ancient Israel was glad to get out of slavery, but in the desert, they often yearned for the good food they enjoyed in Egypt.
There remains a memory of the people, places, customs and views of the country where one grew up. We got attached to family, friends, towns, neighbourhoods, homes and churches. Memories are kept alive by old and new photos sent by social media. There is a need to keep contact with people who stimulate good memories.
The values and views of the culture one was born into are deeply rooted. Bad political policies of the old country may be rejected, but cultural customs regarding food, faith and celebrations may stick.
The culture and people we identified with became part of our self-image, who we are deep inside. We enjoy the opportunity to talk to other expats in the language of the old country.
My son and I, separated by two provinces, talk twice a week via Skype. We use our mother tongue to keep it alive, but sometimes we cannot find the right word and switch to English.
Immigrants often treat themselves with a traditional dish from the fatherland. What is regarded as delicacies in one culture may be appalling to other cultures. Uncooked seafood is taboo for me, but salty, dried beef is OK. I must be starving before I would eat reptiles or insects.
When my wife and I came to Lethbridge, we visited several churches until we found one where the worship form reminded us of our church in the old country. We felt at home and stayed.
Religion is part of our cultural heritage. When parents practise what they preach, their genuine belief system is usually accepted by their children, forming the foundation of their ideas about right and wrong.
Immigrants do not live in the past; they adapt in their new country, enjoying the good things that attracted them, like freedom, peace, safety, civility, friendliness, opportunity, income, health care and prospects for their children.
As the months and years roll by, immigrants feel they belong in Canada, their new home. They learn where to buy what they need, and the layout of the city becomes familiar. The new culture rubs off on them — when in Rome, do what the Romans do.
As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, the gospel had a beneficial influence on every place. After periods of persecution in the first three centuries, Constantine granted freedom of religion in the fourth century, allowing the Christian faith to flourish everywhere.
Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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