This cultural life: what I learned from growing up in a culturally different household

As some of you may or may not know my parents are from Eastern Europe. I am a first-generation American. Throughout my life I’ve battled with embracing my cultural heritage and being ashamed of it. As I child, all I wanted was to be “American”. I hated that my name was different from everyone. Our customs and traditions were a little different too. As I grew out of my embarrassment, I truly began to embrace my culture. As a junior in college I was so eager to take Russian so that I could learn how to read and write in the language that I grew up with. I loved that class, because it really provided me the opportunity to learn about and truly appreciate my culture. A culture that I spent most of my life hiding from others.

So I’d like to share some lessons I learned by simply being lucky enough to grow up in a household involving accents, traditions that differed from my friends and other fun things that come from having a different culture.

1. Family includes cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, etc…

My family is quite big. Well, my immediate family is tiny. It’s my mom, me and my dad. But those aren’t the only people I think about when someone asks about my family. I include both sets of grandparents, all my cousins and uncles and aunts, even my second cousins. I am close with second cousins twice removed if that’s even a thing. Family celebrations like birthdays always consisted of EVERYONE somehow related to me coming over to celebrate. This allowed me to appreciate all types of people. My grandparents were a rock for me growing up and even took care of me while my parents worked. Which leads me to…

2. The elderly are to be respected and revered

For some insane reason I will never truly understand, our society doesn’t appreciate the older generation. Those 65 and older get a bad rap. I was so lucky to get to grow up directly around my grandparents. My grandma would take me to the park and the pool, and she taught me how to cook and bake. I was her little sous chef. My grandpa picked me up from the bus stop and watched tv with me. He encouraged me to pursue figure skating. They had incredible stories to share. They had dealt with WWII. Being Jewish in Eastern Europe was frightening. My grandma lost a brother and my grandpa’s story is fascinating. I don’t know the whole story because I was only 12 when he passed but the little that I do know is terribly intriguing. Apparently, he was captured by Nazi’s but somehow escaped by stealing a Nazi’s id and uniform and basically impersonating a Nazi, just so he could save himself. I’m lucky that my mom knows the whole story but even just hearing snippets from this life that sounds incredibly scary, really allowed me to appreciate and understand all the sacrifices my grandparents made for their entire family.

3. Acceptance.

This lesson might be my favorite. Because I grew up different than others, I can now appreciate all cultures and traditions. I don’t judge a book by its cover. I know how unfair it is to be judged by a name or culture. I remember when I was in school people would ask my name and then their immediate next question was “where is that from” or “what’s it mean”. I can appreciate the curiosity however the conversation would typically end when I responded with “its Russian, and I don’t know what it means, my parents are Russian and they needed a name that started with a Z”. So I always felt like because I mentioned my cultural difference, they had some sort of judgment about me and my family. And so because of those experiences, I am now able to not be judgmental of other people’s cultures and accept everyone as they are.

My hope is that this post resonated with everyone who is from a different culture. Please let me know if you liked this post. If you like this I can post something about being a first generation American, or about learning from grandparents who have fought in wars or parents. Let me know what you all think. I love to hear feedback, so please feel free to leave your comments below.

See you all next week!


Published by Elite Daily here


A 20-something girl on a journey to find herself with hopes of helping others feel their feelings.