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Cultural Background Summary

Culture is defined as the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning. Culture helps us understand how things are created, developed, managed and changed. Each culture is unique, I do not think people will find any culture that is exactly like another culture but I think that they can find many similarities.

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Some similarities that I have noticed are their dedication to their families, religion and their own native cultures as well fitting into fitting into the culture in which they live. Differences between cultures seem to almost outweigh the similarities. Some differences other than the obvious language barriers that I have noticed are personal and family values, what is considered polite, how hygiene is regarded to the food that they eat. I believe that my culture has shaped the way that I have lived my life.

Within my community as a child there were major Catholic influences, from my parents to the rest of the people living around us. My parents both grew up with those Catholic teachings all their lives as well, considering my father grew up in a pure Italian family and my mother came from a Ukrainian background. Today I continue to live my life with those same virtues and have also passed them down to my son the same way my parents did to me. As I have gone through the experiences of assimilation, acculturation, and a climate of pluralism; my identity has been molded.

Assimilation is the process of becoming part of or more like a group you were not previously part of. Assimilating into a new group involves the addition of new knowledge or information or traits from that group’s culture to what you have already learned or know. My grandparents moved to Chicago from Italy as young adults. They had learned basic English in school as children but still hard to work hard to master the language in order to be able to work and live in their community.

Through their hard work and determination they were able to assimilate into the American lifestyle. When they married and had children they only taught them to speak only English. Thus, their children and grandchildren grew up with an American culture far away from the Italian culture from which they came from. Acculturation is the process of adopting the beliefs and behaviors of another group. As a child I was raised in Chicago with an ethnic background of Italian and Ukrainian following the Catholic faith.

I spent most of my time as a child playing with the children from down the street who were Swedish, Danish and Lutheran. They belonged to the Danish American Athletic Club and I used to go with them and observe some of the classes that they participated in. As time went on, I ended up joining the club and learned Danish folk dances, experienced Danish foods and customs. Cultural pluralism is the process of maintaining your own cultural identity within a largely diverse community.

While growing up with the family down the street I learned about their Swedish culture. During Christmas time they would practice the traditional Swedish feast day of Santa Lucia. Traditionally, in the early morning of December 13th a young woman, dressed in a white gown, wearing a red sash and a crown of lingonberry twigs and blazing candles, would go from one farm to the next carrying a torch to light her way, would stop at each house bringing baked goods. I was fascinated with the tradition and would go with them dressed as Saint Lucy to all our neighbors.

While participating in this traditionally Swedish custom I still maintained my Italian and Ukrainian identity. My identity has been molded through the cultural experiences I encountered through the assimilation, acculturation and a climate of pluralism in my life. I continue to live my life with the same virtues that my family passed down to me but also learning the shared beliefs, values, and customs of other cultures around me. Because of the I have a better understanding of the uniqueness of the world.

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