the power of subculture affiliation

Posted on May 19, 2009. Filed under: cross cultural conflict, cuisine, culture, subcultures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

One of my best friends is dating a man who, culturally, is very different from her.  Just from looking at them, you wouldn’t think they are so different. They are both American, white, middle class, middle aged, educated, divorced with kids, and from the Northeast.

They do have some fundamental differences that make my friend think that maybe he’s not “the one.”  She’s Jewish. He’s Christian. She’s a democrat. He’s republican. Still, these were areas she could compromise on. They weren’t necessarily deal breakers. She used these differences to teach her children about tolerance and the importance of looking at the individual, not group affiliation.

But last night, she called me up to tell me she knew this relationship could never really work.  It seems that they were out with his kids, and he gave them Capri Sun juice drinks and white bread. She knew it wouldn’t last between them.

And you know what? I totally understood. We are both part of the culture of healthy, natural living. We don’t eat processed foods and we certainly would never give our children juice “drinks” (which are mostly high fructose corn syrup and water)  or white bread. My children have never–not once–eaten fast food.  And they don’t miss it because they know what homemade, delicious, healthy food tastes like. 

After talking with my friend, I realized that lifestyles can be defined as culture, or subculture if you prefer, in that they include a set of beliefs, knowledge, values and behavioral norms shared by its members and  transmitted to future generations.

For my friend and me, a healthy lifestyle is core to the values and beliefs  that we want to pass on to our children.  And as core values and beliefs,  are more important when looking for a partner than what may normally be viewed as cultural differences, such as religious affiliation, race, or ethnicity.


What subcultures do you identify yourself with? How does it affect your daily behavior and relationships?

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The burqini, and other forms of women’s liberation

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: arab culture, cross cultural, culture, women | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recently, I read about the  burqini and at first thought it was a joke.  To most western women, the idea of a burqa (the head to toe covering worn by some Muslim women) is seen as an oppressive prison. We read about women who are beaten for not wearing them in public, and only see them as a form of oppression.

When I visited the burquini website I found out that it is swimwear and sportswear for active Muslim women. And based on the testimonials, it is a new form of women’s liberation. Woman after woman wrote to say how they could now participate in sports and go swimming, while still maintaining the modesty required of their religion. “I don’t look like a fool in the water anymore, and I’m not weighed down by all the heavy wet clothes I used to wear,” wrote one happy customer.

Women from different cultures face different challenges. For these women, the burqini is a big step foward in being able to define themselves and actively participate in daily life.  We must be careful not to belittle desires of women whose cultures are different or contrary to our own. They themselves, must define their path.



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If Michael Phelps lived in Holland, or Austria, or Denmark, or Belgium, or Italy, or Spain, or Portugal or…

Posted on February 6, 2009. Filed under: American culture, culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Location. Location. Location.  Apparently it’s not just about real estate anymore.

Michael Phelps, American champion, fastest swimmer in the world, owner of killer abs, and role model for ADD kids everywhere, smoked pot at a party. And now he is the worst thing possible for The Children and faces possible prosecution.

If he were drunk, that would have been ok. If he were zoned out on legal, prescription medication, that would have been ok. But pot? Not in America.

 Americans love drugs. The USA  is the most medicated country in the world.   According to the the U.S. Center for Disease Control, almost half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, and 1 in 6 take 3 or more. 10% of women and 4% of men take antidepressants, which most doctors will prescribe before changes in diet, increase in exercise or the wonder-treatment for depression, accupuncture (not covered by many insurance companies).

The side effects of these legal antidepressant drugs? Nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, suicidal thoughts, decrease in sexual ability,  unusual weight loss, vomiting, severe stomach/abdominal pain, seizures, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, yellowing eyes/skin, unusual or severe mental/mood changes, uncontrolled movements, tremors, blurred vision, numbness/tingling. increased sweating, strange taste in mouth, joint aches,  chest pain, fainting, fast/pounding heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, muscle aches, ringing in the ears, and severe headache.

 And alcohol?  Health hazards include: increased incidence of cancer, particularly cancer of the larynx, esophagus, liver, and colon,hepatitis, jaundice, inflammatory disease of the pancreas, cirrhosis of the liver, degenerative changes in the nervous system, high blood pressure, nutritional deficiencies, cessation of menses, depression, and accidental death.

And please. Don’t even get me started on cigarettes.

According to a Time/CNN poll, almost half of all Americans have tried pot. Michael is a 24-year-old adult. He is no pothead and has repeatedly tested clean while in training or competion. He isn’t doing anything that numerous presidents and supreme court justices haven’t done.  

If he lived in a country where pot was legal or decriminalized, this would be a non-issue. Completely.

Location, location, location.

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