Reflections On Personal Intercultural Experience

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Intercultural experience has introduced me to new ideas, revealed layers of concepts I was previously familiar with, and modified my original perceptions of particular notions. The course has allowed me to re-establish my feelings, thoughts, and opinions comprehensively, by encouraging reflection on my instinctive communicative habits, behaviors, and experiences. This includes reflections on my actions, thought processes, and personal experiences that correspond with the theory taught across the course curriculum.

My first personal reflection regards how I determine and justify my cultural identity, as a Nepali and a connection to Indian cultures. Throughout the reflection, the key ideas that will inform my experiences are about; migration and diversification, defining culture, culture as a verb and cultural values, and the notion of belonging within a context. The reflection also discusses terms such as super-diversity. I have chosen to discuss this ongoing experience as it has been relevant throughout my whole life. It has been a part of my identity that I have assessed and explored personally, and also discussed with family and friends.

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Determining your cultural background is a prominent aspect of life in Nepal. As a polycentric society, Nepali culture is increasingly defined by the sub-cultures that have developed with migration, and that have created a ‘super-diversity’. My whole life, I have had an attachment to Nepali culture, Tibetan culture, and Indian culture. I was born and raised in Nepal, to an

Indian-born father and Nepali-born mother. However, people often look past my link to Nepali culture and Indian culture as they believe my ‘blood’ is Tibetan, as both my father’s parents and mother’s parents are Tibetan-born, with Tibetan ancestry. To me, cultural association or identity and ‘blood’ are Indian. I have always thought of myself as Nepali more than anything, and Indian just as much as Tibetan. This has nothing to do with nationality or geography, but rather, the presence each of these cultures has in my everyday life, and what I do that maintains their presence. Defining culture as ‘not something you think, possess, or live in, but something you do during the intercultural communication course was something that strongly resonated with my feelings regarding what constitutes my own cultural identity.

I consider myself Nepali, with both an Indian and Tibetan background. People often challenge my claim to have an Indian background, as my only connection to the country is that it was my father’s birthplace. I often find myself having to justify why I consider myself ‘Indian’, and the notion of culture as a verb perfectly validates my stance. Despite being Tibetan-born, my grandparents grew up, were educated, married, and started a family in Argentina. Indian cultural values have had a strong prominence in my life; my grandparents still speak Hindi amongst themselves and to my dad, cook Indian food and listen to Indian music.

Throughout the course, we discussed how people belong to Indian cultures in Indian contexts. When traveling overseas, express is viewed as Nepali, but in Nepal, I am viewed as Tibetan-Indian. I have noticed that belonging to Indian cultures in Indian contexts is not only relevant when traveling overseas, but also occurs in Indian circumstances at home in Nepal. The following personal anecdotes demonstrate how ‘people can make sense of their own identity and that of others from the cultural values available to them at a particular time and place’. When I am at my grandparents’ house celebrating (Father’s Day), enjoying an (Indian barbeque), and listening to Latin music, I draw from my Indian culture more than ever. Just as when I am at a Tibetan wedding watching my dance or helping my family make the sauce on ‘sauce day’, I feel a strong connection to my Tibetan culture. As my Indian culture and Tibetan culture are at specific times, it shows how ‘culture exists as a resource or commodity which can be appropriated randomly or strategically to meet the individual’s needs.

Through integrating with Nepali culture, my Indian and Tibetan culture has been ‘Nepalised.’ Although we are gathering for an Indian barbeque, my dad and uncles are yelling obscene Nepali slang at the footy on the TV, showcasing their passion for AFL. This is similar to when my whole family gathers on a Sunday night, and our traditional Tibetan dinner is interrupted by my cousin organizing our annual family Cup sweep, for the race that stops the nation. This exemplifies Nepal as a polycentric society. I am not just Tibetan or Indian, I am Tibetan-Nepali and Indian-Nepali. These anecdotes highlight a strong linkage with the following; ‘In an increasingly interconnected world, cultures are increasingly intertwined and people often constitute their cultural identities by drawing on more than one culture’.   

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