Complicated and Confident: What it’s like to Grow Up in the First Generation of Multicultural Madness
The United States is truly unique in that it has such a beautiful selection of cultures from every corner of the world, all coming together to live in a new country for the prospect of opportunity and the delight of a better future. The New York City metropolitan area is the embodiment of that notion of diversity and is home to a large population of people, not just coming from different cultures, but who have the blessing to come from many different cultures.
Though growing up as a British Scandinavian Mediterranean was certainly interesting, it was also a challenge to myself and the world around me. My father’s family came from a long line of Sicilians who only married Sicilians and preserved their heritage from the island, passing down traditions of cooking, culture, and language. They ate a lot of foods like octopus and eggplant that are very different to most Western Europeans and were always lively, celebrating Christmas Eve with seven different kinds of fish, waiting until almost midnight to open gifts. This was a world away from my mother’s culture, coming from a reserved and very strict European background with a Danish-American father and a mother who had come straight from England in the sixties. This made me a second generation British-American and a very confused first generation multicultural American.
Growing up, of course, was very different because instead of learning to deal with being one culture and American, I had to be just as Sicilian as I was British and Scandinavian and American, too! One side of the family told me to eat and the other told me to eat less. One side was loud and integrated a lot of Sicilian words into their speech and the other spoke a whole different kind of English. However, there was the common denominator of both sides expecting the best of me, in their own ways.
Learning to become someone who was all of these things in her own respective harmony was something I had to come to terms with myself. A lot of people, when you come from two very different cultures, make the point of treating them as autonomous, as if they cannot coexist together. Because my skin looks lighter, I must resemble more of my mother’s side and because I don’t look as dark as the rest of my father’s family and I drink tea like a British girl, I’m not Mediterranean enough. Though it certainly can be a battle everyday of understanding who you are and how you make sense, the truth is that you can make it work. This attitude has not only been the basis for understanding my identity but understanding the many different cultures of the languages I have studied as a linguist and a resident of Queens, New York, flourishing with raw culture, untouched by Americans and brought to life by the thousands of residents who live here and call it home.
Not only has being multicultural made me an extremely diverse and interesting character, but it has helped me to grow to understand others. I’m complicated, but confident and always happy to be different with diversity.