I was born into a cultured family, but it wasn’t until later in my life that I gained an understanding and love for that culture. I slowly began to recognize cultural unfamiliarities as a part of my background and who I am as an individual.
I come from a large family on my dad’s side, the majority of whom were raised in Liberia, Africa. Learning about the food, customs and cultures has been an ongoing process. At a young age my mind was not focused upon the concept of culture. Soon, I recognized the intricate colors and patterns used in clothing when I attended church or funeral services.
Later in life, as I’d meet extended family members, I adopted the typical greeting of a hug or soft handshake followed by a kiss on both cheeks.
I myself did not practice these greetings with my father because we shared a more intimate relationship, versus the distant relationship that I had with relatives I rarely saw.
Learning to greet my family in a different way opened a new door of appreciation. There are many people in the world who haven’t discovered their culture or even had the chance to interact with others who practice such traditions and cultures. I felt honored to have a family that has embraced its culture and willingly teaches its youth to understand the ways of Liberian culture.
At one point in my adolescence, I recognized how my aunts, uncles and cousins developed a fast-paced tongue when it came to arguments or intense family conversations. To me it seemed as though they were speaking another language; however, the more time I spent around my relatives the more I recognized that they were in fact speaking english, pidgin English.
The more I was exposed to the culture, the closer I felt to understanding my family as a unit.
On my 18th birthday I participated in a celebratory dance, primarily practiced at weddings, in which the party guests shower the couple or individual being celebrated with dollar bills. This tradition is something I will forever remember and cherish with my family.
It wasn’t until my teenage years I decided to find out about Liberian history. From here I learned so much, such as what traditional dishes are native to the surrounding countries of the west coast of Africa, who Liberia’s past presidents were, and how past civil wars have affected this country.
Even now I am learning more about Liberian culture. As I progress through learning new collegiate skills I am proud to know my cultural background today because it is a clear definition of who I am.
If you are interested in your own culture and background, you can look to the internet as I did to discover much more. Cultural learning will expand your self knowledge and appreciation, so do what you can to discover more.