Letters from America : The Culture of Family
Dear Students of Nouakchott,
I am so excited to tell you about my culture and to hopefully learn more about yours.
For me, my family is the most important thing in my life. I happen to have an amazing family whom I am extremely close with. My Mom, Dad, and younger Brother are my best friends. We are always there for each other – we support each other when difficulties in life arise, we give each other advice and we can talk to each other about anything. We also spend a lot of time together, and above all, we love each other immensely and unconditionally. But, I want to tell you that this is not always the case here in the United States.
Though there are many families here in the US that are very close, it is also very common for family members to not be very close. Some people consider their careers and their social life more important than family. The culture here encourages family members to be very independent – mostly it encourages children to be very independent from their parents at a certain age. As children here in the Unites States, we are encouraged to move out of our family’s house as soon as we graduate from high school at eighteen years old and to start our careers and our own families. They want us to “find our own path in life,” if that translates to you. Parents will still offer emotional support to children, but offering other types of support such as financial or living with your parents after eighteen years old is not very common. Often, it is not that our parents don’t love us and want to be close to us, it is just that this is what our culture has taught them to do, so they teach us to do the same.
Not all families here in the US are how I explained, and I also believe that a certain amount of independence from your family can be very good – especially if it means finding the things that you love in your own life outside of your family, such as a career, partner or something that you are passionate about. But I also think that it is important that people remain close to their families and that family members know undoubtedly that they are loved and supported by each other.
I chose to write to you all about this because family is something that all cultures around the world share, and because when I have traveled to other countries I have found that families function differently than American families. I have found that many other cultures consider family to be more of a priority than American people do. Children will live with their parents for many years after they turn eighteen years old and sometimes even after children get married and have their own children, they will all live with the mother or father’s parents together, like in patrilineal or matrilineal cultures. I have also seen many families in other countries financially support each other by perhaps working in a family business together, or simply sharing all of their wages with each other for survival. I love to see families supporting each other, so this is a beautiful thing to me. Even though I would not want to live entirely like that, I can admire that lifestyle and enjoy learning from other cultures familial habits.
What do you think about the way American families function? Also, I would love to learn about the way families are in your culture. Can you tell me a bit about yours?
Have a wonderful day!