How Was Your Acculturation?

Have you ever heard a question like the above title? I was `lucky’ to learn about acculturation in the hardest way, not knowing how to answer to the question.

Let me explain my dilemma, and why I was so confused. I had just moved to a foreign country and the person asked me, in my opinion, a totally inappropriate question. Was he joking with me, trying to make fool of me? If he was serious, it’s not fair to ask such a tricky question a person who is a newcomer. I left that person with my answer, “Thank you very much for asking me, I am still in the process of acculturation!”

For some of you who don’t know meaning of the word `acculturation’, I’ll explain. Acculturation, an anthropological term, is the process of adaptation to a new culture and learning of appropriate behavior for the host culture when one enters it.

Any newcomer to the foreign country needs to learn the standards, way of life, norms and values of the people and country, so that the individual can become an accepted member of the society. Any newcomer goes through the process of learning what is permissible within that society. We can call acculturation a process of the adaptation to the new culture, a kind of socialization with unfamiliar surroundings. In another way, we can explain acculturation as a gradual acceptance during the process of assimilation.

Referring to the person who asked me about my process of acculturation, I still don’t know what his intention was exactly.

Now, if you are confused, I should say that the term acculturation was first used to refer to the adaptation of people from tribal culture to Western culture. Asking someone about their acculturation sounds pretty offensive, doesn’t it?

Culture influences everything a person does, whether they are aware of it or not. We learn acculturation through speech, words, events, and gestures, and watching others around us. Our whole life we were molded into a person who needs to be an acceptable member of the society, consciously or unconsciously.

You want to know what had happened after the person posed that question to me? He came to me saying, “Actually, I wanted to ask you about your process of enculturation, not about your acculturation. Don’t take this question too seriously.”

Here we go, again! Now is my turn, Mr. Inappropriate, “If you are asking me about my process of enculturation, you are asking me about the process of learning the appropriate behavior of my own culture. Enculturation is about my own environment, from the time of my birth to this very moment, including my culture, parents, friends and education. It is about literally every person, place or thing I have encountered so far!

“Enculturation programming enables us to fit in within our community and the type of life we will have. As you are asking me this question, maybe you want to know about influences in my life, or the way my mind is programmed. To be more suspicious, I could say you know that the programming could be `wrong’, causing prejudices, dislikes and `certain’ beliefs and attachments. You also know that a degree of programming is necessary to keep us sane, safe and healthy.”

I’ll tell you something, Mr. Inappropriate,” As parents we teach our children the process of enculturation by teaching them to be polite, to say `thank you’, and `please’, and not to ask `inappropriate questions’. Yes, Mr. Inappropriate, “Enculturation is the learning of the appropriate behavior, and you could call it the `socialization of the children’, if you like and obviously some people have missed out this kind of learning.”

I knew that enculturation is life-long process beginning at birth and ending at death, and I just wanted to say, “You still have a time to learn it, Mr. Inappropriate,” but I didn’t. I told myself that this was a good lesson, and I should calm down!

A person grows into a culture and acquires competence in that culture. In this way an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates values.

“You sound very angry, my friend” said Mr. Inappropriate. “You don’t need to be so upset, you just have past my test, and I would like to congratulate you. Today, in this room, I asked ten people the same two questions as I asked you. Only four people, including you, knew the right meaning of these words.”

“Oh, now I know what you mean, Mr. …thank you for letting me know. I am sorry; I lost my temper for no reason at all. I still have time to improve it. ” By the way, how was your enculturation?”