Finding the Beauty in Cultural Differences

Emily Blumberg, asst. opinions editor

People who I talk to will often tell me that they’re German or Irish. Some say they’re a mix of many nationalities. Others will admit that their families have been in America too long to embrace any kind of heritage. So I ask, do you know where you come from?

America, and specifically Chicago, is notorious for being considered a “melting pot.” The country brings together unimaginable amounts of nationalities while respecting and even venturing into each other’s cultures. However, it all starts with knowing who you are and where you come from.

I am an American, and I have fit into many stereotypes to prove it. I watch American football on the weekends, I indulge in a McDonald’s hamburger every so often, and I owned an American Girl doll growing up. I attend school five days a week, and play badminton for South. I am a citizen of this country. Yet, the person I’ve become can be accredited to a place outside of the United States.

My heritage all stems from a single country: Latvia. It is located in the Baltics, and is found between Estonia and Lithuania. Many people have never heard of it, and most would not be able to find it on a map. Even so, I have spent my entire life embracing Latvian culture. 

Even though I didn’t think much of it at the time, I spent my childhood speaking two languages and attending Latvian school every Saturday. I participated in cultural events, met the Latvian president and baked piragi with my grandmother on special occasions. However, it was only recently that I began to understand the beauty in cherishing moments such as these. 

As a child, the cultural traditions I often engaged in seemed all too familiar and normal to recognize them as a privilege, yet I have begun to recognize that it is a unique gift. Many of my friends do not have a good understanding of their history; they are not bilingual nor do they have a deep connection with their culture. These polarizing perspectives on heritage can be linked to individual approaches to assimilation versus acculturation. 

According to, assimilation is when,“The minority culture is fully absorbed into the majority culture, [and acculturation is] when the minority culture changes but is still able to retain unique cultural markers of language, food and customs.” 

At South, I can’t help but notice the number of students who have chosen to assimilate. They remain in the dark about their heritage, and quite frankly, many people don’t know for certain where their family is from. Where’s the beauty in that?

Despite finding few statistics on proven benefits of acculturation, I can say from personal experience it makes a difference. It makes us unique. In America, it is easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond, and it often gets us asking many questions. Who am I? What makes me different from everyone else? How am I unique? The answer can be found in your heritage. 

Every person has a family history to discover. Start by asking questions. Ask family members, or research it yourself. By getting to know your background, it opens up doors to be involved in your own culture. It also allows you to understand why you are in America.

It can be overwhelming to find out your history, let alone involving yourself in that culture. However, it’s important to understand that every cannoli you eat or every visit you take to Chinatown stems from a group of people choosing to embrace their culture. Now it’s your turn!