Cross-Cultural Relationships

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In order to explore and appreciate cross-cultural relationships, I interviewed someone who was of a different cultural background than myself. In doing so, the point of learning in this way undoubtedly promotes a sense of cultural pluralism, tolerance, and understanding of people who are different - something that is essential in the United States today in the face of a growing and diverse population. The two areas of attention that I focused on were gender and ethnic background, in which the interviewee, named Martin, was opposite to me. He is a male and from the European country, Poland and I am a female and I am a Mexican-American. A comprehension of the following terms must first be addressed: Gender is defined as “the socially learned attitudes and behaviors that characterize a person of one sex or the other, based on differing social and cultural expectations of the sexes” (Benokraitis, p. 508). Gender roles are the “distinctive patterns of those attitudes, behaviors, and activities that society prescribes for females and males” (Benokraitis, p. 508). Ethnicity “is based on cultural differences, refers to the historic origins of an individual’s family, and identifies the country of origin from which an individual's ancestors came” (Koppelman, p. 12).

My empirical source can be found in my readings in various textbooks, namely Marriage and Families by Nijole V. Benokraitis. An entire chapter is dedicated to Socialization and Gender Roles, so let us first explore this topic. Many people get sex and gender confused, but sex is actually “a biological designation with which we are born,” whereas “gender is a social creation that teaches us to be masculine or feminine as we perform various roles” (Benokraitis p. 107). The result of gender roles is that we learn to become male or female through interactions through and with family members and the larger society. The book says that in most societies, “men are expected to provide shelter, food, and clothing for their families, and women are expected to nurture their children and tend to the family's everyday needs” (Benokraitis p. 108). How this pertains to ethnic background, relies on a specific society's expectation of what is considered appropriate for each gender, and can vary depending on where a person is from, where they grew up, and where they currently live if not their native country. So with this information, I set out to ask questions that were aimed at comparing variations in our values, gender stereotypes, and interpersonal relations between our two cultures, and to find similarities as well as differences in them.

Based on what I already knew about American roots being deeply engrained in European colonialism in America, gender roles between America and Poland (both “Westerners” and industrialized nations), I had guessed would probably not be that much different. My view of the United States as a country is that there is a strong emphasis on freedom, patriotism, consumerism and especially capitalism. Europe, in contrast is more pro-socialist (universal healthcare, childcare, etc.), and therefore there is probably a sense of collectivism that is likely not experienced here in America, as it is in Poland. I also predicted that our main differences would mostly be between our ethnic backgrounds via language, family values, education, and even our world view.

My interview questions were as follows:
1. What is your native country or culture? Poland/Polish
2. What languages can you speak? Polish, English and a little bit of German. Latin was also taught in college.
3. Where do you/have you live(d)? For how long? I've lived in the United States since 2008. Before that only Poland, first Krosno (born) and then Krakow (southern part of Poland). 4. What are some aspects or values you feel define your culture and/or are important to the people of Poland? Value of family/marriage, modesty, simplicity, the importance of attaining higher education, and leisure time....
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