Two Cultures: How do I Find Where I Belong?


Two Cultures: How do I Find Where I Belong?

Author: Lara Kalaf, psychologist and her team

Do you go through highs and lows with your parents who sometimes criticize the way you dress, act and speak, or even who your friends are?

Sad, angry and alone, you might feel that you’re “stuck” between two worlds: that of your parents, who want you to respect their values and traditions, and that of the society you live in, which may have a very different set of expectations.

Here is some advice to help you better understand what you’re going through and find a place you belong between your family’s culture and your host country’s culture.

Why can it be difficult to be “between” two cultures?

When your family immigrated, you surely came into contact with other young people and teachers through school. This contact allowed you to learn the expectations, values and language of your new country quickly so that you could be accepted.

On the other hand, your parents may have been traumatized by the things they lived through in their country. They were probably very stressed when they arrived in their host country, where they had to find a place to live, get a job or deal with administrative procedures. Some people may also have judged your parents for the values they brought from their home country. All these factors could have caused them to be less open to the host country’s culture.

Therefore, a gap can form between you and your parents, which can make you feel:

  • Lonely,
  • Sad,
  • A lack of self-confidence,
  • Shame for not being like other people,
  • Guilt toward your family which you may feel you’ve “betrayed.”

Or you may:

  • Feel responsible for your parents,
  • Have trouble feeling safe or protected by them,
  • Feel anxious or angry, especially if you’re a victim of discrimination because of your background.

Navigating between two cultures is a complicated process, but don’t be discouraged—it’s necessary so that you can find your identity and build a peaceful relationship with your environment.😉

Why do your parents sometimes have a hard time accepting that you don’t think like them?

Why do your parents sometimes have a hard time accepting that you don’t think like them?

Parents may resist because:

  • They’re scared of losing their culture or want to pass on certain aspects of their culture, like the language, because they believe it could help you.
  • They’re worried you may be in danger, especially if they don’t understand the host country’s lifestyle very well and they have difficulty communicating in another language.
  • They possess religious or cultural beliefs that push them to reject certain behaviours.

Even though experiencing conflicts with your family can be hard, remember that being interested in your host country’s culture is a good thing so don’t force yourself to choose one culture over another. In fact, you’re free to create your own unique and rich “mix” of your two cultures.

💡 Don’t forget: biculturalism is a huge asset, a source of new ideas and open-mindedness. Be proud of it!

How can you solve conflicts with your family on cultural issues?

Arguing with your parents is hard and sometimes you might want to run away or engage in violent or risky behaviour, such as taking drugs. But this will only make the situation worse.

So, here is some advice to help you talk to your parents about what you are experiencing:

  • Start by telling them, clearly and concretely, what you’re experiencing and how it makes you feel. You can write it out in advance to make it easier ✍.
  • Avoid blaming your parents, because doing so will make it harder for them to understand you and may cut off communication 🗣.

But keep in mind:

  • Resolving conflicts can sometimes be a long and complicated process, so be patient🧘‍♀️.
  • Even if you disagree with your family on some things, you can still enjoy spending time with them and maintain a strong bond 👨‍👨‍👧‍👦.

If, despite all your efforts, your parents aren’t open to a discussion, don’t suffer alone. Share what you’re experiencing with someone close to you who will understand, such as:

  • A brother, sister, cousin or friend who also immigrated,
  • An empathetic aunt or uncle,
  • A teacher or coach you trust,
  • A community or religious leader you can rely on.

And if what you’re experiencing becomes too much, think about reaching out for help:

👉 At school, by talking to a psychologist who will know how to listen to you.

👉 By contacting a free and anonymous helpline like Tel-jeunes or Kids Help Phone to talk with a counsellor.

Remember that if you’re over 14 years old, you can consult a health professional without your family’s consent.

👉 Cultural Consultation Service (CCS) 

👉 Training and Research Transcultural Team

However, this may be hard to manage, so think about talking to your school or community centre’s counsellors for support—don’t go through this alone. You can also ask a friend to go with you.



Speak with a Tel-jeunes counsellor: it’s anonymous, free and accessible 24/7