Are you experiencing interpersonal conflicts or want to know how you can predict conflicts in existing or future relationships that you are contemplating? If so, then I strongly suggest you read for your own knowledge benefit about one major less-known cultural cause of unsuccessful relationships.
I encourage you to pursue a dialogue about important “less known” intracultural (within cultural) factors or causes of interpersonal conflicts with me via email. I encourage and welcome you to share your personal experiences and stories with me and/or share those of others that you know with me. And by doing this we can work together to unscramble some of the more less known cultural reasons/causes behind unsuccessful and conflict prone relationships.
Sincerely, Payam Heidary, M.A. Professor of Psychology See biography
Culture is something that influences our attitudes, behaviors and values and teaches us how to live our life. Culture is everything around us that we experience and that which we are exposed. The schools (educational system/structure), media and laws are all some examples of “cultural pieces.” These pieces collectively define and organize a particular culture.
Every culture significantly influences and shapes our values, attitudes and behaviors. Some people are able to resist these cultural influences while others are more easily taken by these cultural forces. Some of these pieces are similar between various cultures while others are significantly different.
Differences across cultures are more familiar, talked about and explored than differences within each culture. The reason for this is due to the common belief that people from the same country have the same cultural veins and therefore a good match for each other because they are falsely assumed to be “matched culturally or ethnically.”
For example, you will hear many people recommend to their friends or children to marry or date someone who is from the “same” country or culture because this will “automatically” make them a good match for each other. They will go on to say that because you are from the “same” country and thus culture, you will hold the same values, attitudes, personalities, etc. and for this reason will be a good match.
But then the question becomes why are so many intracultural relationships (i.e., friendships, intimate relationships, marriages, etc.) particularly in the U.S., unsuccessful when they form from supposedly “matched people?”
The answer is that within every culture there is a difference in terms of cultural orientations and depending on the match or mismatch of these orientations, this will determine the “matchness” of two people. Each immigrant is faced with two choices that they have to make for themselves while living abroad.
The first choice is the extent to which one wants to continue associating, identifying and participating with their Native Culture. The second choice is the extent to which one wants to continue associating, identifying and participating with their Host Culture. There are four types of immigrants. Every immigrant from any country can be classified into one of these four types of cultural orientation or modes of acculturation.
There are four modes of acculturation: Integration (bicultural), separation, assimilation and marginal.
— An integrated mode is defined as maintaining some degree of one's own original or ethnic culture while participating in the larger culture.
— In contrast, a separated mode is defined as retaining the original ethnic culture while avoiding interaction and participation with the dominant culture.
— An assimilated mode is defined when one's own ethnic culture is not maintained and is replaced with the dominant culture.
— A marginal mode of acculturation implies little interaction with either the original or the host culture.
Research suggests that one's acculturation mode can have both positive and negative impacts on psychological adjustment. A new test instrument was developed by the author for the purposes of identifying the acculturation mode of Iranians (please contact the author via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org for obtaining copies of this bilingual test).
A recent survey conducted on-line at www.iraniansurvey.com showed that these modes of acculturation exist and are frequent across samples of Iranians living throughout the U.S. Qualitative data was used to develop descriptive profiles of Iranians living in the U.S. These profiles are described below.
Their assertion and strong positive feelings about their ethnicity and native country of Iran distinguishes the separated Iranians. One key distinguishing factor is the expressed unconditional love and affection for Iran. Despite acknowledging some perceived negative aspects of Iran (e.g., Fundamentalist Muslims) the expressed deep unconditional love and devotion to Iran is still very strong. Moreover, feelings of loneliness, homesickness or nostalgia is evident along with the expressed hope to return to Iran one day.
Another distinguishing factor is the expressed interest for more solidarity among Iranians and for gaining more rights and representation in the U.S. Concern for and feelings of discontent towards assimilated “Americanized” Iranians is also evident among separated Iranians. A select group of actual quotes and comments collected from a recent Internet survey from separated Iranians at www.iraniansurvey.com, which supports and reflects the aforementioned descriptions about this acculturation group are shown here.
* Age: 65 Gender: Male Acculturation Mode: Separated
“I love Iran forever and hope one day I could live there and that is the only way my children will have the opportunity to touch the soil and feel a part of their homeland.”
* Age: 51 Gender: Male Acculturation Mode: Separated
“I have never felt at home in US. I feel that I am in an expensive and luxury hotel.”
* Age: Unknown Gender: Male Acculturation Mode: Separated
“I am strongly bound to Iran by affection and obligation. No matter how long I live abroad, my heart will always beat for Iran.”
The assimilated Iranians are distinguished by their expressed difficulty and problems with being able to “fit into” the Iranian culture and their hopeless attitude toward the ability to retain Iranian culture in the US. Also evident among this group are strong feelings of being an “American” (American identity – “I'm American”) and strong preference for American lifestyles and living in the U.S. Note that this is in contrast to the nostalgic feelings and unconditional love and affection for Iran as experienced by the separated Iranians.
Another characterization of this group is the belief that citizenship status, residence location and other U.S. demographic factors make the individual inevitably American. Lastly, resorting to dissociation with Iranian identity seems to be evident due to U.S. experiences with prejudice, stereotypes and negative stigma attached to being an Iranian.
Other writers (Bozorgmehr, 2001) have conveyed the same notion that anti-Iranian sentiments in the U.S. have resulted in some Iranians opting to dissociate themselves from their Iranian ethnicity. This seems to be mostly true for the assimilated Iranians in the U.S. A select group of actual quotes and comments from assimilated Iranians, which supports and reflects the aforementioned descriptions about this acculturation group, are shown here.
“I think it is important to mention how important and difficult it is for 2nd & 3rd generations to keep their culture alive through future generations especially if they live in America. It is very hard for Iranian children to instill the same values that their parents taught them to pass onto their children. The parents grew up in America so their children are basically going to become American.”
“I was born and raised here in the US and I have always felt like I am 100% American. I speak perfect English, with no accent, I celebrate All-American holidays, I listen to American music, etc. Although I do respect where my parents come from, my cultural background, and although I do enjoy being with people of my heritage, that does not change how American I am. I went to Iran for the first time this summer and came back home (to California) missing it more than I thought possible. I consider myself a patriotic person, our national anthem means something to me, and perhaps because I was born here, the thought of living in another country does not even cross my mind. Basically I would say that being Persian gives me a wonderful sense of culture and something truly beautiful that will always be a part of me (I do love the music, food, etc). However, I am American, and that's all I know how to be.”
Integrated (bicultural) Iranians
The bicultural Iranians are distinguished by their unique way in associating and identifying with the Iranian and American cultures simultaneously. Typical qualities evident in the expressions of bicultural Iranians is association and identification with being both Iranian and American while acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses of Iranian culture that draws them simultaneously to both cultures.
Also, experiences (e.g., visiting Iran) leading to feelings for preservation and interest in both cultures seems to be common as well. Furthermore, strong connections with Iranian culture and association with American people is evident in feelings expressed.
Lastly, acknowledging interest of being and acting as an American but then accepting and being proud of your native (Iranian) culture appears to be salient among bicultural Iranians. A select group of actual quotes and comments from bicultural Iranians, which supports and reflects the aforementioned descriptions about this acculturation group, are shown here.
“It's weird how I have preserved my culture although I have be raised outside of Iran. But I have always been ashamed of my culture until I visited Iran when I was 14 and that changed my attitude about its culture, music and everything forever.”
“I think Iranian teens growing up in the U.S. go through a phase where we want to be and act American. But I think we eventually learn to accept and be proud of our culture and who we are.”
The marginal Iranians are distinguished primarily by their lack of affect (neutrality) for both their host (American) and native (Iranian) culture. This group is further characterized by their expressed disappointment with Iranian culture due to the perception of Iranians as being obsessed with materialistic goods.
Also, a feeling of neutrality regarding issues surrounding both cultures leading to neutral responses regarding cultural affiliation or orientation. Moreover, the discontent with social perceptions of Iranians in the U.S. appears to further exacerbate dissociation with and feelings of neutrality towards Iranians.
However, it is less clear as to why there is dissociation and neutrality with the host American culture also. A select group of actual quotes and comments from marginal Iranians which supports and reflects the aforementioned descriptions about this acculturation group, are shown here.
“I could not answer a few of your questions accurately, because there were limited number of answers to choose from. For instance, your question “I am happy that I am a member of the group I belong to.” I don't agree or disagree with this statement. I am neutral in certain issues such as this one and my answer probably does not portray my true feelings about such questions.”
Now I want to focus your attention to specific U.S. Iranians that are similar in ages but differ in cultural orientations. One concrete example is shown below:
“I was born and raised here in the U.S. and I have always felt like I am 100% American. I speak perfect English, with no accent, I celebrate All-American holidays, I listen to American music, etc. Although I do respect where my parents come from, my cultural background, and although I do enjoy being with people of my heritage, that does not change how American I am. I went to Iran for the first time this summer and came back home (to California) missing it more than I thought possible. I consider myself a patriotic person, our national anthem means something to me, and perhaps because I was born here, the thought of living in another country does not even cross my mind. Basically I would say that being Persian gives me a wonderful sense of culture and something truly beautiful that will always be a part of me (I do love the music, food, etc). However, I am American, and that's all I know how to be.”
* Age: 20 Gender: Male Acculturation Mode: Separated
“Persian and Iranian is the same thing. I just believe (and I am not alone on this) that Persians are Iranians that don't have enough Iranian blood to actually say that they are Iranian and they want to hide behind the ignorance of the (mostly) American people and only be associated with the rugs and cats, not the Fundamentalist Muslims and hostages and what not. Now I am not saying any of this stuff is good, but it's part of my country, and consequently me. So this is where unconditional love comes into play. Some people just want to love the Persian part of Iran, and I want to love all of it.”
Before you get yourself in any type of relationship check and compare your cultural orientations first, and if they don't match, then it is unlikely that the two of you will be a good match for each other! Here's a general guide for the prediction of interpersonal conflicts:
Separated/Separated = Least problems
Separated/Bicultural = Potential problems
Separated/Marginal = Strong potential for problems
Separated/Assimilated = Strongest potential for problems
Assimilated/Assimilated = Least problems
Assimilated/Bicultural = Potential problems
Assimilated/Marginal = Strong potential for problems
Assimilated/Separated = Strongest potential for problems
Bicultural/Bicultural = Least problems
Bicultural/Separated = Potential problems
Bicultural/Assimilated = Strong potential for problems
Bicultural/Marginal = Strongest potential for problems
Marginal/Marginal = Least problems
Marginal/Separated = Strong potential for problems
Marginal/Assimilated = Strong potential for problems
Marginal/Bicultural = Strongest potential for problems