South Asian Teen Health
South Asian teenagers' feelings about their culture varies. Some may feel uneasy speaking their parents’ language, wearing traditional clothing, or eating South Asian food, while others have grown up immersed in their families’ South Asian cultural traditions. Many fall somewhere in between.
Mira, a South Asian-American teenager, explains: "I consider myself mostly American, because I do not speak my mother tongue fluently. If I had crossed this language barrier, I would probably feel much more connected with true desis [South Asians]. On the other hand, I have my northern Indian pride, and at home eat good Indian food, watch Bollywood movies, and occasionally go to a friend’s Bharatanatyam dance performance."
This is a great example of how South Asian teenagers can integrate their families’ cultural traditions into their lives.
For South Asian teens, balancing home and school lives is challenging. One South Asian teenager explains: "I have balanced my Indian and American culture mainly by separating them--at school, I'm American, and at home, Indian."
This sort of split is bound to happen when South Asian teenagers are involved in their families’ culture and do not have many South Asian friends. However, don't feel obligated to have two completely separate personalities for these two worlds. Be yourself with both your parents and friends. It will make relationships in both realms stronger and more honest.
You can do this by inviting friends over for a traditional dinner, going with friends to a cultural celebration, or simply talking to them about your South Asian culture. You can help your parents experience your favorite American activities by taking them to favorite restaurants, sports games, music festivals, malls, or any fun, memorable place.
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Learning More about Heritage
South Asians who were born and raised in the U.S may partake in mostly American customs and feel as if they are not true to their heritage. One South Asian teen explains how this can cause pressure and stress: "I often find myself in the situation of distant relatives or family friends being shocked at the fact that I do not speak the language that is my parents’ mother tongue. I feel embarrassed and angry when this happens, because it makes me feel that I am not 'Indian enough.'"
Many South Asian teenagers in America feel this way, and wish to know more about their parents’ culture. Some teens do this by exploring more about their heritage, which can be a fun and surprising experience.
If your want to learn more about South Asian culture, talk to your parents, grandparents, or other relatives about what they did as children. Mira, a South Asian teen explains: "An excellent way that I have learned about my heritage is by playing the same games that my father and his friends used to play back in the streets of India in their day. My two favorites are, of course, Pitthu and Kabaddi."
Experiencing these fun, cultural activities can be a wonderful element of life for a South Asian teenager in America. South Asian teenagers can pursue learning more about their culture through books, movies, dance, games or cooking.
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