To me, culture refers to how one’s environment growing up has an effect on the way one thinks and acts. These experiences not only guide us in acting as a barometer of right and wrong, but also enable us to connect with other people who share our views more easily. Culture not just acts as a moral compass for us to make our decisions, but also shines through our personality.

Although I have grown up in numerous countries, I still believe that the culture that has predominantly been ingrained in me is that of India. To me, the main crux of Indian culture is that it is highly hierarchical. Whether it be in terms of how you speak to a member of your family or the subject you decide to study at college, everything is organized and perceived in rankings and in comparison to something else. Having had this mentality ingrained in me at a very young age, I was quite a focused child: I prioritized activities in the order that they would help me grow and develop, and while this definitely had its benefits in the sense of keeping me disciplined, in hindsight, it probably made me very one dimensional in my thinking.

However, after moving abroad to various countries, these perceptions of mine were challenged quite quickly. In Japan, while order and discipline were huge aspects of the culture, there was a pleasantly surprising lack of judgment in the culture. People would work tirelessly during the day, but almost always end it by going to a bar with their work colleagues and drinking as much as they could, fondly known as nominication. In Taiwan, I was introduced to a further sense of freedom, whereby many people prided themselves not because of the company they worked for or the position they held, but rather on their hobbies/passions and service to the local community. One more relocation to the UAE brought me to a society more akin to my experiences in India, but with a stronger sense of religion and spirituality. Surrounded by places of worship and a sense of religious responsibility that permeated even among those of my age, I too subconsciously started to try and understand more about my religious beliefs, and mark my time in the UAE as the beginning of my exploration into religion.

Today, having made one more transition to the US 3 years ago, I am still in the midst of processing all the aforementioned cultural experiences in my attempt to understand what my exact cultural values exactly are. Regardless of whether I align with and understand one culture more than another, I will always be grateful for how these experiences have shaped my identity today.