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Exploring Cultural Meaning

Video Type: In Practice

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Summary

Lee is a 22-year old college student who moved to North America from rural China with his parents when he was 13 years old. He is feeling isolated and stressed by his studies. Lee is living in residence, but characterizes himself as introverted and is not engaged in the party scene there. He enrolled in engineering and is struggling with the course load. As the first member of his family to enroll in university, Lee is feeling pressure from his parents to succeed. In this exchange, Anita hears Lee’s reluctance to share his distress with his parents as associated with his membership in the cultural subgroup of men. In other words, she hears him as a somewhat “typical” male who is not inclined to share his feelings. Lee understands it differently. To what does he ascribe his choice not to disclose to his parents? How does Anita respond to Lee’s clarification on this topic and what impact does the exchange have on their quest for mutual understanding? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? Lee’s situations has various cultural currents running through it. As a second generation immigrant, he is well integrated into dominant society and at the same time has a foot in his parents’ country of origin, China. And while Anita also is a second generation immigrant, her East Indian heritage differs from lee’s Chinese background. At the same time, Lee is a man and Anita a woman and this introduces a second cross-cultural dimension to their conversation. A third distinction which arises elsewhere is that Anita comes more from an urban, middle class context while Lee’s parents were poor farmers before emigrating. Anita and Lee must negotiate these various contextual differences as they seek to understand each other.

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