The United States is growing to be increasingly diverse. According to Pew Research Center, by 2055 the United States will not have one, single majority race. The migration of immigrants over the past few decades has increased tremendously (Caumont & Cohn, 2016). Majority of immigrants used to come from Latin America, however now the majority of immigrants are coming from Asia (Caumont & Cohn, 2016). For this reason, it is important for people of all cultures to take the time to learn about each other, their cultural similarities and differences, especially health care providers.
The more people acknowledge the similarities and differences between each other, the more we will get along. When people educate themselves on other cultures they create more open-mindedness, comfort with those who are “different” and a better understanding of different parts of the world. In addition, this will help prevent stereotyping. This paper will compare and contrast the similarities and differences between, a female Palestinian Muslim and a male Atheist caucasian American.
To obtain an accurate representation of Caucasian American culture an interview was conducted the research method. Various questions were asked about cultural identity, religion, traditions, holidays, birth, death, gender roles and stereotypes. The participant was a caucasian 34-year-old male. The interview was only conducted with one person, so the data may be limited and only relevant to some.
Findings and Discussion
Mathew Reed, the interviewee, described his cultural identity as an atheist Caucasian-American, born in the Midwest to upper-middle-class parents. His relatives are predominantly French and English. Mathew tended to favor his mother’s side more. Mathew’s mother is Catholic, French and Irish and their primary focus in life is larger families and educational pursuits. On the other hand, his father’s side is distinctly more rural whose primary focus was car culture, guns, personal liberty, and evangelical Protestantism. Being a Palestinian Muslim, I was really intrigued by Matt’s culture because I knew I was going to learn new information on someone different than me. We were both born in the Midwest, however, my parents were both born and raised in Palestine. Making my environment at home a traditional Palestinian home. I grew up with an emphasis on religion, holding onto my roots, strong family values and education.
Appropriate interactions vary from culture to culture. Matt described what he perceives is a rude interaction as when someone shows no gesture of acknowledgement such as nodding or shaking hands, when people talk at uncomfortably loud volumes, no eye contact, when one does not introduce themselves and standing at an improperly close distance. According to International Affairs Canada, many people in America consider someone being late as when they are not 15 minutes early(“Foreign Affairs”, 2018).
Deadlines, punctuality, and productivity are extremely important in the American culture (“Foreign Affairs”, 2018). Controversial topics in America include the death penalty, gay rights, abortion, civil rights; politics and religion in general (“Foreign Affairs”, 2018). Palestinians perceive rude interactions a bit differently. Some examples are when someone does not stand-up when greeting another person, when male and female strangers have direct eye contact, being too friendly with the opposite gender, eating in a public place during the holy month of Ramadan when others are fasting and not showing any interest in the other person’s family or health.
Punctuality is not a priority to Palestinians. People joke around and say they run on Arab time. Offensive topics not to be discussed with Palestinians are sexual references, recreational drugs and drinking (“Foreign Affairs”, 2018). There are slight differences between the two cultures but overall if someone is respectful and attempts to learn about cultural differences then everyone will be happy.
For some, religion is their life, while others believe in the rules and laws of society. Matt described himself as an atheist, with personal liberties as something extremely sacred to him. According to American Atheists “For recent surveys, the Pew Research Center has grouped atheists, agnostics, and the “unaffiliated” into one category (“American Atheists”). The so-called “Nones” are the fastest growing “religious” demographic in the United States” (“American Atheists”).
Atheism is commonly incorrectly defined as the disbelief of god, however, it is more accurately defined as a lack of belief in gods (“American Atheists”). Most people would assume that me being a Muslim, I was extremely judgmental to Matt. However, we live in a society with rules, and a mutual respect for one another and that is the key to every encounter, with every person. We all may come from different backgrounds, however, in the end we are all human and that’s all that matters. As a Muslim I believe in God and religion is a huge part of my life. I pray five times a day, which is obligatory for all Muslims. Prayer helps us stay in constant remembrance, thankfulness and repentance to God. All in all, Matt and I differ greatly religion-wise. We both respect each other, no matter the others religious beliefs.
Traditions vary, from family to family, let alone culture to culture. Matt described himself as more-or-less traditional depending on varying perspectives. His mother worked outside of the house, and both his parents shared responsibilities for raising him, with both being equal figures of parental authority. Etiquette based on gender is currently being improved and gender roles are relaxing in regards to careers, families, sexuality, and more.
However, Matt did mention how he believed certain practices such as Ob-Gyn and urology, for example, had a definite preference in gender, but by large a doctor is a doctor. According to Becker’s ASC, in the United States, all medical specialties are primarily male physicians (Pallardy, 2015). With obstetrics, gynecology, geriatrics, neonatal-perinatal, and child/adolescent psychiatry to be pretty half and a half (Pallardy, 2015). However, the only specialty with primarily female physicians is pediatrics (Pallardy, 2015). These statistics supported Matt’s idea of gender roles improving.
When comparing Palestinian culture, I would say it overlapped greatly. Most Palestinian families, aspire for both of their sons and daughters to get an education and work. Although, the more traditional families would expect the girl to stay at home and take care of household duties, that perspective is slowly and constantly evolving. In addition, it is usually looked down upon for most girls, but boys as well, to move out of their family’s home, prior to marriage. Matt described how, a child becomes legally an adult at 18, but it is rare for them to begin living on their own immediately. Due to rising costs of living and expanded educational demand.
Both of Matt’s parents came from different religious backgrounds. While they both celebrate holidays that have Christian connections, such as Easter and Christmas. He emphasized that this was solely for family togetherness rather than religious observance. Christmas is celebrated with family, gifts, decorating, and cooking. Easter as well, but not as a religious holiday, rather, a chance to decorate eggs, find baskets, and eat candy. In addition, Halloween is not seen as an evil holiday, but rather a chance to flex creative talents. Whereas, Muslims have three major holidays, including Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, and Eid Al-Adha. They all hold great religious meaning.
Ramadan is the holy month in which the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, was revealed. It is a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. Eating, drinking, smoking, having sexual relations, swearing, acting rudely or meanly are all prohibited from sunrise to sunset. Eid Al-Fitr is a holiday celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The larger holiday, which is greatly celebrated around the world, Eid Al-Adha, is a holiday honoring the story of Prophet Ibrahim during the Islamic pilgrimage, also known as Hajj. These holidays are celebrated with a prayer in the morning, followed by spending time with family and eating sweets all day. All in all, even though we both celebrate different holidays and for different reasons, both cultures use holidays as moments to spend time with family.
A birth is typically a cause for celebration, preceded with a party called a, “baby shower”, in American culture. Some may have home births, however, most births are in a hospital with or without the help of a midwife. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, approximately 35,000 births occur at home, with one fourth being unplanned (“Women’s Health, 2017). Similarly, for Palestinians, there is not a specified location for births. It goes back to the family and the accessibility of the mother in her situation.
However, instead of a baby shower, Muslims hold a ceremony welcoming the baby called an, “aqiqah”. It is traditionally held on the seventh day after the child’s birth. For food, the family slaughters one or two sheep or goats. They must be sacrificed in according to Islamic rule of “halal” meat. The animal must be healthy, not mistreated, and killed in a way that is humane that they would feel no pain. In addition, they cannot be killed in front of any other animal. One-third of the meat is given away to the poor and the rest is served to the guests during the ceremony. The child’s hair is cut, and its weight in gold or silver is given as donation to the poor.
There is a huge range of practices in American culture, regarding death and disposition of remains. Certain actions have to be performed for the sake of being respectful towards the person whose body it was, as well as the family. Death is usually met with a less formal ritual of remembrance, called a wake, and a funeral where the person’s requested internment takes place. This could either be a religious ceremony, or a secular one. Most choose burial after embalming, to allow for an open-casket viewing, or cremation. In regards to Islamic rituals during death, when someone passes away the body must be buried within 24 hours, so that the soul can be put to rest.
The body must be washed and wrapped in a white cloth. There is a prayer done for the deceased, a meal eating in their honor and a three-day funeral. During these three days of mourning, people visit the family of the deceased to pay their respects, which is obligatory in Islam. The Quran is constantly being played, and/ or read to peacefully put the soul at rest. Additionally, women are not allowed at the grave during the burial. This is because they are known to be more emotional. That being said, there cannot be screaming and crying as they are lowering the body into the ground. It is believed that then, the soul will be put to rest in an unpeaceful state.
Stereotyping particularly cultures and religions is the main source of setbacks in establishing trustworthy relationships. Matt was asked to describe common assumptions that someone from a different culture might make about his. Being a white, male, middle-class American, they are often seen as overweight, and who are generally ignorant of international concerns. The list of stereotypes for other cultures could fill libraries. Being a female, Palestinian, and Muslim, I could be judged by three completely different angles.
As a Palestinian, I could be stereotyped as being violent, extreme, anti-semitic, and a terrorist. Similarly, as a Muslim, I could be labeled as, a terrorist, an extremist, anti-America, and violent. Lastly as a female, I could be assumed to be fragile, weak, and dependent on a man. All stereotypes are unfair and untrue. A person should never be judged by a group association, rather as an individual. In addition, specifically as a health care provider, there should be no judgement in any sort of way towards my future patients.
Health care providers are givers. They give every day from their time, to their knowledge, and a piece of their heart to every patient. Patients are usually at their most vulnerable state. As a health care provider, it is necessary to keep in mind that you may be seeing that patient on their worst day. So adding onto their pain by stereotyping or judging a patient by their culture or faith, is the last thing they need. Instead, educating oneself about religions, traditions, and cultures that are different than theirs would be most beneficial for both the healthcare provider and the patient.
As the healthcare provider, they would be able to accomplish a lot more with their patient, because we can treat each patient based on their cultural preference. The patient would be comfortable and co-operative. As well as, more likely to build rapport with their healthcare provider and listen to the advice or instructions given to them. Listening and hearing what someone needs before acting and assuming you know what they need is key.
If most of the people in the United States were the exact same, and we had nothing to set us apart from each other, life would be extremely boring. In addition, we would have no idea how to deal with the differences in cultures when necessary. It is a privilege that living in America we are exposed to so many different cultures, and this privilege should be dealt with wisely. Especially in the healthcare field, being culturally aware is the make or break. Taking the time to educate oneself about how to respectfully conversate with a certain culture, could prevent accidently disrespecting someone.
To be knowledgeable on what is inappropriate and appropriate related to all of the diverse religions and cultures, especially birth and death traditions, and to be aware of the diverse holidays that are celebrated, is all about being a respectful healthcare provider. One should be aware of their own stereotypes before entering the workplace, and educating oneself to respect the other cultures and not let it impact our treatment of patients.
- Cohn, D., & Caumont, A. (2016, March 31). 10 demographic trends that are shaping the U.S. and the world. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/31/10-demographic-trends-that-are-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world/
- Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada. (2018, September 19). Cultural Information – West Bank and Gaza | Centre for Intercultural Learning. Retrieved from https://www.international.gc.ca/cil-cai/country_insights-apercus_pays/ci-ic_ps.aspx?lang =eng
- Pallardy, C. (2015, February 13). Male & female active physicians: 70 statistics by specialty. Retrieved from https://www.beckersasc.com/gastroenterology-and-endoscopy/male-female-active-physicians-70-statistics-by-specialty.html