I was born and raised in the United States, a country that I can describe as a multicultural society. I have read and heard different stories about American culture. Some stories have made me detest the culture, but others have been inspirational. When I heard that I was free to choose an interviewee for this assignment, the first person I thought of was my Ethiopian friend. He is a young man in his late twenties; he told me that he is twenty-nine years old. I felt that he could be a reliable primary resource for this assignment because he often uses the words “Back home…” in his conversation. This paper discusses my experience with the interviewee and what I learned about his culture.
My interviewee is of Abeshian culture, a general term for people of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin in East Africa. During the interview, I asked him questions about food, religion, political life in his country, language, his expectations while living in the United States, and areas of his life that the discipline of Human Service impacts. I am glad that my interviewee was well-versed for the interview and seemed to have prepared for it. I learned that Habeshian people are proud of their culture, and I think this is the reason my interviewee kept using “We” and “Back at home…” whenever he responded to my questions. He appeared too attached to his countrymen to the extent that he did not remember any hardship that his culture faces.
One of the unique things I noted is how Habeshians treat the elderly. In the United States, it is common for young people to take the elderly to nursing homes. My interviewee told me that Habeshians do not have nursing homes and have never thought of its possibility in a society that revers the elderly. The community exhibits a sense of respect and responsibility by making sure that the elderly are given proper respect.
Regarding food, respect, and religion, I was surprised by how Habeshians value community life. In the United States, I have seen how it is nearly impossible for people to make short conversations and people taking meals in different plates. My interviewee told me that food is eaten in a group on a large plate/dish. Young people eat in groups while sharing meals. Women cannot eat unless the man of the house has been served. It is also considered disrespectful for women and children to sit when the man of the house or an elderly man is standing. My interviewee did not have any adverse impact on his culture.
My interviewee described the generation of his culture as having authoritative parents that believed in authoritative father figures. The punishment was inevitable, and parents made sure that they set academic goals for their children. This is a bit different from the American culture where children are encouraged to pursue their hopes and dreams. When asked about his expectations while living in the U.S, he said that his goal is to complete education and go back home to build his community. He shared the dreams of writing a novel about the Habeshi culture. On language, he said that he speaks English as the second language, even though he has lost the Tigrinya which is his first language.
This interview exercise was my learning experience. I have read about African culture in magazines, but I had an opportunity to interview someone that could help me understand the Habeshi culture. I thought that my culture is strong. However, this interview made me realize that different people have different reasons to value their cultures. My interviewee has hopes and dreams for his culture. Even though many people tend to lose their cultural identity when living in foreign lands, my friend seems determined to use his experiences in the United States to improve what he calls “back home…”