living between arab and american culture

There is no doubt that American culture is spread throughout the world. Many countries, especially in the Middle East, practice and live American culture daily.  Although there are many similarities in American and  Arab society, one thing is for sure, their culture is very different. Merriem Webster online dictionary defines Culture as, “the beliefs, customs, art, etc., of a particular society, group, place or time.” Which means, a group of people who define a way of living by their priorities and set of beliefs.

One major difference that I definitely recognized being an Egyptian-American being raised in both cultures, is that in the American culture, freedom is mostly valued over religion, while in the Arab culture, Religion tops all. There is no doubt that there are many people who practice religion very orthodoxy but, when it comes to individuals choosing, freedom has always been a priority in the American culture. While freedom is also a part of individuality in Arab culture, anything that comes into conflict with religion, will not be accepted. For example, someone having the same sexual preference would be widely accepted in America, but completely unaccepted in Arab countries, because it comes into conflict with religious beliefs, and religion is a major part in Arab culture.



Aside from religion, Arabs value their family very much.  According to PBS, “Family is a very important aspect in Arab culture.” In fact, family is a huge part of most Arabs daily lives. The practice of family gathering is normal and daily in an Arab household. The western world is often close to their intermediate family, consisting of parents, siblings, and sometimes grandparents. But in Arab countries, families are considered to be like a “tribe” which means, they tend to be close not only to their intermediate families, but also to their extended families, such as cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. In some areas in certain countries like Egypt, there are families that live all in the same building. The oldest individual in the family often owns a whole building that is divided into condos on each floor, and each family has a floor, thus sharing all the same home, sort of. So, the building would carry all generations of the family, beginning with the eldest living in the first floor, to the youngest son in the last floor.

Another difference is, in the Western world is as soon as one turns 18, into adulthood, they traditionally move out, or start depending on themselves for financial needs and such. In the Arab world, the son and daughter of Arab parents can live with their parents, with parents fully supporting them, financially, until married. Mostly common for females, the father is required to take care of all expenses of the daughter until married, same goes for the man, except for he is more responsible to save money to be able to get married and depend on self. So as this arab vine would put it, in many cases, you pretty much don’t move out until you are married.



The western world is often very influential of the Arab world, and as much as you see McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks,  and other American brands everywhere in the streets of Arab country, that does not change Arab culture but opens their minds to the western way of living. There are many more differences between Arabs and American culture, and although it differs from each Arab country to the other, one thing is for sure, they all share a similar culture due to their related beliefs. To understand one’s way of living is to understand their culture, because to understand culture, is to be able to communicate.


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