Global Youth Culture, Inevitable Fate

by Ali Can Duran, Izmir University of Economics, October 30, 2008

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Ever since I have come to the USA as an international college student from Turkey, I have faced difficulties caused by cultural differences between my culture and America’s. Although cultural differences can be tough for international students, despite them I frequently feel like I am in my home country because American youth culture is global. I am comfortable in the U.S. because global youth culture connects countries as diverse as the U.S. and Turkey. How is it possible that I could find such striking similarities between two such different countries in such distant continents?

When visiting different countries, international students often assume that things in the “foreign” country will be distressingly different and that they will feel lost, disoriented and bothered. Students worry that they will face difficulties and become involved in terrible situations. Goabroad.info describes these situations in the article “Culture Shock and Traveling Abroad” as “language troubles, classroom troubles, shopping troubles, perhaps housing, or roommate troubles. . . . The student probably is also annoyed because the attention he/she expects from the local people is strangely lacking” (International Studies Abroad, para. 3). Because I was warned about them, I prepared myself mentally for the worst possible situations while flying to the USA. Until just before I settled down in my dormitory, the fear of culture shock bothered me. Then I learned to overcome my fear and discomfort day by day.

The reason for the differences may be the dissimilarities between my cultural expectations and those of young American students. Some of these differences make me uncomfortable. The most bothersome difference is young Americans’ very relaxed behaviors in society. Their speech and gestures sometimes can be irritating. For instance, young people in America curse too much and use rude gestures. In Turkey, we curse too, but only if we are angry, not in daily conversations. Constant swearing every other word has been something I’ve had to contend with when living with young American students.

The second thing that clearly surprised me is the relationships between the opposite sexes. As far as I can observe, night life near the college generally ends with sex, much of it sexual relations for just one night. If you live in Turkey, a one-night-stand is uncommon. Although the sexual relations between young, unmarried couples are considered normal in my country, we say, “love is first, sex is second.” The Turkish perspective is simply that if you don't have love, you should not have sex. As US journalist and novelist Norman Mailer said “One thing I've learned in all these years is not to make love when you really don't feel it; there's probably nothing worse you can do to yourself than that” (www.quotationspage.com, quotation #2925).

What is more, young people in Turkey keep their sexuality more private than young people do in the USA. As far as I hear and overhear from the conversations in Cortland, I can say that young Americans talk about their sex experiences like lecturers. One night I woke up at one o'clock and I went to my floor's lounge where I heard two men and a woman discussing sex. The woman asked one of the men “how was your night?” He started to explain his sexual experience: “She was awesome, her... is so hot. We tried many positions, dude! and the best one was...” They knew that I was there and I could hear them, but they were totally unashamed to speak publicly about the specifics of sex. The exact opposite of the American youth culture, Turkish youths do not talk about their sexual relations easily; sex is private.

American youth culture's viewpoint about sexual relationships was irritating for me at first, but after hearing about my roommate’s sexual conquests over the weekend and seeing how American TV series such as “Nip/Tuck,” “Big Shots,” and “Dirt” talk explicitly about sex, I accepted these unfamiliar behaviors and perspectives to avoid being embarrassed and annoyed. It doesn't mean I got used to people discussing one-night-stands; I still have a Turkish perspective about sexual relationships. Craig Storti clearly explains why we adapt to local culture in his book The Art of Crossing Cultures: “Becoming culturally effective does not mean becoming a local; it means trying to see the world the way the locals do and trying to imagine how they see you. If you can do that, you will have done all that's necessary to function effectively overseas”(95).

The third sharp difference between American and Turkish youth culture is found in their different senses of humor. American youth culture considers some behaviors as funny that are not considered funny in Turkey, such as farting and burping. Because of Turkish customs, this behavior is not acceptable in public or in front of other people. There are many jokes, t-shirts, and posters about farting in the USA. Also, there are many comedy movies that include farting scenes. Some of them are Dumb and Dumber, Click, American Pie, Naked Gun, and Superhero Movie. In the farting scene of Dumb and Dumber, one of this movie’s characters tried to fart into the lighter and made a flame. In Click, the character played by Adam Sandler farts in his boss's face when time was frozen. I watched all of these movies in my country, and I laughed at the farting scenes. However, I noticed that only a few adults laughed at these scenes while almost all young people were laughing. In the past, Turkish young people wouldn’t have laughed either, but now their sense of humor is influenced by U.S. youth culture. That is to say, humor about farting is also used now in Turkish movies, but doesn’t settle in daily life jokes or humors unlike young American’s, for example, we don’t have any games like “doorknob-safety”.

Although I had to face irritating situations, such as swearing in casual speaking or talking explicitly about sex, I also realized many neutral differences. These differences didn't bother me because I found them acceptable. One of these acceptable differences was the way students greeted each other. In my country, the only way to greet somebody is to shake hands, if you are not close contacts. In the USA it is more common for young people to greet each other by hitting each others' fists, which is called “pound” or by hitting each other’s palms then pulling back. After an awkward adaptation period, I got used to greeting in these ways. In the first couple weeks of my dorm adventures, it was inevitable to face funny incidents because of these different greetings. In the first couple weeks of my dorm adventures, I tried to shake the hands of other students, they tried to hit their fists to my fist although I didn't make a fist. Initially, I felt stupid greeting people with these unfamiliar gestures, but after slapping palms a few times with my roommates, I got good at it and didn’t feel so silly.

Somehow, I adapted to some of these differences or I got used to living with them. However, I realize that American and Turkish youth cultures have numerous similarities as much as their differences. Even more, because of these similarities, I feel sometimes that I live not in Cortland, but in another city in my country. Of the similarities, the most surprising relates to music bands. When I walk through the hall of my floor, the music I hear is familiar to me. My generation in Turkey listens to the same bands as young American people do. Thus, sounds which come from rooms are not strange for me. Moreover, both Turkish and American bars and clubs play the same music. Rap, metal music, and electronic music are considered global music types: that's why they are familiar to me.

This similarity is not a recent development; many Turkish adults grew with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley in addition to Turkish music. My generation listens to Metallica as an American heavy metal band or American popular music. Clearly, not all Turkish people listen to American bands; but it seems inevitable that listeners all over the globe are involuntarily listening to music influenced by American pop culture. In other words, American bands have marked other cultures' bands.

I thought about this for a while and I realized that the music I listen to or the clothes I wear somehow are American in origin. The singers of Turkish music I have enjoyed all my life may be from my country, but the origins of their music are American. For example, Tarkan is a famous Turkish singer and his songs are similar to American pop songs in terms of rhythm, instruments, and performing style. Craig Storti, in his book The Art of Crossing Cultures, points out that, “In the age of globalization and cross-cultural training we all know better that the world is home to a great variety of people and cultures” (69). Indeed, there are many different cultures in the world.

However, one outcome of the globalization of cultures is to make cultures close. The reason I see extensive similarities between American and Turkish youth cultures may be globalization. I think that young peoples' world views and ways of life allow globalization to affect them easily. Because of globalization, similarities will exponentially increase. Nobody can say that high-fives, one-night-stands, and joke farting will not be part of Turkish life in the near future.

Sources
Storti, Craig. The Art of Crossing Cultures.
U.S: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2nd edition, 2001.

Norman Mailer, US journalist & novelist (1923-2007)
Quotations Page

“Culture Shock and Traveling Abroad”
Go Abroad

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