Assimilation: The Drawbacks Of Cross Cultural Misunderstandings

1575 words - 6 pages

The author of the book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, Anne Fadiman exhibits a story about the collision between two cultures and the way things affected the character’s lives. The main character, Lia, is found grasped in a dilemma within her family’s culture and the American lifestyle. Since a baby, Lia suffered form epileptic seizures, which were viewed as a positive trait for the Hmong community; those people who suffered from seizures were credited to be a twix neeb, in other words, “a person with healing spirit” (Fadiman 21). Lia’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Lee, were having a difficult time comprehending the seriousness of the epilepsies that Lia was suffering from. Her parents had never been exposed to Western medication; therefore, it was very difficult for them to understand the procedures that needed to be completed in order to save Lia’s life. Fadiman enhances her opinion in regards to the situation by stating, “I have come to believe that her [Lia’s] life was ruined by not septic shock or noncompliant parents but by cross-cultural misunderstanding.” Cross-cultural misunderstanding is indeed; the main cause for unsettled immigrant lives in new countries, such as Lia’s family. In order to enhance a successful life at a new country, the Lees needed to adapt and understand American culture into their own lives.
Adaptation is very important when trying to pursue a new living with new set of customs and beliefs. The Lee family formally arrived to America after being persecuted at their native country Laos. Living in America as refugees was not their personal decision, but was necessary in order to escape the war occurring at their native home and survive. Once living in America, the Lees were faced with a serious of cultural challenges. The language barrier and cultural customs, such as medication and technology, were two of the main obstacles that the Lee family faced. According to Derrick Jersen, an environmental activist, “if the culture moves, it must adapt itself to the will of the locality, or it will consume the locality and the locality will die, on a finite planet, that the culture will die as well” (334). Conforming to Jersen’s view, the Lee family needed to adapt to the American culture in order to maintain their values and beliefs intact. Adaptation was the most difficult thing the Lee family had to do. The Hmong background made them believe in a certain way, for example they only trusted spiritual healing, and their lifestyles were very different than the mainstream Americans. In order to adapt, the Lees would have had to first learn and speak the English language, which they were not familiar with. Unfortunately, the language barrier was one of the most imperative aspects that the Lees had to cope with. During the unfortunate times in which Lia began to suffer from seizures caused by her epilepsy, there were major misunderstandings with the doctors...

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