The identity of each person determines their worldview and their attitude towards various aspects of life. The cultural background and the environments where people grow up and live make a major impact on the formation of identities. The way people see their health and what they consider healthy and unhealthy also depends on their cultural background. This paper presents an interview with a person who belongs to a diverse culture and has arrived in the USA as an immigrant.
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Interviewee: Galina Kucher Yoon, 67 years old, born in Ukraine (former USSR republic)
By origin, I come from the Republic of Cuba and identify as a Latino person. The people of my culture have a very strong sense of cultural identity also known as “Cubanidad” (Cultural Profiles – Cubans, n. d.). This identity feeling is the main determinant of the behaviors of migrants and immigrants who are multiple these days. UNFPA found that the number of people who moved away from their countries of birth is larger than during any of the earlier eras (SUNY Levin Institute, 2014). Therefore, learning about the ways of thinking of culturally diverse populations is vital for successful healthcare.
For this paper, I interviewed a lady that works at a pharmacy nearby my home. Her name is Galina Yoon (originally Galina Kucher) and she moved to the USA from the USSR at the age of 23. Galina was born in Ukraine. Her parents also come from the USSR but have different republics (Ukraine and Belarus). They met in Ukraine and lived in a village for a while, as they split, Galina and her mother moved to an urban area. Trying to provide for the family, her mother worked hard and had no time to keep an eye on her daughter. That is why she sent Galina to live with her grandmother in a village. Galina moved to the USA for work, her first jobs included babysitting, cleaning, and waitressing. Further, she managed to confirm her qualification as a pharmacist that she obtained studying in Ukraine. She struggled during her first years in the USA as she spoke very little English. Eventually, she met her husband (an immigrant of Asian background), and he helped her improve her English command.
Growing up in her hometown, Galina was exposed to a very homogenous and collectivist type of culture. The socialistic society where she grew up required people to stay modest and never try to pursue any individualistic goals. Complaining was viewed as selfish and unworthy behavior, and that is why being ill, weak, or going to hospitals was considered almost embarrassing. Besides, Galina adds that the concept of a healthy lifestyle was not ever around at the time. No one watched their diets for health or beauty purposes. Eating small portions was also considered a negative sign. The people who did not eat much or could not finish their meals were shamed as weak or sick individuals. Galina remembers that when she was a child some of her classmates often complained that they were forced to eat and threatened to be punished if they refused to finish their meals. This practice used to be widespread where she grew up at the time. Besides, Galina mentions that health education was not available. For example, neither she nor her peers knew about the importance of teeth brushing. As a result, Galina has been having issues with teeth ever since she had her first child. Besides, my interviewee mentioned that many health problems she is struggling with right now could have been avoided should she have had more information about healthy practices. Galina notes that she is very happy for the modern generation of children and youth who have access to all the useful knowledge from the internet. She calls her grandchildren “experts” in beauty, health, and diets who know what kind of processes are happening inside a human body under various influences.
Galina says that as soon as she moved to the USA the differences in culture and the environment were striking. Even though at first she was mainly in communication with people of the same or similar ethnic background, the lifestyle, diet, and behaviors were very different. Galina mentions that she was impressed by the individualism in American society, the orientation towards careers. As an emancipated and independent woman, she has appreciated that change a lot. At the same time, most of the other changes were quite stressful for her. Galina mentions that such a drastic shift in environment put a lot of pressure on her. She constantly felt isolated, alien, lonely, and scared; the new country seemed like a whole new world she knew nothing about. The emotions and feelings Galina faced while adjusting to her new home are typical for a person experiencing a culture shock that is described as one’s anxiety caused by a lack of familiar environments (Hosseini, 2012). My interviewee refers to herself of that time as a “big xenophobe”. She mentions that finding herself surrounded by people from all around the world was quite unusual and even challenging in the beginning. Galina’s frustration is understandable, as the United States is one of the most multinational countries with at least 11 percent of foreign-born individuals living on its territory (Overcoming Culture Shock in Overcoming Culture Shock in the United States, n. d.). Even though the Soviet Union could have been referred to as a rather culturally diverse country with 15 different nations populating it, the cultures there were isolated from one another most of the time (Post-Soviet world: what you need to know about the 15 states, 2014).
To conclude, Galina’s immigration at the age of 23 made a serious impact on her lifestyle and way of thinking. She had to adjust to a completely new culture and shift her view of health, culture, inter-cultural relations, and career. She evaluates this as the change for the best.
Heritage Assessment Tool
- Where was your mother born? Horlivka, Ukraine (USSR)
- Where was your father born? Gomel, Belarus (USSR)
- Where were your grandparents born?
- Your mother’s mother? Bryansk, Russia (USSR)
- Your mother’s father? Bryansk, Russia (USSR)
- Your father’s mother? Gomel, Belarus (USSR)
- Your father’s father? Minsk, Belarus (USSR)
- How many brothers and sisters do you have? None
- What setting did you grow up in? Suburban
- What country did your parents grow up in?
- Father – Belarus, USSR
- Mother – Ukraine, USSR
- How old were you when you came to the United States? I was 23 years old.
- How old were your parents when they came to the United States?
- Mother – 46
- Father – 50
- When you were growing up, who lived with you? My mother and my grandmother
- Have you maintained contact with aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, or sisters? Yes, an aunt and a cousin
- Parents? Just my mother, she still lives in Ukraine
- Your children? My children live the lives of their own, but we communicate often
- Did most of your aunts, uncles, cousins live near your home? No, the only family I have near is my husband
- Approximately how often did you visit your family members who lived outside your home? Once a year or less
- Was your original family name changed? Yes, I took my husband’s last name
- What is your religious preference? Orthodox Christian
- Is your spouse the same religion as you? No
- Is your spouse the same ethnic background as you? No
- What kind of school did you go to? Public
- As an adult, do you live in a neighborhood where the neighbors are of the same religion and ethnic background as yourself? Yes
- Do you belong to a religious institution? No
- Would you describe yourself as an active member? No
- How often do you attend your religious institution? On special holidays mainly
- Do you practice your religion in your home? Yes: Praying, Bible reading, Celebrating religious holidays
- Do you prepare foods of your ethnic background? Yes
- Do you participate in ethnic activities? No
- Are your friends from the same religious background as you? No
- Are your friends from the same ethnic background as you? No
- What is your native language? Russian
- Do you speak this language? I prefer to speak my native language
- Do you read your native language? Yes
|Maintain HEALTH||Are there special clothes you must wear at certain times of the day, week, year? |
I stick to wearing trousers because it is warmer even though most women of my age in my motherland wear skirts.
Are there special foods you must eat at certain times?
I eat as many vegetables as possible and try to avoid eating too much sugar
Are there any foods that you cannot eat?
|What do you do for activities, such as reading, sports, games? |
I read often
Do you have hobbies?
Do you visit family often?
Do you visit friends often?
|Do you practice your religion and attend church or other communal activities? |
Yes, but rarely
Do you pray or meditate?
Do you observe religious customs?
Do you belong to fraternal organizations?
|Protect HEALTH||Are there foods that you cannot eat together |
Are there special foods that you must eat?
Are there any types of clothing that you are not allowed to wear?
|Are there people or situations that you have been taught to avoid? |
Homeless people, I have been taught that they are dangerous
Do you take extraordinary precautions under certain circumstances?
In crowded places such as markets always have my purse hanging on my front to avoid getting robbed
Do you take time for yourself??
|Do you observe religious customs? |
Using holy water to feel better if ill
Do you wear any amulets or hang them in your home?
Do you have any other practices to protect yourself from “harm”?
|Restore HEALTH||What kinds of medicines do you take before you see a doctor or nurse? |
Are there herbs that you take?
Are there special
|Do you know of any specific practices your mother or grandmother may use to relax? |
Putting feet in warm water.
Do you know how big problems can be cared for in your community?
Do you drink special teas to help you unwind or relax?
Do you know of any healers?
|Do you know of any religious rituals that help to restore health? |
Do you meditate?
Did you ever go to a healing service?
Do you know about exorcism?
Cultural Profiles – Cubans. (n. d.). Web.
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Hosseini, M. (2012). Immigration and culture shock. Web.
Overcoming Culture Shock in Overcoming Culture Shock in the United States, (n.d.). Web.
SUNY Levin Institute. (2014). Globalization 101. Web.