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Family First in an Iranian Life

As many Barons can attest, being exposed to two different cultures a blessing but it is also quite difficult. My family is from Iran. Both my parents are first-generation immigrants which means they did not grow up “Americanized” as one might call it. Growing up, Iranian culture was seeping out of the walls. My cousins, sister and I were sent off to Farsi school. We were exposed to Iranian traditions and watched movies like Shrek in Farsi as opposed to watching it in English. I used to be fluent but after getting exposed to people who spoke English all day in school, I’m not as fluent anymore.

In the Iranian culture, it is very family based. So much so that my parents dropped their life in California and moved to Maryland when they found out they were expecting to be closer to their family members who lived in the DMV area. If you don’t believe me about the culture revolving around family, my grandmother bought the house directly behind my aunt so they could share a backyard. They are literally 12 steps away from each other.

Every week on Friday’s or Sundays, my mom would dress me and my sister up and take us to parties (“mehmoonies” in Farsi) thrown by family members and close friends. Up until the age of 12, I was content about going to these parties (mainly because of the good food and the other kids) but because I was now older and had the means of making my own plans with my friends, it started to interfere with my American social life. My friends would want to go to the movies, but I couldn’t because I had to go to my 4th cousin, who I had never met graduation party. In my parents’ eyes, my family friends and my family were my friends.

Now, as a junior in high school who takes full IB, it is quite hard juggling everything. I am expected to see both sides of my grandparents every week, hang out with my parents, go to familial or Iranian social events, and have a social life with my American friends as well. I would like to think that I have found the jackpot with Iranian social events. All the kids who grew up together now hang out which thankfully constitutes as going to these Iranian events. This is every Iranian parent’s dream: seeing their kids becoming friends.

On the weekends, I don’t have a second to breathe due to the pressure of my parents combined with their expectations. Say I wanted to miss a family event so I could study more. That is not an option most of the time. I would have to take my study materials, textbook and all, and study at whoever’s house we were going to this time. I can’t give my parents that much grief because I think all the family events they plan for us is a way of ensuring that my sister and I don’t forget our roots.

I love my culture. But the struggles of managing both an Iranian lifestyle and mindset and an American one is like hot and cold. They are completely different, which has made my life into something of an exciting disaster. My family lives by the mantra “family then friends”. If they believed in tattoos, then they would tattoo it on their foreheads. Cultural differences are always difficult, but it’s something that can be enjoyed, it’s like a piece of your home away from home.

Lilly Behbehani

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