What is A Cultural Narrative? Sample Essay

A narrative is a story depicting an event or an experience either in the past or in the present by the person telling it, be it male or female, or old or young. The narrative is usually based on specific or different cultures, and it focuses on specific times, behaviors and actions. This is because the presence of different cultures may pose a lot of miscommunication, or misunderstanding challenges to all those involved.

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Therefore, when various events or incidences happen to a person, and he expresses his experience through a narrative to his friends, he may feel emotion in the process since the narration is based on his life. These events include what may have happened during the narrator’s visits, invitations, and treatment from other. Thus, the experiences vary from person to person relative to their culture, language and the scenario. More often than not, these events may lead to a change in mind, behavior or perspective of different aspects in life including communication (Jalilzadeh, 2011). In the academic sphere, these narrations play a key role in promoting and improving interpersonal communication while at the same time allowing other students to have a glimpse of the narrator’s culture.

The cultural narrations force the narrator to employ a language that will be well understood by the majority of his listeners. To make the stories more exciting, she/he may include words from his native language. In addition, when we hear from the narrator’s culture, our minds will be filled with the imagination of his country, or we may be challenges or interested to visit the country to experience what we have heard. This is due to the constant thinking on how the overall culture is, how do people interact through language and other communication tools. In order for someone to understand a different culture conclusively, he/she has to visit the native countries. He/she will not only learn about the culture, but also many important values that may have a significant effect on his life and interactions and that of his family. In addition, it expands his cultural knowledge base. For instance, understanding different cultures may come in handy when operating a business in a multicultural area, as you are able to identify yourself with your customers, which makes them feel appreciated. According to Stewart (2012), “Identity construction is happening in almost all communication, across all culture” (p. 74).

Communication is highly vital in the development and continuation of culture as it builds a perfect relationship with others. Proper communication allows us to understand, learn, appreciate and respect other people’s cultures (Tong, 1999). In addition, all the relationships in the world are because of communication since it ensures that the world stays connected. For instance, we learn from the class discussion that most of the students build relationships through the social media, which is one of the powerful tools of communication today. Thus, some of these communication tools will increase the channels through which people learn about different cultures through communication. For example, facebook allows us to create accounts that we use to search for friends whom we can learn more from through online communication, which is a form of interpersonal communication. Interpersonal communication can also be through what a person writes about herself. For instance, the profiles posted by people on online sites can speak a lot about their character, cultures and beliefs. To quote from Stewart (2012), “because in every conversation you’re not only expressing your ideas but also defining who you are” (p. 73). This indicates that interpersonal communications need not be necessarily a face-to-face affair. Many people find it hard to communicate face to face as they may feel uncomfortable asking certain questions especially when dealing with strangers.

Cultural Narrative

I was born in a family with parents from different countries. My father is from Saudi Arabia, and my mother is from Iraq. My father is a religious man; he went to Iraq to study in the one of the Iraqi school, and it is from there that he met my mother whom he eventually married. My grandparents were against the marriage as they wondered how the family would operate. This is because he had either to stay in Iraq with us, away from his parents, or take the family with him to Saudi Arabia, thus keeping my mother away from her parents and relatives. Nevertheless, my father went ahead with the marriage plans. As a result, my father always told us that our relationships come from engaging with different people. This can be related to a quote from Stewart (2012):

Culture becomes concrete in communication. What it means to belong to a culture is to communicate in certain ways-to certain expressions that member of other cultures don’t use, to prefer certain kinds of meetings, to honor certain style of speaking, to maintain certain distance, to touch in certain ways, and so on (p. 25)

Our family was based in Iraq where my father was employed, and he usually left us when he went back to Saudi Arabia to visit his parents and family. However, in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein attacked Iran, Saddam decided to kill every international religious man that lived in Iraq, and my father was amongst him. When my father heard the news while at school, he decided to leave Iraq immediately. He had no other option, but to return to his country, Saudi Arabia, with us. Even though many of them escaped from the country, unfortunately, some of my father’s friends were executed, and we counted ourselves lucky.

Nonetheless, it was a very rough period for my mother when she reminisces that she is going to leave her family behind. She feared that she might never return to Iraq nor see her family again if Saddam Hussein prolongs his decree of killing foreign religious men. However, we had to go. On arrival to Saudi Arabia, we were greeted by a new world and experience. We had no friends, and neither our cousins nor other relatives assisted in our adaptation. My mother used to cry when alone when thoughts about her family crossed her mind. She was even contemplating on leaving us just to return to Iraq, but again the thought of us gave her the reason to stay. In the same vein, she worried that Saddam’s solders may decide to kill some of her family members if they discovered that she had run away with my father. In the end, her priority was her children and she vowed to stay with us no matter what it costs.

We were treated and viewed as aliens by the people in Saudi Arabia especially our relatives and neighbors. Most of them despised Iraq due to its never-ending wars, and took us as warmongers. They never found a good reason why we should live with them. One of the biggest problems that we encountered was communication barriers. It was very difficult for us to mingle, interact and communicate with the Saudi Arabians as there accent was different from our accent. For instance, the way we could pronounce certain words was not the way they have been used. Therefore, communication restricted us to certain places as going or interacting with other people could have raised a lot of suspicion and discrimination from other people. Even though both countries speak Arabic, the dialect was different; hence, during communication with the natives of the countries, we always experienced miscommunications and misunderstandings with them. This was because we could understand some of the words, and not others; thus, leaving a gap in the communication process. Therefore, my father was mostly the translator between them and us as he had lived in Iraq and understood the dialect of Iraqis, and also he knew how well to communicate with them. According to Whaley and Samter (2006), “language then refers to a code that resides in people’s heads and is what enables them to construct sentences and convey meaning” (p. 18)

Another hindrance to communication came in the form of Saudi Arabians’ women veil. It was not easy to communicate with them as they covered their faces making it impossible to recognize whom you are talking with. On the contrary, Iraqi women unveil making it possible to recognize them; hence, effective interpersonal communication.

Further, life in Saudi Arabia was very difficult for my father while we were with him, as he had to complete his study, while at the same time take us around to learn the local culture or take the initiative to teach us himself. In addition, he had to look for proper services and schools for us. My siblings and I were always involved in fighting with the other children in the neighborhood, especially with our cousins. They usually created animosity between them and us due to our background, and more often than not teamed up with other children in the playing field to fight us. I was around thirteen years at this time, and had begun to understand a bit of the local language and culture. There is a fight that went on for hours until our uncle found us and intervened. I will never forget that fight. My uncle was an understanding man, and realized from the first day that we are not troublesome as his children and those in the neighborhood; hence, he never judged us as guilty. What is more, he asked us for forgiveness for the sake of his children, and also did the same to my parents.

We also experienced a hard time settling in school, as we had to understand the local dialect as most of the lessons were being taught by it. Even though I tried to learn the dialect, I was a slow learner yet the teachers were not patient with me. Fortunately, my father discovered a school meant for overseas students including those from Iraq. I used to go to school using public transport, which gave me a hard time since I was not able to communicate with the bus operators. My mother could not drive as to school because women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. As a result, my father was forced to take the task of escorting me to school daily until I knew a bit of the language to help me communicate with the operators.

What is more, at some times in school, I was forced to lie about my nationality, as I did not want my schoolmates to make jokes on me. They have been learning about Iraq, and some had a clue on what may have brought me to their country. In school, the students gave me a nickname was “Iraqi.” They believed the name made me feels me angry and sad, and ignited in me the fire to fight, which was like their hobby. The name felt harsh to me, as it was another way of telling me that I was illegal in Saudi Arabia.

My mother also had a hard time adapting to the new country as she was forced to stay at home most of the time. The neighbors did not understand her and more often discriminated her. They neither wanted to help her nor talk to her because of her culture and background; thus she felt lonely than ever, and she longed for her family back in Iraq. I remember my mother looking for a job in the local market, but was refused work because they did not trust Iraqis. Even though it was not easy to differentiate an Iraqi from a Saudi Arabian, our accent and language problems always revealed, which made it hard to access services including health without being accompanied with a native of the country. My mother told me of an incident where she was kept on the hospital queue for a long time just because the receptionist discovered she was form Iraq during registration. What is more, she found herself walking around without a veil mostly at first, which is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, and this caused her many problems with the locals as they took that as being disrespectful. Hence, she was forced to adapt, but she did not feel comfortable. The only place she felt welcomed was at the social hall where she found comfort through counseling and encouragement. It is at the hall that she began learning the local language and culture.

What was happening in Iraq was always taken as a cause of the Iraqis, and we were bound to be treated the same way. For instance, I remember children in our neighborhood including my cousins telling us to leave their country since we did not want them in our country either. The majority of Muslims in Iraq are Shiites while Saudi Arabia is composed of mostly Sunnis, and this made it hard for us to coexist with the native Sunnis as violence and intolerance shadow the two groups. This is mainly due to the different interpretation of the Islamic law between the two groups. Moreover, they never took serious our praying culture. The Iraqis have a strong culture of praying before eating and sleeping. Whenever we proposed to pray, during our visits to my cousins’ home, they always laughed and mocked us that we would be praying for our country instead.




Jalilzadeh, K. (2011). Language loss, Identity, and English as an International Language. European Journal of Social Sciences, 21(4),102-9.

Stewart, J. (2012). Bridges not walls. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Tong, Y. (1999). Language use as a carrier of social identity. International Journal of Intercultural Relalations, 23 (2), 281- 96.

Whaley, B. & Samter, W. (2006). Explaining communication: Contemporary theories and exemplars. Routledge.





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