What’s wrong with being ‘too Westernised’?

multiculturalismPolice in a Phoenix suburb are looking for a father who is suspected of running over his daughter for being “too Westernised” and not living according to traditional Iraqi values. Here’s more on the story.

Being “too Western” – it’s a conversation I have had time and time again with my family and friends. I mentioned this story to a colleague of Pakistani origin who responded jokingly “that’s what my mum says to me everyday.” He’s not alone – that’s what many of our mums say to us every day.

I am of a generation whose parents came to the UK in the 70s to give the family a better life. This meant having a solid education, being financially stable and having a successful career. Somehow I am not sure they were prepared for the full Western package. Whilst I went to Gujarati language classes, folk dancing sessions and the temple on weekends, I know many of my fellow British Asian friends who rarely are interacted with Asian people whilst growing up here. I’m sure many of them have been called “too Westernised”- but what does it even mean?  

If you are born and brought up in a country different to that of your country of origin how do you maintain your traditions? Do you have to? Is being “too westernised” such a bad thing?

45 Responses to “What’s wrong with being ‘too Westernised’?”

  1. 1 Tom K in Mpls
    October 23, 2009 at 21:41

    Wow, this ties directly into a few recent topics. First, by definition, too much of anything is bad. But back to what you want, all through history, cultures have always changed. Some more slowly than others. It will always be this way for all cultures. As it always has been, there will always be conservatives in every culture that will want to preserve their ‘roots’. In today’s world, the ‘western’ societies have the most of what most people want. They also have the transportation, communications and industry that make the changes happen faster.

    This is also a two way effect. Other cultures flow back both by the interests and tastes of westerners, and through legal and illegal immigration. There is no way to stop it. I wouldn’t want to if I could. To me this is part of the great experiment called life. All societies will change. I love it.

  2. 2 Linda from Italy
    October 23, 2009 at 22:37

    Sorry, I may not be qualified to answer this, but there is some relevance. I’ve lived in Southern Italy for 13 years and my son has more or less grown up here (he’s 19 now). I did worry about the language question, I am a fluent Italian speaker but still have a very pronounced English accent, but at the age of 6 he picked up the language quite effortlessly. However, he has not done well at school, despite going away to a school that meant he had to board and thus spoke Italian all the time.
    Culturally he remains 100% a Brit, specifically his hatred of all form of sexism, racism, healthy scepticism about religion and refusal to accept authority endowed by a mere title, irrespective of competence. He is still happier speaking English and if he watches a DVD or plays a computer gamer, his language choice is still English, so have we failed? Have I failed him as a parent? This is perhaps the other side of the coin in that his Northern European attitudes can make him seem too liberated and out of step with the society he has grown up in, makes you think where “culture” actually comes from.

  3. 3 Kevin PE
    October 23, 2009 at 22:57

    Oh man! The Right are going to have a field day with this one – they won’t be all wrong either. Personally if I emigrated to China, I should hardly complain after 40 years of being to “Chinanised”

  4. 4 Bert
    October 23, 2009 at 23:05

    Well guess what? The “better life” that the original immigrants came to participate in is only possible BECAUSE of the”full Western package.” You can’t separate the two.

    That’s why it is so intolerable to be immigrants who don’t want to assimilate.

    • 5 JanB
      October 25, 2009 at 20:21

      “Well guess what? The “better life” that the original immigrants came to participate in is only possible BECAUSE of the”full Western package.” You can’t separate the two.”

      by Bert
      October 23, 2009 at 23:05

      Indeed, that pretty much sums it up: if everyone in Britain adopted the culture of Pakistan then Britain would be like Pakistan and vice versa, it’s not the hand of God that shapes countries, it’s the people who live there that do.
      Yes there are things like foreign interference, the local climate and natural resources that seem to play a role, but they really don’t, in the end it’s still the culture of the locals that determines how well they can manage such things.

  5. 6 Jenni from NW
    October 23, 2009 at 23:29

    This is all about unfair stereotyping. Those complaining about being too westernized, wrongly presume that it stands for or leads to alcohol abuse, promiscuous behaviour or other such things that are generally frowned upon in ‘eastern’ countries.

    In some cases it may also be about people desperately trying to cling onto a form of identity that they are familiar with.

    I don’t see how preserving culture has anything to do with it. Being westernized does not mean you are culturally uninformed; in my experience quite the opposite.

  6. 7 vijay k pillai
    October 24, 2009 at 00:27

    Dont under estimae the kids. dont impose your outdated vaules on your children. it is not your country of yesterday. but he kids insinctively know how to balance the emotional requirements of parents of foreign cuture and the needs of heir current and future in the west.if not get out of west and be back in your own yard..Sorry to be blunt. it is the human rights of kids to be cleverer than the parents. I rememebr my late father tried to arrange a marrige to me in my twenties after graduation. But i told him it is not him getting married and i know how to go about charting my future.That was my responsibility.In a way i tond to move over it was my time -i did not say but thats what i meant. i made sure that he will not be forgotten for generation to come.That is he bst way to honour him.

    October 24, 2009 at 04:34

    If you want to live in the UK you better get Westernised as far as I am concerned. We have a rich culture and traditions and I think I speak for the rest of the country in saying, We don’t want Honor killings, Female mutilation, Acid attacks and Voodoo rituals to name just a few of the horrible things that go on in non developed nations.

  8. 9 scmehta
    October 24, 2009 at 07:14

    Why do the kids like being westernized; there must be something comfortable and impressive about it? If we impose too many restrictions and dogmas (religious or otherwise) on our kids, then sooner or later, we are most likely to invite rebellious attitude from them; And if you give them some freedom and space to have their own mind on certain matters and likings, while being groomed with their own religion, culture and values, then rest assured, they will develop into balanced, moderate compassionate, rational human beings, besides proving to be good citizens of the society.

  9. 10 James Ian
    October 24, 2009 at 10:17

    If they don’t like western culture why do they migrate to western counties? If their culture is so much superior to ours why do they move here? I mean good grief if you hate western culture so much that you would kill your own child because they acted to western why move here and risk the influence in the first place?
    I don’t get it!! If they hate us and our culture so much why do they come? I mean the argument of wanting a better life for your family goes out the window if your killing your own kids when you get here.

  10. 11 Shakhoor Rehman
    October 24, 2009 at 12:14

    It is not a matter of West or East but of Global. A morality that is worth anything can only be global which means that the individual must seek the road of the divine way in history and utilise that as the criterion of living.

  11. 12 steve
    October 24, 2009 at 19:00

    You shouldn’t live in the west if you have a problem with things western.

    October 24, 2009 at 21:15

    Hi Krupa, glad to see you online again.

    Its not a bad thing to be westernized though one must be careful with abstration. Which westerns do you copy? Its as it is back in the home country. No one copies irresponsible people have no long term vision and I think this the source of their worry.
    For instance here in Kenya, the Asian community is suffering a backlsh from education. As they age, they fear there is no one left to carry on with the family business due to choice of career sometimes in distant lands that distances the kids from parental perspective. The parents rightly conclude that there is a breakup of traditional succession. They are not alone in this. The young generations of the Maasai are abandoning animal husbandry in favor of the lure of the cities where they play pool games instead and the drugs. They too worry that their world is coming to an end because there is no one left to carry on their economic system which faces collapse. There are no straight answers to this phenomeno but bear in mind that it is significant causing tangible concern.

  13. 14 Josiah Soap
    October 24, 2009 at 23:28

    When in Rome springs to mind. If people from other countries want to move to the West then they should leave their culture at the door. If they are not willing to accept our cultures and our values and live by them they shouldn’t be allowed in. Its about assimilation in a melting pot, not a multicultural fairy tale land. Of course we are not even supposed to mention this, or we are termed a racist or bigot. But I do believe it flies both ways. We must respect the culture of other countries. There seems to be a “push” to bring “democracy” to other countries along with womens rights, gay rights etc (western values). I am totally against this. Many of these cultures have existed for thousands of years just fine. If they decide to change its up to them, not us to dictate. If we as Westerners visit or immigrate abroad we must adapt to their culture and abide by their values.

  14. 15 claudine
    October 25, 2009 at 01:28

    why would that guy want to live in the USA if he doesnt want to integrate?

    I would get hold of him and send him back to Iraq. It seems that place (Iraq) is more suited for him.

    I dont understand why so many men in Islamic society take the right to make decisions over live and death on their own based on tribal customs.
    It seems to be especially easy to punish women for minor issues.

    BBC reported in July 2006: Posters in Basra were asking for women to be shot on sight if they were caught with improper head gear.

    Let these people adapt or go back to their own countries.
    We have to respect local customs and traditions when we migrate to other countries, especially so when we migrate to Muslim countries.
    Why is it that people from the Middle east “flee” to the west but then dont care about integration or western culture?

  15. 16 Tan Boon Tee
    October 25, 2009 at 03:49

    Western liberal attitude and idea may not fit easily into a relatively conservative culture and could easily be at odd with its traditional values.

    Whether too westernized or not does not constitute a right or wrong. It is a matter of an individual’s value system, preconceived perception and world view.

  16. 17 ruks
    October 25, 2009 at 09:42

    it should be known to everyone that the world is more or less a global village where things are done interchangeably. moreso when the quest for success and wealth extends from one border to the other. Hence being westernnised in itself is not bad especially when the individual can still retain his morals, learn and adapt to the wertern world. one thing however is certain: ‘too much of everthing is bad’

  17. 18 NSC London
    October 25, 2009 at 13:54

    I doubt this comment will be published as few of my comments actually make it to the board, but can we call a spade a spade here? This case was about Islam, full stop. Couching it in silly language like “too Westernised” is a feeble attempt to cover up the real problem.

  18. 20 T
    October 25, 2009 at 16:49

    Not to be rude. But when you come to a “Western” culture, you have to do your best to blend in. Does this give you the right to attack or kill someone in your family? No it doesn’t. And if you don’t like the previous sentence, then you shouldn’t emigrate.

  19. 21 Jim Newman
    October 25, 2009 at 17:48

    Hello again
    It’s not so much a question of being westernised but a question of culture and values. I assure you culture shocks can kill spiritually especially when you are too young to understand your new environement.

  20. 22 Pamir
    October 25, 2009 at 18:01

    Hi, I’m from Nepal and here,when westernisation has to be critically analysed, people generally percieve of wearing fancy or short-cut dresses, speaking intermingled english with native language, drifting away from certain culture or even supporting christianity! Well, if someone likes doing such, I don’t really feel anything to be wrong. Afterall, everyone has right to shape his/her own lifestyle and personality. The rest of the condemning fuss is nothing but the only possible sophisticated talk for narrow minded guys from the old school.
    This guy too must be the insane version of the same type person.

  21. 23 viola
    October 25, 2009 at 18:08

    Those who take up residence or citizenship in a country other than the one in which they were born in order to give their children a better life should not be surprised that their children absorb the values of the country that have made it possible for them to do so.

    It is a problem only if the country of origin has values that differ markedly from the country of residence. Both Canada and the U.S.A. have many immigrants. Both Canada and the U.S.A. have vocal people who don’t welcome immigration. Both countries have people who believe it is the responsibility of immigrants to embrace the existing culture of their country of choice. Most people in both countries believe in one set of laws for everyone, regardless of country of origin, culture, or religion.

    If you choose a country, you are choosing the culture. Sometimes it is a problem to define what those values are. A lot of people say they believe in one set of values while they actually practice another. That likely happens everywhere.

  22. 24 John in Salem
    October 25, 2009 at 21:40

    I think it’s a mistake to accept this story at face value, as though an otherwise rational, loving and nurturing father would understandably become murderous because his daughter wants to wear Levi’s or listen to hip-hop.
    A more relevant discussion might be on how to provide mental health services to immigrants who are culturally resistant to the idea of psychological counseling, or on how we tend to underrate culture shock when in truth it can, like grief, be a little understood and dangerous form of temporary insanity.

  23. 26 Bert
    October 25, 2009 at 23:34

    By the way, I LIKE western culture and values, except of course when they are taken to excess. Grew up in Italy and France, but our parents always sent us to “international” schools. So we are fluent in Italian, French and English. Speaking Italian, people think I’m a Roman. Speaking English, they assume I’m a Yank. German is a bit rusty (sigh).

    Time came for college, and all of us four siblings came to the US. Two went back after college, two of us made our lives in the US. The only reason I stayed is because I wanted to participate in this culture (not so different from Italian culture, truth to tell). I have zero sympathy for those who move somewhere and then preoceed to want to undermine their new host culture.

    (That said, of course, I’m very happy to see that espresso coffee, parmisan cheese, and olive oil have become part of the staple diet even here now. Assimilation does not mean that good stuff can’t also be introduced, when it doesn’t detract from the host culture.)

  24. 27 Chuksagwu
    October 26, 2009 at 08:08

    Oh poor fellows! they want to swim but not get wet! how possible? They cherish the good westernised life but wouldn’t want themselves nor their offspring westernised, what an irony! Well, for the iraqi who commited this brutal act he would soon learn another aspect of being westernised: “prison-westernisation”

  25. October 26, 2009 at 09:45

    thats realy a good question which arises every time.people agree to the statement may say that we are detrying our culture and forgetting our services towords our nation .
    but this thing just making all teen confused and they just finalise the statement mode by the fellow friends.
    just clothes or way living doesnot change the person nationality and respect towords his culture.
    it just his or wish to wear wat evr they want

  26. 29 Ronald Almeida
    October 26, 2009 at 11:04

    Nothing absolutely wrong with being westernised, except all your comments being censored in the name of regulation.

  27. 30 Ibrahim in UK
    October 26, 2009 at 12:06

    “Westernised” when used by the Middle East implies liberal morality (e.g. drugs, casual sex, homosexuality) and a betrayal of traditional values (e.g. parental obedience, respect for elders). All of which are unacceptable to them. It is only when they participate in Western society do they begin to realise the many benefits.
    “Eastern” parents face a double challenge in dealing with their children. First there is the generation gap that all parents face, but there is also the cultural gap since children easily adopt their host’s culture. The more insecure the parents are in these new surroundings, the more defensive they will become of their own culture and reject anything that challenges it.
    I wonder if successful immigrants have created support groups to help guide the newly arrived to acclimatise to their new environment.

  28. 31 RJ
    October 26, 2009 at 12:07

    Creating false dichotomies between ‘liberated’ western and ‘backward’ eastern values is only a step back in the direction of colonialist thought. We don’t all believe in honor-killings and FGM! Further, those who suggest immigrants “leave their culture at the door” are misunderstanding the very meaning of ‘culture’ – one not only is shaped by, but participates in, the culture by which one is surrounded.

    Speaking as an Indian who moved to the US when I was 18, it’s about being faced with a mix of values that is different, but may overlap with, one’s own, having to re-evaluate one’s own in light of the new, and then finding a personal balance that one is comfortable with. Parents have the more difficult task of helping their young children navigate this process; some do so successfully, while in other cases it’s up to the child to figure it out. Host communities also evolve as they absorb immigrants – the US is full of examples.

    My point: culture evolves and is both personal and societal; it is not a dogmatic set of principles that can be called “western” or otherwise; cultural interchange can lead to personal and societal change that is both meaningful and productive.

    I will add, however, that in many countries “westernised” is a stereotyped and radicalized concept used by some (often men) to effectively squelch cultural change that threatens their own dominance in society. Human rights and women’s rights movements in India are routinely criticized as the forces of ‘westernization’ by religious fundamentalists, although they are homegrown. It is self-defeating to think of women’s education as ‘western’, let us discard this language and think more creatively about how each of our societies can learn from others and evolve to improve the capabilities of all members.

  29. 32 Dennis Junior
    October 26, 2009 at 12:55


    If you are born and brought up in a country different to that of your country of origin how do you maintain your traditions? [Yes…with considerations…

    Do you have to? [Should be encouraged]

    Is being “too westernised” such a bad thing? [No…]

    ~Dennis Junior~

  30. 33 patti in cape coral
    October 26, 2009 at 13:00

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with western values, but I do remember pushing the envelope and adopting quite a bit of the “wrong” values when I was teenager, and my immigrant parents being totally clueless as how to deal with me. They really had never dealt with teenage rebellion before, but I don’t know if it was because of the culture being different, or if it was generational. In any case, there is good and bad in every culture, and the best situation is if an effort is made to keep the best of both cultures, and hopefully dispense with the bad.

  31. 34 Halima
    October 26, 2009 at 15:04

    I would like to know what it is exactly that is “westernised”. If we go the other way, it used to be called”going native” – and frowned upon by the powers that be.
    I have always thought if you want to live in a country, you need to adopt many of its customs and sympathise with many of its cultural values. If not, then you should immigrate to a country whose cultural values you prefer.

    Living in another country ( I know from experience) and attempting to understand sometimes strange or frightening customs – if not always agreeing with some aspects of behaviour – is very, very good for character building, and improving one’s sense of empathy and world understanding. You can get some of that from learning languages.

    But WHATEVER the so-called reason. there is no excuse and for a brutal attack one’s child. If that is itself a cultural value, it deservers no sympathy here. Some cultural artefacts must never be accepted here. One of those is brutality against women or children who do not conform to one’s own opinions.

  32. 35 viola
    October 26, 2009 at 17:14

    Nobody should hesitate to call someone who kills his child a murderer. If that is a western cultural value, then all cultures ought to adopt this particular western value. What’s the alternative? Turn over to all men the power of life and death over all women? Please note that the man’s cultural values likely don’t require him to kill a son who exhibits a liking for western values.

  33. 36 Jens
    October 26, 2009 at 18:08

    funny that in 99% of the cases it is men, who complain that their wives and kids are too westernized. could that be that their families do not want to take the abuse in the name of their god any more.

  34. 37 Abram
    October 27, 2009 at 04:48

    Well, they seem to have a dream to be as successful as the West, they would like to look, talk and move like the West, they emigrate in their millions to the West, yet they despise the Western way of life. Well, I don’t blame them for applying all sorts of tactics and strategies in their quest to conquer the World. What’s worrying is the inability and impotence of the West in dealing with this despicable mission of those ungrateful strangers.

  35. 38 Silent Walker
    October 27, 2009 at 05:20

    Not wanting to be ‘too westernized’ and brutality against child are totally different things. The example story in question here shouldn’t be taken as norm but as an exception.

    There are a lot of things gone wrong in western society that I would want my children to protect from. Have you read the story about child pregnancy rates? Nudity is everyday incident and females are merely sex objects in many cases.

    Yes there are lots of positive things about western society but it isn’t perfect. I don’t see what’s wrong in being open minded and cherry picking things that are good in both societies.

    Those who say – it’s a package deal, accept it or leave – are not being considerate to others. Just because someone has changed country doesn’t mean he/she can change the whole past, customs, and tastes.

    Having said that, no one has the right to push anything on others. Parents can only try to enlighten their children as much as possible so that they can take the best decisions for them.

  36. 39 Pratik
    October 27, 2009 at 08:51

    It has got nothing to do with westernization. Even the west was earlier a narrow minded state governed completely by the church opposing science,the west came out this narrow mindedness sooner. It has got to do with optimism , maturity & gentleness. West is growing over optimistic now and the east is following the same blaming west.
    The case above is of a man with less maturity & lack of gentle qualities.
    People in west grew modern sooner than east. Now again it’s got nothing to do with west. It’s got to do with modernization.
    The fault is most of us associate modernization only with west and blame the west for own s fault.
    The case above has nothing to do with any religion, neither west nor east. It’s got to do with “SELF CONDUCT”

  37. 40 Lionel Tiger
    October 27, 2009 at 13:02

    There are times that America can seem morally bankrupt. Manipulating global affairs to sustain it’s own freedoms and liberties. It may be that such a self centered society with freedoms foreigners can only dream about can only be supported by the labours of others. Such as Plato and Aristotle’s ‘philosopher-kings’ were entitled to concubines in a knowledge economy, similarly soviet elites were entitled to luxuries denied to the proletariat, and the ‘divine right’ of monarchies have entitled those of a royal blood to such exclusively unwarranted priviliges. In a globalised world is there such a thing as an international oligarchy ? Dieu et mon droit ?

  38. 41 Alex Kiss
    October 27, 2009 at 14:43

    Many men from Iraq and other moslem/eastern coutries believe that wives and children are property. They also often confuse respect with obedience.

    These are the fundamental differences between us, and ones which are often allowed and required by religious dogma.

    But a child absorbing western culture will likely come to feel they can still respect their parent and their heritage without being obedient to every whim. But the parent sees lack of obedience as lack of respect and often reacts angrily to it.

    Also, many easterners seem to believe that honour, tradition and religion take precedence over law. We, however, instinctively understand that without mutual agreement of the precedence of law, there is no democracy, only theocracy, dictatorship or anarchy.

    I wouldn’t agree that immigrants should leave their culture at the door.

    I would however be strongly in favour of them having to demonstrate an appreciation of, and commitment to, these basic principals of western democracy.

  39. 42 NSC London
    October 27, 2009 at 15:16

    “Nobody should hesitate to call someone who kills his child a murderer. If that is a western cultural value, then all cultures ought to adopt this particular western value.”

    Islam permits honour killing/child killing, so that is a “western” or at the very least “non-Islamic” value.

    • 43 Silent Walker
      October 28, 2009 at 00:20

      Really? Where did you get that from?! Sorry mate but I’ve to point out here that you couldn’t be more wrong!

      Either you don’t know what you’re talking about or at the very least you’ve picked the wrong example and have associated it as a norm in Islam.

  40. 44 ib42
    October 27, 2009 at 20:59

    I can see how parents of another generation feel threatened and fearful when their kids act rude, engage in dangerous behaviours, ‘hang out’, and generally act like they are smarter and more enlightened than the old fogies. I am one of those parents.
    But, I have also met many people from India in America whose children are well mannered, hard working and respectful to their elders. These kids are being raised to know that they are a part of the family, that there is a head of the family, that they have to earn the right to be free, and that they will never beat their parents in experience and wisdom. Different, yes, but equal, no!
    So it does boil down to upbringing, discipline, encased always in love and security.
    Both parents being on the same page is all important.

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