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Background

I come from a mixed heritage; half is white and the other half is Latin-American (I’ll refer to now as ‘ethnic’).

I’ve grown up mainly around my white side of the family and only on rare occasions have spent time with my ethnic family. I was raised with barely any ethnic culture.

Situation

Whenever I’m with my ethnic family I find that I’m at a severe disadvantage. I’m not well versed in Español or cultural customs and behaviors. I miss out on different social queues and often appear to confuse people.

Whenever I spend time with them I feel on the outs. They’ve been raised in that background for so long and I have not. It feels strange to me... and they feel I’m strange to them.

Over the years I’ve picked up a lot since my early childhood (learned more language, understood social norms, etc.) I still find it difficult to integrate myself though.

Usually they’ll just laugh when I do something that might seem weird in their own cultural context; it’s never anything toxic; although, it is made quite apparent.

Goals

Even though my ethnic family can be confusing, I still love them and want to make an effort to better include myself.

I’d like to feel like I fit in with them more. I don’t want to sacrifice my individuality by any means. I really just want to be able to have a good time and not worry about weirding anyone out.


TLDR; How can I better include myself in my ethnic family so I don’t come across as ‘strange’ anymore?

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Learning a culture is like learning a language. At first, you know nothing about it. Every attempt sounds weird (to you and to them). At this point, consider what their options are: to correct you, to treat it as something fun, or to admonish you, or even to treat you with derision.

It sounds like they are treating your learning journey as something fun. If you roll with it, you can ask about your faux pas and get better at it. I'm not familiar with the Latino culture specifically, but my experience of multicultural settings suggests that people tend to be quite proud of their (our) own cultures, and anyone who makes an honest attempt to participate gets an automatic brownie point.

Consider something like this:

You: (do/say something)

Relatives: Hahahaha!

You: (turn around and walk off)

This doesn't help develop friendly relationships. Now consider:

You: (do/say something)

Relatives: Hahahaha!

You: Haha! How's it supposed to be said? (smiling while you ask)

This invites interaction and they can fill you in on the finer points of etiquette - which they'd probably take much pleasure in articulating. You now have something to talk with them about, and the next time you visit, it also gives you a natural topic to break the ice with.

Don't worry about "sacrificing [your] individuality". This is initially a chance to learn about their culture. After awhile, you can return the favour and share with them some of yours.

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    I am sure every country in the world thinks they are very knowledgeable in american culture, we all have hollywood. – WendyG Feb 18 '19 at 12:17

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