“When I go back to my cultural home, Ghana, and [I] don’t seem to fit in,” said Gloria Torku, a 25 year old global citizen who is born and raised in Ghana and is living in Canada for close to a decade now.
The definition of cultural dysphoria, according to EverydayFeminism, “is the dissonance between the social expectations for an individual’s broad cultural performance or identity and their desired embodiment of that culture, or uncertainty about where they fit into cultural categories.” Simply put, cultural dysphoria is when you identify with a culture but you also feel distanced from that culture. Cultural Dysphoria might not be relatable to everyone, but to those who identify with more than one culture culturally or ethnically, then this article is for you. If you have never heard of cultural dysphoria or do not identify with it, then this piece will be an educational piece for you. To do this topic justice, I interviewed Gloria Torku. Torku was proudly born and raised in Accra Ghana, an alumni of Western University, and currently working in the tech industry in Toronto. She also runs an online community on instagram, @migrvnts, designed for migrants sharing and telling stories of migrants’ experience.
Question: How would you define your identity? Is it different from your cultural identity?
Answer: I identify as chanaian, with a little bit of canadian influence
Question: What is your most Ghanaian habit? And the most canadian habit?
Answer: My most chanian habit is probably my love for a good bargain. And in true canadian fashion, I find myself saying ‘sorry’ a lot
Question: Do you ever feel culturally discomforted or confused, if so, when and how? Can you explain in more detail?
Answer: I find myself most distressed when I go back to my cultural home (Ghana) and don’t seem to fit in. it’s when I am asked “where are you from?” in the country where I hold citizenship and most of my family reside (haha!). Or when I answer that I am indeed a citizen and some people don’t believe that.
Question: How do you cope when you feel like you don’t belong to either of the two cultures that you are supposed to identify with?
Answer: Honestly there isn't a particular thing I do. I try to remind myself that I am grateful to call two places home, even at the cost of no longer fitting in entirely anywhere. It also just makes me want to live in more countries so I can identify more and more as a global citizen.
Identifying more than one culture can be a double edged sword, on one hand you can experience more culturally, but on the other hand, you feel as if you are never enough for any of the cultures you identify with. As if you are always in the middle of two islands, and your boat will float more towards one island at different times, but you will never quite make it to shoreSometimes, it feels quite lonely to be in the middle. Loneliness is a beast if we don’t address it, we need to remind ourselves that we are never alone. Take a look at what Gloria Torku suggested whenever we are feeling lonely and culturally disconnected:
Question: Please give one advice to give to anyone who might be experiencing cultural disconnection and loneliness.
Answer: It doesn't always feel good, but remember there is some privilege in being able to navigate between multiple cultures. You also get to choose aspects of each culture that serve you, so try to lean into that. There is beauty in that.
There is beauty in navigating and exploring your own backgrounds and cultures. Perhaps a less lonely way to explore your own cultures is to connect with someone who also understands the loneliness created by cultural dysphoria. And maybe, just maybe, we will feel less lonely then.
Read more stories with characters that also struggle with cultural dysphoria and their journey in life:
The definition of cultural dysphoria, according to EverydayFeminism, “is the dissonance between the social expectations for an individual’s broad cultural performance or identity and their desired embodiment of that culture, or uncertainty about where they fit into cultural categories.” Simply put, cultural dysphoria is when you identify with a culture but you also feel distanced from that culture.