One major difference between growing up in Wilton versus growing up in the Middle East is the emphasis on religion in a Middle Easterner’s every day life. There is no true separation between church and state in the Middle East like there is in the United States. Religion was not a part of my upbringing and I currently am not religiously affiliated. This creates a barrier to understanding because religion is a major aspect of Middle Eastern culture and I have had no experience with it firsthand. The differences in culture and religious attire is also another barrier to understanding. I grew up without any restrictions on the clothes I choose to wear and less cultural expectations. There are also differences in the culture of how elders are treated, what level of public displays of affection are tolerated, and what actions and words are considered offensive. Almost every aspect of Middle Eastern culture is vastly different from the culture where I grew up/where I live now. Another barrier to understanding is socioeconomic differences. I grew up in small upper-middle class county in the suburbs which is very different from the great deal of poverty across the Middle East. This is a huge barrier to understanding because I have had completely different experiences from a person who was born in a Middle Eastern country. Where I am from, every child is expected to go to college and get a real job with the financial support and assistance from their parents. The expectations of people my age in the Middle East are vastly different. Different upbringings, expectations, culture, and a religiously motivated government create many barriers to understanding when learning about politics in the Middle East.
One resource that will help me overcome these barriers is speaking with people who have seen and experienced the Middle East firsthand. Hearing about other people’s experiences with specific Middle Eastern governments and certain cultures is a great way to gain a more accurate understanding of what it is like to live there. Another resource that can help overcome these barriers is online research and academic texts. Although these sources may not be able to give full insight on what it is like to be an outsider in the Middle East, they will help increase my understanding of Middle Eastern culture and what is expected of the people who grew up there.