The ethical challenges of intercultural diversity in Ireland, by Joan Osayande
2016-12-15 11:45:15 -
The ethical challenges of intercultural diversity in Ireland, by Joan Osayande

This 17-year-old writer’s essay, winner of the Spirt of Intercultural Ethics award, highlights the wide variety of issues and ‘culture clashes’ that emerge in everyday life for immigrants to Ireland

For the purposes of this essay, I will write about the ethical challenges faced by myself and other young non-Irish national people who now live in Ireland. This essay will explore some of those challenges we have faced in Irish society and how we found ways to overcome or adapt to them. 

What are the ethical challenges of intercultural diversity in Ireland? It means dealing with morals or the principals of morality between cultures and how they differ in Ireland. The challenges young people face varies from each other; for example, I live with other young people like myself who are not either from Ireland or my country.

One of the biggest challenges faced by myself and these other young people is related to food. Food is supposed to be cooked and shared with one another, but it is not always that way. I live in a house with other young people who are Muslim. They cannot just go to the kitchen and eat whatever is in the pot or fridge, they have to ask the staff that work in the house first, and the staff have to explain to them what they can and cannot eat as some of the food is not Halal.
There was a day I was cooking in the kitchen and some of the Muslim boys came home from school very hungry. They asked me what I was cooking; I told them it was rice and chicken and they asked if they could have some. I agreed, and began to serve them some of the food I had prepared when one of them asked me: “Joan, is it Halal?”
I was confused as I did not know what the word ‘Halal’ meant. I had to ask what they meant by that, but the staff in the house explained it to me, and I was able to inform the boys that the food wasn’t right to eat by their religious beliefs before they took a bite.

I had never lived with a person of Muslim faith before so that was totally new to me. Now when I cook my Nigerian cultural food, I eat it alone as my friends cannot taste it, especially my best friend as she is Muslim also. Therefore we cannot go for lunch, except when we go to a Halal restaurant. What I would like to do is go to my favourite Chinese restaurant with my best friend, but as it is not Halal I cannot with her, so I go alone.

Food is an ethical challenge of intercultural diversity in Ireland, as most restaurants do not serve Halal meat and almost every dish the Irish people cook is followed by potatoes. This is something I personally have had to adapt to; I do not like potatoes because in Nigeria we eat different kinds of food like eba, yam, plantain, pepper soup and so on. We have different sauces to go with dishes, also. The cultural difference is evident when I cook these dishes and sometimes the staff in the house do not like these dishes, as they find the food so unlike food they are used to eating.

Respect and morals

Another ethical challenge faced by young people like myself who have come to Ireland is respect and morals. Respecting elders in my culture is very important. If you do not respect your elders you will be disciplned, but here in Ireland things are different. Some children choose to talk to their parents or elders like they are of the same age, and some young people even get away with disrespecting their parents and elders. In Nigeria, sometimes when our parents or adults are talking to us younger people, we cannot make eye contact due to it being a sign of disrespect, but in Ireland things are very different.

This is something I had to learn when I first came to Ireland, and I was lucky enough to have the staff in the house to help me. Young people look at their parents and adults directly when they are being spoken to because it shows that the person is paying attention, that they are listening, and it can be a sign of telling the truth. 

In Nigeria young people do not answer back or argue with their parents when they are being spoken to, but still pay attention and follow directions given. However, I have seen many young people in Ireland arguing with their parents and answering back, and I feel this is very disrespectful. If this happened in my country, the young person would get punished. It is hard to keep these morals of respect for your elders in Ireland when you see your friend talking to their parents in a disrespectful manner and they do not get punished for it.

This can result in our behaviours changing, and we may want to start acting or doing the same as they do, because we know we can get away with it. However, I do not want to change; I want to still keep these morals that I have.
A friend from Nigeria was telling me some time ago that her Mam had disciplined her, and I asked her what she did; she said her Mam was talking to her but instead of listening, she was arguing with her Mam. In my culture this is very disrespectful, and her Mam got angry.

So it is an ethical challenge of intercultural diversity in Ireland, coming from a place where you have to respect every adult and elder, then coming to a country such as Ireland where a lot of young people lack respect. If only we could have the respect given in a culture such as Nigeria and combine it with the lack of punishment you would get in Ireland. A quote by Philip James Bailey states: “Respect is what we owe; love is what we give.”

Equal rights
Religion and sexuality are also part of the ethical challenge of intercultural diversity in Ireland. In Ireland, people are treated equally and not judged for their sexual orientation; in Nigeria this is not the case. 

When you meet someone that you would like to become friends with, finding out that they are gay is very difficult. This is because it is against my religion and culture. In my country, homosexuality is not allowed and is not legalised. Part of the reason for this, I feel, is because over 50 per cent of people living in my country are of the Muslim faith. 

So if you were to find yourself in that situation, what would you do? For example, I attend a youth club were everyone is equal and welcome. It does not matter if the person is homosexual, bisexual or transgender. When I first started at the youth club, when I arrived to Ireland, I did not know many people nor have many friends. The youth club was a great outlet for me to meet new people and make new friends. Here, we all have to work together, where we do many different activities and play many different games. 

I am a very shy person and initially did not speak to anyone when I started at the club, but a girl welcomed me and spoke to me. We started to chat and got to know each other and then someone shouted over ‘She is a lesbian’. I was shocked, I did not know what to say or do. It was very awkward as I had never met anyone who was a lesbian before, and as this was something my religion and culture was very against when I lived in Nigeria growing up. 

I have been in Ireland for a while now and understand that people are allowed the freedom to be whatever sexuality they are, and in my opinion they shouldn’t be judged or pushed out of society because of it. I can now easily speak to people who are both gay and straight and do not judge people for their sexuality.

If, however, this was in Nigeria, it would be very different and people would indeed be judged. I feel if a person was homosexual in my own country, they would be afraid to express this, and if they did, I feel they could be disowned by their family. It was very difficult for me initially to understand that people who are homosexual are treated equally in Irish society. I am glad I have overcome this and now understand that everyone is equal. I think it should be this way in Nigeria and every other part of the world.

An ethical challenge which I have not experienced myself but have witnessed throughout my time in Ireland is gender equality. 
I live in a house dominated by young male peers from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. These young men come from countries which are similar to my own, where men are in charge. In these countries, men decide what will happen, and women have no power or rights. They then come into a society that is completely different. In Irish society, woman have rights and a voice, and a lot of my young male peers struggle with this change. They must learn to respect women who may be in charge and treat these women, and young women like myself whom they may live alongside, with a new level of respect. As a smart person once said: “Who is a man? Who is a woman? Are we not one?”

In conclusion, I have highlighted only a small number of issues young people such as I face when living in a new society so different from our own. Many of these issues are ones that people would not even realise. As discussed above, simple acts that many would not think about can be the cause of such ethical challenges.

Acts such as going to the kitchen for a snack are more complicated than many would realise. It can be hard to adjust when even the simplest acts require such attention. Also, the bonding experience many people share of sitting around a table talking is often lost due to the different food requirements of young people due to religious beliefs and cultural preferences.

A simple act that has required my attention is looking people in the eye. Coming from a culture where this is a sign of disrespect into one which views the act in an opposite way has been an adjustment for me. Acts such as these which you may not consider a problem are the ones that cause an ethical challenge for other young people and me.
Although these ethical challenges we face are difficult at the time, they are what have enabled me and other young people to change and evolve into the people we are now.
TAGS : Joan Osayande Winner of the Spirit of Intercultural Ethics award Essay Ethical challenges Intercultural diversity Ireland
Other Entertainment News
Most Read
Most Commented