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The Cultural Tightrope

By Lora Inak

DSC 4091If you plug in the term ‘Cultural Tightrope’ into any search engine, you’ll undoubtedly find a mix of explanations, definitions, stories, articles and random websites. I started my research in exactly this way, sifting through page after page of search hits to find the perfect definition and starting point for this article.

After some time, and no real luck, I realised the difficult task of defining my meaning fell on me:

The act of balancing between the culture you’re born into, and the culture of the place or country in which you live.

Like the traditional circus tightrope we all know, the cultural tightrope can be precarious as it swings and bounces over the journey of the walker. For us first, second, and even third-generation Australians, we sometimes find ourselves on an oscillating tightrope, unsure of where we fit.

Are we real Australians? We weren’t born here! Or, if we were, we don’t look like the typical Aussie in tv commercials.

Inevitably, we look for cues about what is culturally acceptable should we choose to define ourselves as an Australian, and too often change ourselves to blend in, to balance, rejecting the culture of our forefathers. Alternatively, we deep dive into it, immersing ourselves in the safety of where we know we definitely belong.

As I get older, it increasingly dawns on me just how much the culture within us, and the culture without, affects every part of how we exist. The food we eat, the people we associate with, the books/movies/music we enjoy, the partner we marry, how we raise our children, our occupation, and the list goes on in a seemingly endless stream.

And with this awareness, comes the realisation of just how important it is to understand, accept, and be proud of it. Not only is culture a wide and frameless being, it is also complex in its constant evolution and fusion. So, it’s no surprise that balancing that tightrope can be tough.

As I learned to appreciate, accept and enjoy the culture I was born into and the one in which I live, I created a personal hybrid where I found comfort, happiness and balance. The tightrope stopped swaying...

So I walked calmly to the other end and climbed off.


Lora's debut novel, Unspoken Rules, is out on the 17th of September on Australian Citizenship Day.

To find out more about Lora, visit her website and Facebook.

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