Feigning ignorance to what business casual means, we smugly donned our best dress and sat in our seats for the Real AD show, during which members of the cast warned us about the danger of cliques based around similar cultural backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, most of that advice fell on deaf ears. During Candidate Weekends and Marhaba Week, we were enamored with the idea of getting to know people from all over the world, from cultures starkly different from our own, to the point that we began to fetishize diversity and our own cosmopolitanism. But once the magic, and possibly jetlag, wore off, we began to realize that it is significantly easier to connect with and understand people from cultural backgrounds similar to our own.
Students from Latin America, Eastern Europe, the UAE and a myriad of other places have formed solidified cliques that rely on both shared cultural values and language and can be quite intimidating to an outsider. The formation of these cliques is to be expected, yet there is a large group that remains without one: those from the U.S. While I realize that some other nationalities and cultural backgrounds also lack cliques, I find the lack of an American clique notable because it demonstrates a larger issue with American culture. The reason behind the clique’s nonexistence is more intricate than a group of people simply not connecting.
One could argue that our university is an American-based institution and, much to the chagrin of its cosmopolitan mission, is saturated to such extent in American cultural values that Americans feel at home here as they would in the States. Thus perhaps it isn’t necessary to form a close bond with other Americans in order to retain that sense of home. While this notion may be relevant, one still has to consider that, like many NYUAD students living in a foreign culture and in life outside Sama Tower — which I have heard through hearsay exists — Americans are just as alienated and new to this city as any other group.
Imagine if there were an American clique. Of course, one could never exist because American culture has become global culture — across the world, we hear the same Rihanna songs and obsess over the same episodes of Breaking Bad — and we do not have the liberty of nor the joy derived from excluding people by switching to our native tongue. But nevertheless, imagine if such a clique existed. I cannot imagine it would exist without drawing accusations or, at the very least, awkward feelings. While the other cliques are free to insulate themselves, the Americans would be accused of being snobbish, elitist, racist — though this hardly makes sense — or any other negative idea. We would engage in the same actions as other cliques — throw parties with the intention of keeping it U.S.-only; sit together at meals; bombard Facebook with pictures of our outings, screenings of the Superbowl and Thanksgiving celebrations. But for some reason, we would most likely encounter harsh criticism in an anti-U.S. double standard.
But the primary reason why a U.S. clique wouldn’t happen is that Americans are not interested in reaffirming our own American-ness; in fact, we are desperately attempting to escape it. I am by no means a dedicated patriot, nor am I someone who blindly accepts all of the U.S. government’s actions while thumping my Constitution and Bible against my American-flag-covered chest, but I will not attempt to distance myself from the U.S. by unnecessarily criticizing or mocking it. There are enough ignorant people willing to harangue the country instead of the system of hegemony — the player rather than the game. Americans have been taught for a variety of reasons to distance themselves from their country and never to take pride in their culture. This lack of connection to a national identity manifests itself in U.S. fascination with subcultures and other cultures in general — one only needs to look as far as the obsession with the Royal Wedding or Tumblr photos of Paris.
A reversal into an absurd, clique-based chauvinism would be awful, but some acknowledgement and appreciation of our cultural background and history cannot be a bad thing. Furthermore, cliques on their own are not inherently bad, but why sacrifice cross-cultural connection for something that’s simply easy or convenient?
Editor's note: In this article, "American" is used to refer to things, ideas and people from the United States.
Sam Ball is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.