Ethiopian culture tends to be family oriented. Whether it is members of your immediate family or extended family we are all equally loved. We call one another family / cousins (zemed).
Growing up, I was often with cousins…extended, immediate, friends, all were cousins. They were/ and still are part of my family that I love. When I was in elementary school, some of the other kids teased about the fact that I was always with cousins. What is interesting about that is that I didn’t see anything wrong with always being amongst cousins. That was my sense of comfort and place of belonging. We had each other. There was no need for other friends. We all had the same background and could share experiences.
I feel like this served both a positive purpose and a negative one. On the positive side of it, we were able to grow up amongst people we could relate to, feeling safe, and not judged. However, the negative part is that we always felt safe and later in life we were forced to learn about the way others, outside of our “cousins” would relate to us and understand us. It became challenging to make friends outside of our comfort zone. (Well really I’m speaking for myself but I’m sure others may relate).
As we got older, and moved away from our comfort zones we naturally formed new groups of friends. However, regardless of what the new group of friends is we still have each other. Family, cousins, “zemed” are never replaceable. We always have one another. Regardless of the issues that arise throughout life, we always come back together. The Ethiopian culture really centers on that point. It is a part of the culture that I truly value.
Please share your thoughts and feelings on this issue!