Wetin dey happen?” said Sarah, my best friend of two years. She spoke in a strange foreign accent to a small, round woman who worked as one of the school’s custodians.

“I dey fine,” the woman replied.

Confused and irritated, I stood beside them as they continued talking in this strange yet familiar jumbled-up version of English.

Why is my best friend making fun of this poor woman and her accent? I thought to myself.

As an African yourself, you should understand how hard it is to be in another country, speaking a language that is not your own! How can you make fun of someone? I mentally yelled at my friend as I stormed away.

Later that evening Sarah explained to me that in West Africa and in many other parts of the world some people speak Pidgin English. Pidgin English is a form of English mixed with that person’s native language.

This insight—that my best friend had a whole culture she had not exposed me to—led me to ponder. I realized I also belong to various culture groups that others may not be aware of. For this very reason I decided to Venn my life. I wanted to put all the different parts of who I am into a Venn diagram and get a visual picture of myself.

A Venn diagram is an illustration of the relationships between and among sets, normally depicted in circles or closed curves within an enclosing rectangle. By creating a Venn diagram, I was able to discover hidden wisdom I never knew I had. Even making decisions became easier.

First I began with defining culture. Next I identified groups that I belong to, listing important qualities of each group. Finally I created my Venn diagram using characteristics that resonated with me from those groups. Using these three easy steps, you too can Venn your life.

Define culture

Before diving into your different culture groups, you will want to understand culture. According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), culture is “the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterizes a society or group.” In other words, culture is what helps you decide how and what you believe.

Identify groups you belong to

Include distinct qualities of each group. As an example, here’s what I came up with.

South Sudanese

Because I was born in South Sudan, my family raised me with certain beliefs. For example, marriage is very important, and many parents believe it necessary to be involved in the process, as in arranged marriage.

  • Family: My parents also strongly believe in family, and I was taught that everyone is family. For example, if I encounter a person in the same age range as my parents, I should treat them as such, even calling them mama, aunty or another familiar term.
  • Lack of emotional expression: Because of the lack of emotional expression in the Sudanese culture, I find it very hard to express my emotions, especially the sad ones.  


  • Education: I strongly believe in education and access to it.
  • Democratic government
  • Emotional expression: Having spent most of my life in America, I have learned to express some of my emotions.
  • Mental health


  • Afterlife: Being raised as a Christian, I believe there is an afterlife and that what we choose to believe will dictate that experience.
  • Freedom from judgment: As a Christian I also believe that it is not my place to judge anyone because I too am a sinner.
  • Relationship: I know that it is powerful to have a relationship with Christ.
  • Bible: I believe that the Bible is fact.

Create your Venn diagram

After compiling all the different culture groups you belong to—some chosen, some passed down, others even adopted—you can create the Venn diagram of who you are. This will not only be a fun exercise; it will also help you create healthy boundaries, have better relationships and have greater empathy for others.

Don’t just live your life . . . Venn your life!

Venn your own life

Put your knowledge to good use. What groups do you belong to? Were they chosen, passed down or adopted? Use this information to create a Venn diagram of your own life that will help you in your decision-making processes.

Sunday Koung, also known as Nyasunday Koung, is a junior communication major at Union College.