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In recent years, it feels like it can’t go one week without hearing about racist remarks or attacks in the global news. In America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia there have been incidents against the minority groups of all these areas of the world.
Those people get judged by their heritage and color, and not their actions. It cannot be described as anything other than saddening and heartbreaking. But while fear and hate of the new and unknown have always been part of human society, we must not let fear get the better of us. Humanity is beautiful and sharing our cultures with each other, makes us a better species.
And as of the 21st Century, we have never been more globally diverse and culturally open-minded. Never before has it been so easy to share, discuss, see and experience culture and traditions as it is right now. During my one year in Japan, I discussed politics with an American, relationships with a Frenchmen, how to properly cook food with an Italian, (I learned to never mention ketchup in such conversations), shared a warm hug with an Irishman, climbed mountains with a Swizz and made friendly fun of one another with my Scandinavian neighbors. And that is not mentioning how every day I learn new and breathtaking things about the Japanese culture, witnessing how their daily life and traditions were worlds apart from my own.
The point is, cultural exchange is a fantastic and precious thing we should cherish. While cultural appropriation has become a little controversial, one should never say no to learn more, to ask more questions, and to understand. Every culture has had hundreds, if not thousands, of years of history. Their traditions are as normal in their eyes, as yours is in your own. We are all in this life together.
So let's share about our differences and similarities!
What can you do to take part in sharing and experiencing the varied fruit baskets of worldly cultures?
Ways to get a perspective and a small taste of other cultures are almost endless. Every year people travel abroad on vacations to get away from their own daily lives back at home. Enjoying new foods, drinks, and nature. But you can only experience so much while living in a hotel, drinking a pina colada at the beach or pool. And very often, tourist destinations are not a good window into the lives of the population as a whole. The same goes for media like movies and television. Arts like these can give a good hint of what the culture can be like, but while not necessarily a lie, rarely portray a realistic view of what actual life is like. Things like anime, Korean dramas, and Hollywood are good examples of this. Although it is a decent supplement when you are unable to travel abroad.
It goes without saying, that the greatest of options is visiting the country, to socialize and observe the population. How do they celebrate things like birthdays, marriage, or the birth of a newborn? How do they mourn the loss of a loved one? How do they feel about foreign cultures? What does their home-cooked food taste like? How do they like to celebrate weekends? How much does a beer cost? What political topics do they often discuss amongst each other? These are all things you can’t truly learn without being there and living amongst them.
Exciting Ways to Experience Local Culture
That is why so many choose to study abroad in countries they love. They get to learn the subject they are interested in and get to live and breathe side by side with the people of that country.
Spending some time living in the home of a local friend, staying with a host family, or living in a share house, are all perfect ways to get hands-on experience. So many people who choose to study or move abroad take the opportunity to live in one of these options. While living with a host family is amazing and you get taken well cared of, the difference in age groups can become apparent after a while. That’s why share houses have become so big in recent years. You get to live semi-independently while at the same time share living spaces with locals, or in cases like Borderless House’s International share houses, a balanced mix between foreign tenants and locals.
Stories of people cooking different ethnic dishes to each other every week, celebrating local and foreign Holidays together, sharing memories and experiences from their hometowns, traveling and exploring together to learn what lies beyond the crowded tourist locations, creating strong friendships with people that while having different cultural and religious values, still connect with you. To make friends and be happy, it is important to love each other’s similarities, while also respecting our differences, even if we don’t agree with everything.
Start to experience different cultures!!
So when this pandemic is over, take a chance. Go somewhere you have not been before. Try the foods you have never eaten. Find a stranger and talk to them. Travel abroad and ask them to show you what life actually is like there. Buy someone a drink and ask them to tell you about themselves. In my experience, this gives the most real and pleasant view of someone’s culture and life. And might even make you appreciate or improve your own life, after being inspired by someone else’s stories.
As my childhood hero once said:
“Sharing tea with a fascinating stranger is one of life’s true delights”
Stay safe everyone :)