The world is filled with people, and while we all share some fundamental characteristics and habits, cultural differences can be the cause of conflict and misunderstanding. Learning about and embracing cultures different to your own can help you to be a more understanding and empathic person, removing those perceived barriers created by cultural differences. Traveling and immersing yourself in other cultures is the best way to open your eyes to other religions, customs and ways of life. Jumping on a plane is not as easy as it was due to the pandemic so, while you’re waiting for the world of travel to open up, why not do the following to get a head start and start to learn about other cultures from your home country?
Taste the Food
From the vibrancy of color and flavor of Thai food to the love of red-hot spice in southwest China where their temperaments are synonymous with the ubiquitous chilli pepper, food is what makes some countries stand out from others. Learning to cook new food is always an option as there is a treasure trove of free recipes available online. You can also book into international restaurants in your local area and chat to the chefs about the different flavors. Snacks can also give you a great taster of what awaits you when you do get to travel to a specific country. You can purchase an international snack box subscription and you’ll get to enjoy a monthly delivery of some of the most delicious sweet and savory snacks from all corners of the globe. It’s the perfect gift and joining the club has lots of added perks.
Learn a Language
If you want to really learn about another culture, learning the language is the best place to start. Learning a language can be intimidating, but the personal sense of achievement and ability to communicate with and make new friends far outweighs those initial fears. It is likely that there are fluent or native speakers in your local area who can help you practice and, if there’s not, there are plenty of online resources and apps you can use to communicate with native speakers. Unless you can speak a language, you will never truly be able to understand another culture so it is a great place to start. With persistence and effort, you will surprise yourself and be chatting away in a new tongue quicker than you thought possible. Apps like DuoLingo and Babbel are amazing as they’re very effective and easy to use.
With so much information available online, the human element of cross-cultural communication can be ignored. There is only so much you can learn from books or online resources. It is only through real world experiences and listening to and talking to natives can you get a full understanding of their way of life. People are genuinely interested in talking about their culture – whether it be art, food or philosophy – so get out there and connect with people in your local area and online.
Attend networking events locally when possible. Join Facebook groups and get to know the members. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with people you meet on a daily basis. Whatever you do, it’s important you approach your learning from a place of curiosity and understanding and, as long as this is the case, you will start making new friends who will culturally enrich your life. You’ll regret not having done this sooner when you see how many new amazing people you’ll have in your life.
Go to Cultural Events
It’s in the name, but cultural events are a fantastic way to learn about another nation. You will meet new people who are knowledgeable and you can learn more about the people you are interested in. Food festivals are one of the more popular cultural events. We all like food, and there’s nothing better than discovering new things to eat. Culture and food are often very strongly linked and attending a food festival is a great day out that the whole family can enjoy. Other options include art exhibitions, music festivals, art and theatre. If it’s not possible to attend an event locally, research options online as there is something new happening every minute of every day. Most events are free too.
Understand Why You Are Doing It
When learning about a new culture, it is essential to understand why you are doing it. Cross-cultural learning leads to a world where people have a better understanding of each other, and allows us all to live in a more harmonious environment. To learn and get the most from your experience, you must have an open mind and be ready to free yourself of any stereotypes you have. Without this, you won’t be able to learn and understand properly.