Can you speak Cockney like a quick-witted Londoner, smell the fresh flowers of a Parisian market, or hang-ten with the world’s most daring surfers in South Africa?
Each of these things can be found at the heart of one of these respective places, and they exemplify the same types of qualities that make up the pulse of every single culture around the world.
The fact is, anywhere you travel an exciting, beautiful, and extraordinarily different culture than what you are used to here in the United States will be awaiting you. This is why intercultural understanding is a vitaladdition to becoming an informed global citizen. This kind of understanding will increase our capacity to interact with other cultures in their own home, but also how to interact with them in ours.
So how does one go about understanding these different cultures-both overseas and on our own soil? My first piece of advice is to extensively research the culture you will be interacting with, whether it is at home or across the world. Being well versed in what offends a certain culture, but also what they celebrate will result in a warm welcome and an appreciation of your cultural knowledge-they will recognize that you took the time to learn about what is important to them.
Second, when traveling overseas have an open mind and few pre conceived notions about where you are going, you will always be surprised to find what every part of the world has in store for you-even if your destination is to a western country. Each part of the world is one of kind in the most amazing sense, but expecting too many similarities to the United States can easily result in your own shock and resentment towards a new and exciting culture-this type of reaction is not fun for anyone.
Lastly, remember that having knowledge of foreign cultures who might enter the United States is just as important as having knowledge as how to enter theirs. Many ethnicities from around the world not only travel here, but they make their home here. Just as you were once a strange face in a foreign land looking for acceptance-so are they when they enter the United States. Expecting immediate adaption to our own culture is both unfair to them, and a discount to what we can learn from the beauty of their homeland.
So what is the best way to become relatable and malleable towards varying cultures? Computer-oriented research is always a surefire way to be informed; however, I would suggest something more personal. Finding a conversation partner is a great way to personally connect to a different culture. Youth from all over the globe journey to America every day without any knowledge of the English language. By taking an hour out of your day once a week, you can simply speak with a person your age from a different country in order to improve their English. This gives ample opportunities to teach them about America, but learn from their perspective about what they believe makes their own culture beautiful so that you can more adequately make them feel right at home in the United States.