Cultural diversity can change who we are

Cultural diversity takes on many faces from the observers perspective. I have come to the conclusion, cultural diversity is dependent on elements making you, the observer, uncomfortable. It is all encompassed by our upbringing, attitude to change and acceptance. We make ourselves the “odd man out”.

Travel is the best education but only allows a superficial glimpse of different menus at McDonald’s worldwide. Let’s face it, when an American travels to France, they are going to hit McDonald’s. Familiarity is a magnet. Rationalize you just want to see the differences. It will provide a homecoming speech repeatable to your audience of how the Parisian McDonald milkshakes are nothing but a milky substance with a few shards of ice floating around in it.

Immersing yourself in a culture is more than prancing around Saks in New York City or limiting yourself to the city bus tours. A true cultural experience is meeting a young man in Spain who introduces you to his friends. You attend a wedding with them. You eat at their homes and learn how they live without a car or a refrigerator. You get sick and the young man takes you to a doctor, who happens to be his uncle. You realize the world is so much bigger than you will ever be. Their lives are so rich and full without the glitz and gizmos.

If you have never lived outside a major metropolitan area, you have no idea what life is like in a small town. It is a major culture shock. You lose your need for immediate satisfaction because the solutions are far-reaching. A trip to a major retailer is over 100 miles away. You learn to plan and improvise. People in, what you may think is secluded communities, have always lived with the resources they have available. If you grow up with an outhouse in the backyard and a wood burning stove in the kitchen – you don’t know you’re “poor”. There is no comparable.  If the area has no cable or satellite available and you never had it – how would you know what you’re missing? Money changes everything. Broadband access opens a new dimension for how farmers run their businesses and schools educate our children. It takes funding to change their way of life. Is this our way of making them more like us? Whatever “us” is.

The Amish community survives without modern convenience. Through the last century they have had to make changes to conform to modern society. Buggies must have reflective triangles and/or tape to travel on Pennsylvania public thoroughfares. As minor as this life saving measure appears to be, it was fought for religious and cultural reasons. “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed….” Romans 12.2 Knowing societal differences does not make one jump up and applaud the change.

If you have never been outside the county or parish you were born in – take a walk, grab a Greyhound, find a bus station, share a ride and see what is happening in the world around you. It makes a better you. The observation may not affect you immediately. It will assist you through later stages in life. Cultural diversity can change who we are. You become compassionate, understanding and appreciative. As a very young person, I fought being dragged through every art museum across the United States and Europe. It has proven to be one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. The journeys and the gift of gab enabled me to truly immerse myself into other people’s lives and learn so much more than what the tour guide had to offer. By the way, Paris, Texas is very different from Paris, France.

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