Explore Cultural Diversity
Welcome to the cultural diversity portion of our website. As we were moving overseas, or traveling around the world, we met many different people. We've been struck as much by how different they are as by how different their traditions and approach to life are. Sometimes it has been funny, other times, embarrassing, and occasionally, we've been downright offensive--not on purpose--but simply because we didn't understand the culture of our hosts.
What is culture?
Merriam Webster explain culture this way "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group." Culture is an all encompassing word, it includes beliefs about what is right and wrong, customs about proper manners, ways of interacting with others. It dictates habits of when and what to eat, how to dress, how to drive, how to act in public, and just about every aspect of daily life. Owen Lee provides an excellent summary of all of the aspects of culture. It is entitled Beyond Languages and is a free download when you buy Ultimate Language Secrets. We recommend it.
For example, the United States of America is a melting pot of cultures and peoples. We pride ourselves on the fact that over the centuries, we've welcomed people from all nations. This mix of cultures gives character to the landscape of the USA. Because of this, the question "Where are you from?" is often one of the first questions an American will ask a stranger. A person with an accent is particularly likely to be asked this question.
In Sweden, by contrast, it is bad manners to ask a person where they are from. A Swede would never dream of asking a stranger such an intrusive question.
A number of years ago, my friend Maria was traveling on the train through Denmark. She was on her way home to Sweden. Although, she speaks English well, she feels awkward doing so. While traveling, she struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to her. They conversed in English for several hours as the train sped through Denmark. As they approached the boarder and prepared to pass through customs, both of them pulled out their passports, only to discover that they were both Swedish citizens. Because it is bad manners to ask a person where they are from, neither had questioned the other and they had spent hours talking in English because of their common Swedish culture.
They both chuckled when they realized that their common nationality. This example illustrates how culture governs the way we act, even in something as simple as meeting a stranger. Getting around in different cultures can be full of pitfalls. Read about fika, another example that helps define culture.
A note about Culture Shock
Quite often the clash that occurs when a person is immersed in a new culture can be unnerving. When you're moving overseas, you come face to face with the realities of cultural diversity; it can be stressful; click here to learn more about culture shock.
Why this Culture Corner?
This culture corner provides a place where you can learn more about cultural diversity. Preparing to go abroad? Preparing to move overseas? This is the place to explore cultural diversity and understand social morays; learn from other peoples' experiences; see pitfalls to avoid. After you arrive in your new destination, return often to submit your own stories of cultural diversity. Tell us your anecdotes, share with others what you've learned about culture. We will post your stories and your pictures here for others to read.
We welcome all stories that highlight cultural diversity or help others navigate the process of moving overseas. Please use the following form to submit your stories.
What is your cross cultural story?
Our readers have traveled the world and have great stories to share. Help others prepare for cultural differences in the countries that they want to visit. Share your best examples of cultural diversity.
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Reading: the Bread of Life
I just read an interesting article from the Jakarta Post. It points out a significant cultural difference between Indonesia and developed countries around …...
Havana, Cuba - Walking along the Prado
I was hooked the first time that I encountered a few Cubans in my native country of Canada. Their stories about life in Cuba attracted me and gave me …...
What Prisoners We Are to Our Past
Back in the 1960's, during the height of the cold war, I was in Kiev, the capitol of the Ukraine. At the time I was working for the United States government, …...
Got a Hit of Air
Call them "old wives tales" urban legends, folklore, or superstitions, but every culture has some beliefs or stories passed from one generation to another. …...
Throw those (under)pants out the window
Sometimes, even when you speak the same language, certain words have different meaning in different countries. The two stories below illustrate how these …...
The Time the I Got Hit by a Bus
Before I went to India, I heard the tourists in India are most often killed by buses. Not that tourists die all that often in India, but that is the greatest …...
I spent a year and a half in Italy. I loved it. I loved learning Italian and enjoying all of the culinary delights that Italy offers. I frequently ate …...
Santa Lucia -- Celebration of Light Not rated yet
SWEDEN, land of the midnight sun. It is also land of the midday dark. Winder in Sweden is not only cold; it is dark. In the northernmost parts of the …...
This just in: Wheel "rediscovered" Not rated yet
One of my best experiences in a different culture was witnessing Solomon Islands villagers “rediscover” the wheel as they figured out how to import and …...
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Study Abroad Corner
One of my favorite places in the world is Italy. I spent a year and a half there. I loved the people, the food, the culture, and especially the Italian language. Study abroad Italy, learn Italian through real world experience with a study abroad program to Florence or Rome. I had some great experiences in Rome. I loved the way that Italians speak with their hands and the way they get so passionate about their opinions, especially on the bus.
My friend Trinidad at Study Spanish Latin America has a whole section with Latin American country profiles. They also offer Spanish language schools with Spanish immersion and Spanish lessons. The best way to learn a language is by visiting the country.
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