Social Studies 11
September 15, 2017
Why is Cultural Awareness Important?
“Culture makes people understand each other better…if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers.”-Paulo Coelho Many people believe learning one’s own culture is important, however, learning others can prove even more so. Studying a variety of cultures can expose one to interesting viewpoints, help one understand new cultures they interact with, and increase one’s global awareness while preventing conflict.
People around the world think differently. Everyone is exposed to a different set of conditions, whether that be a different environment or a different level of poverty. Some hunt, others farm, some read, others play, but no one does everything. This set of conditions heavily affects the way one thinks and acts. For example, someone from the Hopi tribe, a heavily Matrilineal society, would have much different views on women’s rights when compared to those of someone from Saudi Arabia, a country where the male to female ratio is very high. It is not as if American society has not borrowed ideas from other cultures already. Our government is a partial democracy, a concept borrowed from Ancient Greece, baseball, “America’s favorite pastime,” is British, and English, North America’s national language is comprised of more borrowed words than any other language. Other cultures can propose solutions that one’s own may never think of. Taking in ideas from other cultures and considering them while creating an opinion of their own will make their final opinion that much stronger. One could also expose themselves to information and events that may contradict what they originally thought and change their opinions completely. The fact is, everyone is different, and one’s own culture may not resonate with them as another culture would, meaning it may just be enlightening for one to look into other cultures.
Our world is becoming much more diverse as more cultures move in. Looking at it from an entirely North American perspective, people expose themselves to more new cultures now than ever. With new technology allowing international transportation, nearly anyone can enter any nation. The freedom to go anywhere in the world is leading many to the US and Canada in pursuit of the “American Dream,” along with hopes of a better life and a fresh new start. This means new people, new cultures, are entering our own at an alarming rate. For this reason, learning about other cultures can prevent one from being overwhelmed by the variety of people they will meet on a regular basis. Furthermore, it could help one prevent conflict between groups simply due to lack of information. Moreover, it would help those around you feel more accustomed to their new home. However, this is not limited to one’s immediate surroundings, nowadays, with the internet, and more specifically, social media, anyone can reach out to the whole world in seconds. So, simply knowing a little more about other cultures can help you prevent misunderstanding next time you tweet about that foreign event that is trending everywhere. Learning about other people’s cultures is also good a good business strategy. American businesses hoping to expand to a wider range of customers would need to understand the culture of their potential clients and adjust to account for differences. People whose work involves even a basic level of social interaction could benefit greatly from understanding how other cultures communicate or express their emotions. Even a basic understanding of other cultures can be an indispensable asset when communicating through any medium.
Finally, learning about other cultures improves one’s global awareness, and can help us, as a society, prevent conflict. With the current state of global relations, and frankly, the United States’ less than competent President, international conflict in the near future is not improbable. Something that is improbable however is the US losing any war, considering the sheer size and budget of its military. And, if such a thing would come to pass, or even if peace is decided upon, negotiations must be held. For negotiations to succeed, all countries involved would need a deep understanding of each other’s culture. If the terms of the negotiation were to hinder one side from practicing its culture, that side’s people would eventually grow to hate the other countries and conflict would occur once again. A more direct example of how that would turn out is the Quebec Act, which prevented self-governance and the practice of certain religions in the French people in Quebec. The French were accustomed to a certain lifestyle, which the Quebec act prevented. Another act eventually replaced it, but the damage had been done, and many French people held a grudge against the British that would last for ages. And, this is likely what could happen on a global scale if culture the countries involved don’t take culture into account during negotiation. However, if all parties involved can take each other’s culture into account and work together for the sake of all their people, it could potentially prevent conflict for years.
To sum it up, learning about other cultures can expose you to new ideas and opinions, help you socialize and accommodate a variety of different people, and help us as a nation prevent global conflict in the future.