Did you know that within the United States there are communities of people from every nation in the world? Where I live in Southern California, children from 170 nations are studying in the public schools.
While many of us wait to travel overseas again and experience the benefits of learning, working, and living cross-culturally, here are 6 tips to live cross-culturally from home!
- Study new cultures. Read or take a class on the major religions of the world to gain a basic understanding of the religious beliefs of different cultures from your own. Take a class on Asian history or Latin American history to increase your knowledge beyond the “Western Civilization” that you probably studied in school. Then choose one country and dive deeper into their history, culture. and main religions.
- Actively participate in a new culture where you live. While you may not live in a culture as diverse as Southern California, people from various cultures most likely live close to you. Eating at ethnic restaurants is the easiest way to begin participating in a new culture. Try two or three types of food that you have never eaten before such as Ethiopian or Iraqi. Don’t be afraid to ask about which of the dishes are the most famous in their homeland.
- Attend a cultural festival. This is a great way to meet people and see traditions and customs of another culture in a fun setting. Most cities have public Chinese New Year, Cinco De Mayo, Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos), or Diwali (the Festival of Lights) celebrations.
- Attend a church service in an ethnic church. This provides the opportunity to experience worship in a new way and to meet people from another culture. Many ethnic churches have English services or provide translation. Often a meal is provided after the worship service. It is wise to call the church ahead to let them know you would like to attend the service.
- Visit a mosque, synagogue, or Buddhist temple. This is a great way to understand a new culture’s religious beliefs. Some mosques and temples have a visitor center that will help guide you in your visit. It is best to call ahead of your visit.
- Learn a new language. Once you have begun to participate in a new cultural community, it is helpful to take steps to learn the language of the people you are meeting. Ask a friend to teach you a few simple greetings and other simple sentences. The free sections of language learning apps, such as Rocket Languages or Babbel, can help you begin to learn a new language. If you want to go deeper, you can pay per month for more in-depth study.
Learning a new culture, and making new friends in that culture, is an enjoyable experience that can help you expand you understanding of our world. It will also give you a head start when you do move or travel to a new country to live and work.
About the Author: Scott is the IDEAS Director of Project Operations for Asia and IDEAS Crisis Response Team Assistant Manager. Enjoy other posts by Scott, such as Keeping Grandparents Connected While Living Overseas.