Friday, April 22, 2011

How Studying other Cultures Increases our Understanding of our own Culture

By studying other cultures we increase our understanding of our own culture.
Describe a specific situation in which studying another culture might not increase the understanding of one's own culture. Discuss what you think determines when the study of another culture increases the understanding of one's own culture and when it does not.

Culture is comprised of a community's set of shared values, goals and practices. It is developed in time and passed from one generation to the next. Culture is a dynamic concept that allows for change due to different factors, such as the need to adapt to the environment and the exposure to other cultures. Developing an understanding for other cultures is essential in adapting to a global world where we increasingly need to interact with people of different backgrounds. Indeed, in the process of learning about others, we increase our understanding of our own culture.

Exposure to other cultures through study, travel and especially living in another country allows us to view our own culture from different lenses. First, we are able to better appreciate what our own culture has to offer. Oftentimes, when confined to a certain way of life without exposure to the outside world, we take for granted the good points of one's culture. This may include certain values, such as discipline, the drive to succeed and innovate, etc. Although the other culture might "lack" emphasis on certain values, it is still important to not judge and look at a system of values as subjective in nature.

Studying other cultures also allows us to learn new ideas and incorporate them to our own culture. The development of arts is an example where the influence of other cultures can help improve one's own creativity. The fusion of styles in cooking, art, dance and other disciplines has opened an array of possibilities and means of expression. Incorporating techniques and styles of other cultures often makes one's own cultural practice rich and dynamic. The ability to "borrow" from other cultures may be valuable in different aspects of life---including manner of government, interpersonal communication styles, and business practices.

Most importantly, the exposure to other cultures nurtures tolerance and an open mind. We increase our understanding of our own culture by viewing it as one of many cultures existing on earth. We learn that our values, goals and practices increasingly do not exist in a vacuum and are dynamic concepts that can be molded (for the better or worse) with exposure to other cultures. Merely reading about another culture will not increase understanding of our own culture. It is best to travel to other countries and even live amongst different people to really understand others and juxtapose their way of living with our own. It is essential, furthermore, to approach the study of other people with an open mind and without the idea that one's own culture is superior to others. By keeping an open mind, one allows himself to appreciate the beauties, as well as downsides, of another culture and in the process, enrich his own understanding of himself.