How is your Cultural Awareness?

When you get invited to spend 12 days visiting your best friends’ family in Trinidad, you go – yes?

cultural dollsI have always been fascinated by different cultures – I think it probably goes back to when I was little and my Dad used to be away with his work a lot. He would bring home various gifts for us all…and often one of my pressies was a doll in the native dress of whichever country he had been in. I loved that collection – and over the years it got quite big!

 

So there I am – in a country and culture VERY different to my own – and my ‘noticing’ was on overdrive!

  • I noticed the heat (between 30-35 degrees daily)
  • The sights – NOT the tropical beaches most people immediately thought of when they heard I was going to the Caribbean ;-), but the eclectic variety of a developing country – shacks to skyscrapers.
  • The sounds – cars, people, dogs, music, radio, laughing, LOUD
  • The speed of life – mostly slower!! (See heat above…)
  • The interactions – open, blunt, direct, definitely NOT politically correct as the British would know it!
  • The vegetation – things were growing here I had never seen before – i was constantly asking ‘what’s that?’
  • The food – tastes – mostly utterly amazing! I noticed the carbs and fried staples eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and anywhere in-between.
  • The responses and attention paid to rules / laws / boundaries – or lack there of, for the preference for personal freedom at all costs.
  • The levels of violence – domestic abuse is rife, drugs and gangs feature significantly, gun shots, death, are in the paper and down the street.
  • The passions – for sports (yes mostly cricket), politics, parties and ‘liming’- sitting around just being together and chatting.

 

Somebody said once “our culture is like the air we breathe or the water we swim in” – we don’t notice it, but it has a huge impact on us.

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I firmly believe each country and culture in the world has a strength – a positive gift it can give to the world, and an area where it can receive help from other cultures in the world. If we can see it.

As I shared some of my ‘noticings’ with people who live in Trinidad – my comments (not judgments, just noticings) about the way life happens there – were often met with laughter, acknowledgement, or surprise that I was even noticing it as something to comment on – i.e. ‘that is just how it is here’.

And it got me reflecting on the impact of culture.

Each household has a culture.   Each family has a culture.   Each school has a culture.

The silent, unspoken air-we-breathe ‘this-is-just-how-it-is-here’ is part of all groups, teams, communities. Children are growing up being affected by the invisible cultures around them. Adults are working in communities, each with invisible cultures that are having an impact on them.

  • What are the key elements of the culture in your family?
  • What are the key elements of culture in your school?
  • What are the ‘this is how we do things here’ elements of your classroom?
  • What are the positive aspects of that culture? The elements to celebrate?
  • Are there any elements that you wish were different?
  • How intentional are you about creating a culture for your community?
  • Are you even aware that you are existing in a culture in each community you belong to?

 

Sometimes it takes a visit outside of our own situation, or hearing from a visitor, to be able to ‘notice things’ afresh – to get some new eyes – to learn more about ourselves and who we really want to be.

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