Living abroad has shown me how to live within myself more than ever before.
Whatever our education and experience level, we think we understand how the world works, common sense, and how to interact with others. The reality is, though, that generally we only know how to interact with others within our cultural group.
Blessed be those TKCs (Third Culture Kids) who grow up an insider to multiple cultures while also possibly not fully feeling like a part of any. They and a lucky other few have the opportunity to see and learn from multiple#diverse personal and cultural perspectives. Most of us have to learn about this along the way, on top of it in addition to our home, community, & familial culture.
It is true that traveling changes you in initially#invisible ways. We grow from the inside out, because much like the Tardis, we are bigger on the inside.
Like a fish in water who is asked about said water to only reply ”Huh, what is water?!” I could very easily see other cultures, but not necessarily mine.
It has taken stepping away to adequately begin to process where I came from, both in the micro and macro sense.
Once I finally began to explore that, I knew I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to formally train to become an intercultural trainer. For years though, that goal sat on a metaphorical shelf in the back of my mind.
Then, we suffered a global pandemic. I realized after about a year that I didn’t want life to ‘return to normal’, whatever that meant, without having done something personally different finally.
Thankfully, I was in a position to be able to take action.
Six months of intercultural train-the-trainer courses with a ❤️ of reading diverse perspectives (& living abroad) has helped me to become more patient, more reflective, tolerant, & understanding of differing perspectives.
Next, I present a part of my bookshelf books that I love that has taken me to other places without me physically going anywhere.
It is with these books & a few others (especially Trevor Noah’s book, “Born a Crime” & Ibram X. kendi’s “How to be Anti-racist”) where I have become immersed in other worlds, rising with their characters’ victories & falling alongside their pain & tragedy, learning what their life is/was like. Something I would not otherwise inherently know because of my time & place of birth, not to mention who I was birthed to. They’ve given me a deeper understanding of the complexity of human experience. They’ve helped me also learn that multiple perceptions exist. That another’s autonomy may manifest differently than mine, but that does not devalue or differently rate it.
Honestly, if a student asked me to explain the word off the cuff in an English lesson, I would say “to tolerate, put up with, deal with”… similar to the German definition of „Tolerenz“, which another Instagramer explained is not necessarily positive.
That cannot be the goal of human interaction. To grit our teeth and ‘deal with’ people we don’t know or don’t see eye to eye with or shun & demonize because they don’t look, act, or speak like us – until we can return to our own little safe bubbles. Really?!
No. The goal must be greater understanding. If we can understand each other, not just in language, but in internal & external motivation, we may have an easier time meeting in the middle. It doesn’t mean we need to convince each other that ‘my’ way or ‘your’ way is better. Instead, this understanding should help build empathy toward others instead of against the idea we have of them.
It is through these (and other) books that I have learned that my heart can grow bigger, making space not only for people I have met but also for people I have yet to meet, whose stories I have yet to learn.
Over to You
Tell me in the comments:
Which books would you say you’ve learned the most from?