After I participated in our most recent Connecting With Respect workshop, I had an idea for a new blog series. At the conclusion of the day and half session, we were left with some tips for moving forward on the path to respect. One of the suggestions stuck in my mind: practice curiosity.
I’ve always been a person curious about other cultures. I mean I am the same person who, while in high school, enrolled in an Intercultural Communications class at a local college.
On my travels and in my life, I’ve probably befriended someone from every continent, except Antarctica. I’ve even started attending local dinners for young professionals hosted by the Council on World Affairs just to meet people from different cultures, and boy have I!
Be Curious Not Suspicious
But that doesn’t mean I am immune to having biases. In fact, no matter how open minded you think you are I am sure there is somewhere a hidden bias in the recesses of your mind and that’s fine. The human brain works like that. So much so that Harvard University has even created Project Implicit to test these.
If we are not curious and open to exploring new cultures, then we fall prey to succumbing to these biases. Often we mistake being curious when we are really being suspicious about another culture. For instance, after seeing someone wearing a specific piece of religious headgear, you may think I wonder what they are hiding instead of wondering what that signifies in their religion and what is its purpose.
That’s why I’ve decided to push my cultural boundaries even further with this series by becoming a cultural tourist.
Why did I choose the term cultural tourism? Cultural tourism has been typically depicted as exploring another region’s culture, or more specifically the lifestyle of it’s peoples. Usually, this takes the form of exploring historic sites and buildings among other things. But, I like the idea of re-appropriating it to refer to learning about live cultures that may be different from our own.
Each month, I will do just that by placing myself outside of my normal comfort zone and engaging in an experience that may seem to stretch those boundaries. Don’t be surprised if you see me around town attending a bar mitzvah, Muslim temple, or even political meeting.
And feel free to leave a comment to suggest where you’d like to see me next!