Culture exposure in contempory American society

Zarqua Ansari, Opinion Writer

Graphic by Savannah Pinnock

I’m not the average American girl. I’m not even American-born for starters. I was exposed to American and Indian lifestyles growing up and I know the cultures of both societies.

This has enabled me to be more open-minded and considerate to others.

America is called a melting pot, yet most people in America are not exposed to as many cultures as you would expect. Learning about other cultures is a very important feature in many different areas of one’s life.

For example, I was raised as an Indian-American child, as in my parents raised me as Indian, but I had the life outside of home to become American. I am capable of fluently speaking and understanding four languages.

My cognitive development was accelerated due to having a grasp on more languages. There was a study that found that people that can speak multiple languages are better at mathematics than those who speak a single language.

Learning about other cultures is not only useful, but also fun. Being exposed to the Indian lifestyle, I have eaten some of the most amazing foods, seen some of the most festive and colorful ceremonies and I’ve been exposed to some quality movies, television and music.

I have taken part in different celebrations such as the extravagant weddings India is known for and I have a deep appreciation of India’s society as a whole.

A better understanding and more open perspective can be applied to your personal life if you know about other cultures. I have lived whole summers in India and as much as I loved it, it made me appreciate many things about my own life.

Free public education, sanitary products, clothing and even electricity and plumbing are often taken for granted in first world countries. However, in India, I have had to tough out some pretty harsh conditions regarding those very things.

Cultural exposure has helped develop me into a well-rounded person. I am more open to trying new things than most other people. I find that when presented with an presumably odd fact about a culture I often think first what they might think of us.

I am less judgmental because I know how different people can be. In addition, I can avoid being ignorant and offensive because I have a decent amount of background knowledge on the culture already.

Embarrassment and discomfort can easily be avoided with some knowledge of other cultures. For example, knowing that Indian people prefer closer proximity than Americans in conversation allows for you not to feel as uncomfortable if you are in conversation with someone from India.

Knowing that a thumbs up is a form of teasing in India, you know not to accidentally offend someone when you set foot in India.

The most important reason to learn about other cultures is to combat stereotypes. Stereotypes help no one. People get insulted, assumptions are made  and it is all around awkward. I have been asked some very odd questions in my life.

People ask me if I shower with my hijab on of course not, it’s an article of clothing, or where my red dot is-I’m Muslim not Hindu, or if I’m really good at math. I am but it’s not because I’m Asian.

Stereotypes often mislead people. I have been told by many people that I’m more funny, outgoing, open, free and fun than they expected me to be. This is because they filled in my character using stereotypes without getting to know me first.

To summarize, learning about other cultures is crucial. Cultural exposure enables you to have an open mind, make new friends and try new things.

You become a well-rounded and open-minded person and your curiosity can be fueled. Awkward situations can be avoided and you might even make someone feel welcome.

Learning about other cultures is important and with today’s technology is easier than ever before.