The United States has been a proverbial melting pot since the country’s founding, but how much do you know about cultures outside your own? From food and music to clothing and hairstyles, cultural diversity has shaped American life in ways that many citizens take for granted, but learning more about other cultures can help you develop a greater appreciation for their contributions. Here are four ways to better experience and learn about different American perspectives.
Travel the Country
Are you looking for the perfect summer vacation idea? Hop in a van or camper and experience the diversity of America firsthand. There is no better way to learn about other cultures than to immerse yourself in them. You can meet new people, experience rituals, holidays and events, try new foods and more. Carefully plan your trip with a map, or just wing it and go wherever the road takes you.
Literature is one of the oldest and best ways to explore other cultures. Curl up with a southern gothic novel, explore the works of a Puerto Rican poet or dive into a Native American legend. Reading also has the advantage of allowing you to explore cultures both past and present. Through books, you can see the world through someone else’s eyes even if they lived hundreds of years ago. Make sure to put emphasis on stories and poems written by the actual minorities who are part of the culture you wish to learn about to get the most authentic experience and to support the voices of minorities as a whole.
Attend Cultural Events
Festivals, holidays and other events are some of the most distinct aspects of every culture. Attend cultural events in your community to connect with and learn about your neighbors. Juneteenth celebrations, LGBT pride events, Native American powwows, Día de los Muertos and the Chinese New Year are just a few of the celebrations you may be able to experience right in your own backyard. Don’t forget about smaller traditions that are specific to your local community.
Make sure that you are tasteful when attending these celebrations. If you are going with a minority friend, make sure to ask what is appropriate to wear and say, especially when it comes to cliché and stereotypical phrases and clothing styles. For example, wearing a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo may seem fun, but it can be seen as turning a culture into a costume and can be considered offensive.
Meet Your Neighbors
Exploring other cultures may be as easy as visiting your neighbors. Even in the smallest towns and rural communities, there is a wealth of diversity in American neighborhoods. However, individualism means that many people never get to know their neighbors. Break down barriers by inviting your neighbors over for dinner, or plan a block party for the whole neighborhood.
While exploring other cultures and learning about different American perspectives, it’s important to be respectful. Remember not to judge the beliefs and practices of others just because they are different than your own. Come to other cultures from a place of learning and understanding, and avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes.