Thursday, February 2, 2017

Meeting people far away and nearby: Learning about different cultures


We are all alike

Having traveled internationally to several countries and met and interacted with people all over the world, one of the things that has really stuck with me is this:

Every single person on this earth is a person, just like me, and we all have similarities. I’ve seen moms taking care of their children in India, ladies walking their dogs in England, boys playing catch with their dad in Paris, and kids running and playing in Mexico. Just like people I see every day in the U.S.

I think traveling has been truly valuable for this and many lessons I've learned. But I don't always need to travel far away to find people from all different cultures who I can meet and learn from.

Meeting a Somali family

Several years ago, I took a multicultural communications class while attending college in St. Paul, Minnesota. Our professor divided our class into different groups to learn about specific cultures and religions. My group learned about the Islam religion. As part of our assignment, we were to meet and visit with a Somali Muslim family in their home and visit a mosque.

A classmate and I visited a Somali Muslim family in Minneapolis, in an area where many Somali immigrants lived. I remember the mother was very kind and welcoming. All of the family members were kind and hospitable. They didn’t all speak English really well, but we communicated pretty well.

We visited with them and learned more about their culture and religion. We learned so much from them, and we found it interesting to learn about them. They were happy to share with us, and they enjoyed our visit. The women gave us beautiful colorful scarves to wear, and they insisted we keep them as gifts when we left!

Later in the class, my classmates and I visited a mosque. We followed the rules we’d been given, and we covered our heads with scarves and removed our shoes. The people in the mosque welcomed us, and we left with a greater understanding of the Islam religion.

Learning from those different from us

Not everyone likes to travel, and not everyone can travel to different countries. But I think lessons can be learned even by meeting people from a religion or culture different from yours, right where you live.