When someone has traveled all over the world, we instantly think of them as more cultured than the rest of us. They’ve seen things we haven’t. They must know more, right?
That’s not always the case. Those people you know? They could have spent most of their time in those other places eating at the nearest chain restaurant they recognize and sitting in the Americanized comfort of the city’s Best Western. Not exactly cultural immersion, is it?
Being cultured isn’t about the places you go, it’s about broadening your knowledge of things you don’t understand and being open-minded in your views of the world. With the power of the Internet, it’s easy to learn new things and there are plenty of ways you can learn how to become cultured, sometimes without ever leaving your house.
Skip the hot dogs and make empanadas for lunch. Learn a new language while watching television. Follow other travel bloggers. Have conversations with someone from a different country in person or online, or read translations of books from other countries. From the food you put on your table to embracing the diversity of local cultures, here are seven easy tips on how to become more cultured.
One of the most basic cultural universals is food. We all have to eat. Food varies wildly throughout the world. While most Americans are content with a typical cheeseburger and French fries, you should try switching things up occasionally. You may not be able to afford to go to all the exotic places you want to, but you can take a tour of them in your kitchen with dishes like these.
There are tons of simple recipes available on the Internet so you can try to eat foods from various countries. What about empanadas? What if you take a food fusion approach and make pizza on homemade naan bread? Now, that’s a way to become more cultured.
Trying something new is always exciting. Your recipes may fail at first, but you may develop a passion and taste for new cuisine. That newfound passion could lead to impressing your family or significant other. Plus, this is an exciting and easy example of how to become cultured. You can share all your different new dishes with friends and family to help liven up their palates as well. Don’t be greedy, unless the food tastes that good. Share the culture!
In Europe, it’s common for people to know more than one language. My friend from Ukraine knows seven (or probably more by this point). This makes me feel like a pretty basic traveler, even though I am quite an avid one.
In America, we typically don’t have a need to know any other language but English, but learning one can be a beneficial talent. You can make new friends, learn something new and have a new skill to list on your resume. You don’t need to be fluent, but even learning some key words or phrases is an awesome new thing to say you know.
Learning a different language can be a cultural eye-opener, especially when analyzing cultural phrases with complex meanings. Often those phrases don’t translate well between languages. It also opens your eyes in a very cool way in science. For example, Russians see more variations of blue than English speakers because their language contains more word choices for blue. Your cognitive skills become more flexible as you possess an increasingly varied worldview.
Tons of apps and services can help you get to know languages. One of my favorites is Duolingo, which has a decent variety. It’s also free. Another option: See if there’s any community groups in your area who meet up to practice any languages, too, such as your local library. An alternative is using social media to find language learning groups where you can connect with a teacher or language exchange partner. It’s a nice way to connect with others while actively learning.
There’s a ton of great content coming from other countries. While many British shows are getting more and more popular in America, broaden your horizons beyond the U.K. Netflix is your best friend for this one. Its library has a bunch of foreign films and TV shows to explore. Another idea is to search online for worldwide film festivals. The indie scene has a lot to offer when it comes to foreign films.
Films and TV are a great way to witness the little intricacies of another culture without going there. You see what’s popular, get their sense of humor and learn about what they find entertaining and enjoy. You can observe their boy language and get to know how they make introductions and interact in comparison to your upbringing. Since both television and film aim for some sense of realism, you get to experience an example of how to become more cultured by getting a taste of what everyday life is like.
When some people travel, they like to blog about their experiences and what they go through. Their stories are another way for you to explore everyday life in another culture and see what it’s like.
A simple Google search can turn up tons of them. For a lot of them, you will be able to check out a wide variety of locations, personal favorite destinations, attractions you may want to check out, people that you can learn about and much more. These travel bloggers also post links to what they share, and you especially want to pay attention to their tips on getting good deals on flights, hotels and activities.
Arguably the best way to learn about other cultures is to talk to someone that is or was a part of that culture. With the Internet, that’s easier than ever. You can visit online forums, chat rooms and even play games with people around the globe. Start with trading lingo for greetings, or texting acronyms and phrases. Not everyone will know these colloquialisms, and that makes you become more cultured.
Of course, it’s important to exercise caution when meeting new people on the Web, but it can also create valuable friendships that help both of you learn something new as you become cultured.
Whether you want to read current books, or books written hundreds of years ago, many foreign authors out there have published some wonderful stuff. Sites like GoodReads have sections that show what foreign books are most popular now with their users.
While a lot of us have read books like the Harry Potter series, which can technically be classified as foreign to Americans since they originated in Britain, there are so many wonderful books out there from other places. Crime fiction from Scandinavia has exploded recently, and there are a lot of classic Russian novels that are still very popular. Books are truly a great way to explore different worlds and imagine what it would be like to live like the characters in them. Reading is also a wonderful way to focus on how to become more cultured.
Being cultured isn’t all about learning from other places. Go see local art shows, museums, festivals, concerts, plays and anything else that happens to be going on.
Many cities bring in festivals from other cultures as well, such as Philadelphia’s Feria del Barrio, which celebrates Latino arts and culture.
Experiencing cultural opportunities doesn’t need to involve expensive travel plans. Some are right out your front door, and some are right in your living room. There’s nothing stopping you from broadening your horizons, so what are you waiting for? These are just a few ways to focus on how to become cultured! So get started and dive in!