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Gaining from Cross-Cultural Experience

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Regardless of the different colours of our hairs and eyes, or the different languages we speak, did you realize we all hold and bite into an apple the same way? My curiosity about myself being a human and what makes me a person resulted in watching several documentaries about our bodies and how our minds work. What makes us who we are, and why are we culturally different from one another?

First, what is culture? Culture can be generally defined as the “personality” (or behaviour) shared by a group of people with similar beliefs, life experiences and living conditions. What then, causes us to behave the way we do and therefore forms our personalities? According to science, our actions or behaviours, (either physical movements or psychological reactions) are managed by our minds, and our minds follow the commands we receive from our brains.

Since our births, our brains (if fit and healthy) constantly take in signals from the outer world, process them, and instruct us on what to do. It is a repeated trial and error exercise. From the process, our brains gather our experiences, then further process those experiences as new data, adjust our actions accordingly until we find the “best option.” Our brains store all the learnings in our minds cells; as we further perfect the process’s algorithms to tackle the world around us.

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Remember how we learned to walk as a toddler and ride a bicycle as a child, yes, that is also how we learn to speak and interact with others. The “lessons” just get more complicated as we age. If our minds define who we are, then these external stimuli are crucial for us to grow as a person. (If you are interested to know more about our minds and the interesting projects scientists are working on, check out this video on Allen Institute for Brain Science or its site: https://alleninstitute.org)

Interacting with people different from us will provide stimuli that can be more enriching for our minds (because the “situation” is more complicated.) Fret not; it is not that difficult to “train” our brains and gain “intelligence” from every cross-cultural interaction we have. The diagramme below shows the practical steps recommended by cultural experts:

TCG what we gain from cross-cultural experience

Well, doesn’t that remind us of how we used to learn as children? Once open-minded, curious, and non-judgmental, we all had the same goals: having fun and making friends. When we focus on our shared goals, we start to put our differences aside. We engage because we are genuinely interested, and everyone is more willing to collaborate because we share the same goals. Yes, sometimes, the most challenging thing for adults can be so simple for children.

Though we are just a fragment of time and space, we have a bigger purpose. We were all born for each other, i.e.; we are each the “stimulus” to help the other grow. I hope, with this different perspective, your brain will now relax and enjoy the stimulating process when you interact cross-culturally (guess what – you just had one by reading this newsletter.)

Let’s each be a meaningful droplet, triggering the wave’s ripple that keeps the vast ocean of our humanity going.

Have fun living life to the fullest!

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