As the headline suggests, I don’t believe it’s possible to ever get to completely understand a foreign culture with all its social norms, beliefs and behavioural patterns. There are several reasons for this belief. However, they are all based on the fact that we grow up in one culture – our ’mother culture,’ if you will. Of course, some people grow up in two or maybe several cultures due to parents from different backgrounds or immigration but that’s an entire different aspect that doesn’t have anything to do with my point exactly because they grow up with more than one culture – grow up… As in, they learn and grow up with an understanding for more than one culture. Back to the point: It is from this (or these) culture(s) with its social norms, beliefs and behavioural patterns that we perceive the world. As such, depending on your ’mother culture’ and her social norms, beliefs and behavioural patterns, it is from this culture that you perceive other cultures. My point: Everything we explore and discover, we decode through our own cultural codes.
Even though some cultures may be similar in certain aspects, they vary nonetheless. This isn’t something new: It has been researched over decades by various scholars within the field of cultural studies. Metaphorically speaking, every culture is like a puzzle: Each culture consists of various subjects (pieces) that through social norms, beliefs and behavioural patterns fit – they are interrelated. Although, cultures further develop, they develop step-by-step, remaining a puzzle. Implicit, a culture (the puzzle) is made up of distinct subjects (pieces) and both the overall puzzle as well as the multitude of pieces are simultaneously distinguishable. In this sense, when you, then, try to understand a foreign culture, you have to understand an entire new and different puzzle with all its various and simultaneously distinguishable pieces. Here, you have to not only understand, however, also perceive each piece in accordance with the overall puzzle – and that’s the challenge. This is also why I believe it’s impossible to completely understand a foreign culture: Because you’re not brought up with all the pieces of another culture, it’s ultimately impossible to completely understand a foreign culture with all its subjects in the form of social norms, beliefs and behavioural patterns. What you can, though, is acquire an understanding – a cultural awareness – for a foreign culture. As a result, you can learn cultural rules that enlighten your understanding for the foreign culture and its norms, beliefs and behavioural patterns – rules that you can abide to when interacting in this culture. It is these rules that I try to learn on my travels – acquiring cultural awareness and understanding. However, to think that you can ever completely understand a foreign culture having grown up in your own ’mother culture’ is unrealistic – it won’t keep you from creating perspective, though, and become culturally aware of differences.
Please, feel free to express your thoughts on this subject in the comment field. Do you agree? Or not? And why?
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