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Learning from Other Cultures
I just recently joined the ranks of millions who have read and enjoyed the now famous book Eat, Pray, Love. I unexpectedly learned a lot from this book and was inspired in all kinds of ways. One way of note was my interest in other cultures being brought to the forefront again. Appreciating and trying to understand other cultures is something I've always enjoyed but the direct goal of learning about an aspect of life from these cultures had not ever occurred to me so literally. Reading Elizabeth Gilbert's story got me to think about the cultures I enjoyed the most and what I have learned from them about life.
Two cultures I admire greatly are Chinese and Mexican. To be sure, the things to know about a culture are so vast that I don't claim in anyway to be an expert. What I've learned in fact has come from my own personal experience with visiting these places and making friends with the wonderful people I've met.
What I've learned from China.
A few years ago, I lived in Beijing, China for a little over a month as a dance instructor. This was a memorable, fun, and eye opening experience. Before I got there, I had no idea really what to expect. We were instantly taken in by everyone we met and made to feel like honored guests and best friends. Despite whatever was going on in their personal lives, our Chinese friends greeted us with happy smiles and an unsurpassed drive to work at and perfect their dancing skills.
When I reflect on what I've taken away from life in China, it is probably that unwavering work ethic and dedication. No matter what, my Chinese friends were ready to work hard at dancing. Even though it was solely a hobby for many of them, this didn't diminish their dedication to it in any way. They were just as dedicated as career dancers. This internal quality woven into their common framework is to be desired and admired, and is something I've since, tried especially hard to incorporate.
What I've learned from Mexico.
I've spent some time in various Mexican cities and I have many Mexican friends here in the states. There are many things that I've learned from observing them. For instance, the Mexicans I know have an uncanny ability to live in constant happy gratitude. I've been amazed and thankful for my friends' bright perspectives at times when there seems to be no reason to be happy. It's something innate in the way they view life that makes them able to always find something to smile about. When it's time to celebrate, they can easily slip into a festive mood and leave any troubles at the door. Embracing this way has helped me so much in learning not to dwell on upsetting situations. I've gotten better with easily staying in the moment with a positive viewpoint as well.
It is a surprisingly simple yet enriching exercise to explore other cultures in this way. "Bringing it home" in such a personal manner helps you to really appreciate that culture and gives you a way to make it "unforgettable". If you haven't been drawn to explore other cultures before, this might be a great way to begin this. The type of life lessons one can learn through this method of observation are amazing. Seeing these themes of life played out in the lives and customs of a particular culture can help you to inherently understand concepts that previously you may have only read about in self help books and articles. Exploring in this way makes it real. Enjoy!
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