Seeing The Good: Learning From Other Cultures

I have only been to Italy once, and it was just a day trip. We were spending 2 weeks in Bavaria and there was an organized tour for the day to Vipiteno. We spent hours on the bus each direction to eat pasta and shop for leather before boarding the bus back. It was barely much longer than Clark Griswold spent taking in the Grand Canyon in the first “Vacation” movie.


I had Italian friends in high school and have learned a good bit about the culture second-hand. One of my favorite concepts, though, remains “Il dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing).  Why I love this concept is a post for a later time, but for today, I just want to talk about incorporating better ways of doing things as I learn them from other cultures.


There is so much we can learn from other cultures. And I don’t want to imply that being in another culture has to involve traveling to another country. There are a lot of cultural differences we can share within our own communities.


It’s short-sighted to think that the culture I grew up in has the best processes and philosophies for every aspect of life. Given that, here are some things I have learned from other cultures and think are better than my own.


In some Asian countries, you remove your shoes when you enter the home. From a practical standpoint, this helps to keep the house clean. Especially on days when it’s raining or if you have been walking through mud (or worse), it’s a good idea not to have to worry what things you are bringing into your house.


In some European countries, it is customary to go for a walk in the evening before dinner. If you have a job where you spend most of your day sitting, this is a good way to stretch your legs as well as provide a social outlet.  It’s not that hurried pace we have throughout the day, rushing from one place to the next, and it allows the body and mind to move at this slower speed.


Another European custom I really admire is that of St Nicholas Day which takes place well before Christmas. It’s a time for giving gifts that allows the rest of the season to focus on religious celebrations.


In parts of Europe and South America, lunch is a longer, heavier meal and in the evening, they have a light snack. It really makes no sense to load up calories at the end of the day, when it’s not likely our bodies can use them. Families usually gather for lunch; children come home from school and parents from work. There’s even time to catch a nap in there. Why haven’t we learned from this in our country?!


As a southerner, there are some aspects of my home culture that I really appreciate. We acknowledge and greet strangers as we are walking down the street. We also make conversation with folks in many other situations: check-out lines, etc. People are important so we want to let them know we think they are.


I’ve had the blessing of spending time with and in other cultures. From those, I get a chance to compare their practices to my own. There are some times when I feel like the way I do things is best for me, so I can admire their practice. Other times, I realize that how others do things is best for me, so I can adopt their practice.  What practices have you learned and adopted from other cultures?

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