Despite the abuse of the web by criminals and bullies, it offers breathtaking opportunities for the development of cultural diversity. Even for residents of culturally diverse America, though, our first introductions to cultures different from our own may be via introductions to new tastes rather than new people. Enjoying gyros, jerk chicken, sushi, or kielbasa with your family and friends requires little exposure to the unknown and much less risk of discomfort. If you don’t like the gyros, your friends will understand. You can discuss the flavors and textures that aren’t palatable to you. Your order of a more familiar dish such as a hamburger or salad won’t embarrass your family.
Even if you devour your sushi and convey the all-American compliment of ordering a second helping, such biological and social nourishment isn’t sufficient to nurture the understanding required for pluralism. Relationships with people, of course, require greater time and effort. The nuances of verbal and nonverbal communication necessitate an investment in knowledge of other cultures. Even if you choose to converse with people who speak English rather than learning another language, there are varying preferences for popular culture, greetings, gestures, and personal space. Where will you sit? Should you shake hands? What will you talk about? The possibilities for embarrassment have been multiplied. The usual anxieties about meeting new people have been squared.
Fortunately, the web offers numerous and authentic opportunities to learn about varying cultures with no risk to your savior faire or your ego. If you don’t like to read, photographs, videos, and audios abound. Visits to sites for particular localities usually offer piquant overviews of community customs, events, and pastimes. Language is no barrier due to online translation software. Whether you’re becoming better acquainted with your teenaged grandchildren, planning a visit to an unfamiliar region of America, or welcoming your new neighbors, a little clicking will enable you to talk as well as exchange recipes. The comforts of conversation will soon supersede those of comfort foods, too.
© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013