It only takes some exposure to get a virus like COVID-19. Unfortunately, understanding culture is not so easily transmitted! It is a myth that mere exposure to other cultures means that a person can relate well to people of other cultures. Mere exposure may even cause you to formulate more erroneous assumptions and become more critical of the other culture. For example, some comments one hears over time:
• “I travel on vacation to other countries a lot and love seeing different cultures, although we stay in the tourist spots where it’s safe. I sure am glad I was born in my country!”
• “I love living and working overseas, particularly when there is a good ex-patriate community to spend my free time with so I don’t get lonely.”
• “I live in an ethnically diverse community, but I hardly ever talk to my neighbors and don’t really know them.”
Without open conversations and engaging people from different ethnic backgrounds, we can never begin to understand and appreciate their cultures.
Exposure vs. Engagement