Are You Ethnocentric?

Are You Ethnocentric?

Part of living well is expanding our horizons. In a fast changing world, many of us are celebrating lifelong learning like never before. Retirement communities are being planned around college campuses and progressive housing alternatives are being embraced to engage community. Regardless of your age or stage in life, pursuing cultural competencies is a win-win for all generations.

Ethnocentrism is believing and acting on the notion that our culture is superior to anothers, which creates narrow opportunities to explore and grow in appreciation of anothers worldview. So, how are you keeping your cultural baggage in check? You may be surprised to learn that beyond traveling the globe or working in a highly diverse environment, there is a multitude of  learning opportunities here in Monmouth County.

Luckily, our family has hosted a dozen international college exchange students for a decade. Until they arrived from various corners of the world, we were a lot less culturally competent. Here are three simple ways they’ve enlarged our lives:

  1. Did you know our county hosts a Latvian Society Center named Priedaine right here on Rte 33 in Freehold? The cultural center is used for dances, concerts, and community gatherings to celebrate life. Jani, the pagan holiday that celebrates the summer solstice is the most important Latvian holiday on their secular calendar. The evening celebration starts prior to June 23 which is St Johns Day. This holiday celebrates the saint’s birthday six months prior to Christmas. When our Latvian student shared his love for opera and singing in the shower, we knew he was a product of a rich artistic culture. For those of you asking Siri, “Where the heck is Latvia?”, know that the independent Baltic country is lodged between Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south. All three countries were previously part of the former Soviet Union. Latvia is largely a flat, forest outside its capital city, Riga, with wicked fast internet speed  and a very tall NY Knicks NBA basketball player named Porzingas   
  2. Did you know traditional Chinese brides change their wedding gowns up to 30 times during their big day? Today, most relieved brides have narrowed that selection down to three dresses on wedding day. One simple dress for the ceremonial tea welcomes in-laws, one commemorates the actual ceremony (check out their red qipao dresses!) and one showcases at the reception which is indicative of wealth and family status. Our Beijing student darted out the door to Manhattan with his red “Hongbao” or traditional red money envelope, hoping that his gift with worthy of the bride and groom’s celebration.  We knew after consulting with our student that his envelope had no folded,soiled bills, no coins and if it was a check, did not include the unlucky number four. In Chinese cultural traditions, the number four symbolizes death and is clearly bad luck on a celebratory wedding day.
  3. Lastly, our Brazilian houseguest has turned us all on to authentic dining in Long Branch that never disappoints. Delicious culinary experiences await on Brighton, Broadway and Joline in town for those that really want a full Brazilian BBQ immersion. We’re working on our Portguese before we imbibe again and encourage anyone to squeeze in a trip to the breathtaking beaches near Sao Luis to enjoy more real Brazilian beauty. Our students continue to expand our horizons and we’re celebrating cultural diversity daily.

     Whether you opt to stay near or travel far, enjoy the journey of becoming a more culturally competent global citizen and live well!

Read DonnaLyn’s monthly Living Well in Community Magazine NJ column to get tips to enlarge your life: 
Colts Neck • Holmdel • Lincroft – November 2017 – Issue
Rumson • Fair Haven • Little Silver • Red Bank • Locust • Sea Bright – November 2017 – Issue

DonnaLyn Giegerich MBA CIC RYT is the CEO/President of DLG Consulting, an integrated leadership training company that supports talent agility and skills development. Share your comments at DonnaLynSpeaks@gmail.com or connect at DonnaLynSpeaks.com.