If you’ve been reading our blogs or following us on social media, you might have noticed that we talk a lot about sharing your culture. By sharing aspects of your culture, you are creating an exchange that has many benefits—you can hold on to the heritage and traditions you left behind, while also introducing your world to your new home.
This cultural exchange can create a new level of awareness for people in your new home who may not yet know about your culture, and lead them to an understanding that we are all more similar than different.
The exchange of culture has already inspired so much of American life. The tradition of the Christmas tree? German. Cowboys, a symbol of the American Old West? Spanish. The saying, “As American as apple pie”? Apple pie isn’t even American—it’s a British recipe. Even democracy, the tenet of the United States government system, came from ancient Greece. Contributions from different countries have shaped the United States from the beginning. Your contributions can help shape it for the future.
The exchange of ideas, styles, and traditions is one of the benefits of living in a modern and multicultural society. Becoming an American does not mean that you have to give up your native cultural influences, it means holding on to them, appreciating them, and sharing them with your new country.
Discovering Cultural Similarities
Sharing your culture doesn’t mean giving away tangible items that remind you of your native country. Your cultural traditions can be shared through storytelling, music, song, dance, or art.
You can also help bridge the gap by sharing aspects of your social influences. As you meet new people in the USand start to form connections and friendships, you may take part in their celebrations or significant life events. Take the time to share with your new friends how you celebrated important milestones like new births, birthdays, marriages, and deaths in your home country.
By sharing and connecting, you create a dialogue of cultural acceptance without having to compromise your history and traditions.
There’s a great quote by Paulo Coelho that helps put it in perspective:
“Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first, they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”
Ways to Break Cultural Stereotypes
Breaking cultural stereotypes sounds like a big project to take on, but it starts on a much smaller scale. We’ve mentioned a few ideas in our article Six Tips to Help You Successfully Integrate Into American Society.
Here are a few more to help you share your culture:
Teach a class on the traditional dance style of your country.
Teaching a traditional dance can provide you with an opportunity to share the story of your ancestors. Dance, sometimes referred to as the universal language, has a way of connecting people throughout history.
Volunteer to teach your language at a local school.
While teaching a language, you can also teach the youth of America to appreciate new cultures and broaden their horizons through your native language.
Give a presentation at a local group or library about your immigration journey.
Local libraries or groups like the Rotary Club, Lions Club, or a church group can provide you with a space to tell your story. You could include some history of your country, town, or family, what your day-to-day routine was like, and how you came to live in the United States.
Volunteer to translate for a local hospital or courthouse.
Give back to your community by helping others through translation. Local hospitals and courthouses may be in desperate need of the simple service you can provide, and you may be contributing to saving a life.
Organize a playgroup.
If you have children, introduce yourself to other parents and invite them to your home or a local park. This can provide you with a great opening to build bonds with families that are similar to yours.
Help coordinate a student exchange program.
Being part of an international student exchange program can bring a global perspective to your community. By helping coordinate, you can enrich the lives of your neighbors and the students by opening their eyes to different cultures.
Share your experiences by writing an article for a local paper, magazine, or blog.
Community news sources would be excited to interview you or give you an opportunity to write your own story. You offer a unique voice and perspective on what it means to be an American.
Join a local group through a church or Meetup.
Finding groups of people with similar interests to you will help you make friends and give you many occasions to share your culture with them. These groups can also help you integrate into the community. Check out our article on local Meetup groups that you can join or start.
Organize an international festival with a local organization.
We all love a good festival, and what a great way to share traditional dance, arts and crafts, games, and food from your home country.
You can also start small by just talking to your neighbor and sharing the stories and experiences of your home country. Be open to answering questions. At times, the questions may sound insensitive or out of touch, but you can use this opportunity to set the record straight. By talking to the people around you about your culture, you can maintain your identity and traditions, while adapting to your new surroundings, and bonding with a new friend.
One act of sharing can potentially create a trickle-down effect from someone that you affected. That one person could discuss your interaction with a friend or coworker and then slowly, through the sharing of their experience, perceptions start to change. Your culture and beliefs stop becoming an unknown to them, and they begin to associate their positive experience with other people from your country.
Sharing your culture could cause someone to question their one-sided assumptions about other countries and people as well. This effect can all stem from that one dance class you taught or one meal you shared. The way you share doesn’t have to be a grand gesture—all you have to do is start somewhere.
The Benefits of Sharing Your Culture
There is a level of respect and understanding that stems from a cultural exchange. This comes from both sides of the exchange, but it also helps you get to know yourself better. By immersing yourself in a new place, you will inevitably notice the differences between your new home and your native country.
This new awareness can help you create a balance between assimilation and honoring your history. Through your unique experiences and the sharing of your customs, you will learn that there are other ways of doing things or different ways of understanding.
Over time you’ll begin to create your own customs that work for you-you’ll uncover the traditions and practices that you believe in and start to differentiate those from the ones that you performed merely because they were a reflection of your cultural heritage.
A substantial benefit to sharing your culture is breaking stereotypes. By sharing your culture, you can help undo racist thoughts and break negative connotations. Telling your family’s story can help change someone’s perspective when they come to realize that they also share a similar mindset and background. By sharing, you are helping create a more open and culturally aware society.
Fitting In and Standing Out
We understand if you’re hesitant to be so open about sharing your culture. It may seem like we are asking you to be the spokesperson for something personal or much larger than yourself. We also understand that you may just want to fit into your new country and have no desire to be seen as different.
This sentiment of being seen as different is precisely what we’re trying to change. You have the unique opportunity to open a window to a world for a child or show an adult a different way of thinking. There’s power in the way you can create a social impact just by telling a story, teaching a dance, or sharing a meal.
The United States has a history of thriving on shared ideas and cultures. We invite you to be a part of that history by helping to create a better future for people of all backgrounds—a future filled with mutual respect, understanding, and boundless opportunities.