5 Reasons Why You Need To Explore Your Culture

Torki

1. You will become a better person.

Well that’s a big statement to start off with isn’t it? But I guarantee you, exploring whatever background you come from and sharing it with people will make you more aware of other people’s culture and their experiences.  Learning about yourself and sharing this, enables you to open up the conversation for others around you.  The world improves when we all understand each other a little bit better. It’s a big call but at the end of the day, all the worlds problems are because we’re not understanding enough of each other.

2. People are interested!

One of my oldest and dearest friends has German ancestry and last year she went to Germany with her mother.  Although she had been to Germany before, this was the first time she was going with her Mum – and therefore meeting a lot of family members she had never met before.  When she came home, we went out for a drink and I was so fascinated by all of her stories – the specifics on how her family cared for her, the nights out with her cousins and best of all, her realisation of the traits she shared with various members of the extended family. That night I learnt so much more about Germany and my oldest friend than I could have ever imagined.  And I’ve never seen her so proud of her ancestry.

3. You will become a better listener.

Last June, my partner and I were housesitting for friends in Darwin. One day, the next door neighbour came over to ask if her husband could cut down a particular bamboo that was growing in the front yard.  As the yard was full of them. I said yes and we began chatting while her husband began to inspect the plant and cut the bamboo.

They were Torres Strait Islander and they were going turtle hunting (which they are legally allowed to do). I asked her husband a question and he didn’t reply.  I just thought he couldn’t hear me until she quietly explained: during the process of him cutting the bamboo, he wasn’t allowed to converse with women. In their culture, she explained, he had to focus on preparing the spear and not have any distractions while preparing the tool – this would provide the spear with a close connection with its owner and therefore be used well for hunting.

At the end of the conversation, the lady thanked me for allowing them to use the plant and also thanked me for being so interested in her culture, it meant a lot to her.

I’m sure I have gotten a few facts wrong, but this conversation has remained in my mind and I feel just that little bit more understanding of Torres Strait culture than before – which in turn makes me feel like a more understanding person.  That’s right guys, be selfish and learn for your own personal satisfaction 🙂

Kiribati Dancing girls

4.  Because you have a culture, even if you think you don’t.

Living in Australia, I have had so many people tell me that they wish they had a culture.  I find that this is a very british descendant thing to say (judging on the backgrounds on the people that have said this to me).  But everyone has culture! I urge everyone to explore texts, songs, cooking, architecture, accents, agriculture, clothing, significant leaders (I could go on and on!) from their backgrounds. People say they love hearing about my culture and all I am doing is talking about Kiribati food, language, religion etc. It may not seem it but I have worked hard at making sure I am connected to my culture. Just because it wasn’t a strong focus in your household growing up doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Look for it – your culture is so easy to find!

5. You never know who is listening.

Or reading for that matter.  I have had my blog now for 5 years and the amount of people that approach me about Kiribati is astounding. Total strangers have stopped me at parties, on aeroplanes, in other countries, at work just to say that they have learnt about Kiribati through me.  It’s baffling really!  I have been contacted through Facebook, email, twitter, interest, instagram by people just interested in Kiribati.  And with the international audience looking on to see whether Kiribati actually disappear among the waves due to climate change, I have such a drive to share everything about Kiribati.  We can only keep culture alive if we keep sharing it.

Be proud of your ancestry, your ethnicity and your heritage and share it.  It’s your contribution to the world.

Tarawa, Kiribati

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2 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why You Need To Explore Your Culture

  1. Great post. Conicidentally I just read it on my phone while waiting in immigration at Nadi with a planeload of I-Kiribati arrivals! And just after reading on the plane John van Tiggelen’s article in the Monthly (http://goo.gl/ZdNdXW) about Anote Tong’s recent Greenpeace-sponsored trip to Svalbard; the story mentions how a polar bear appears as he arrives, and he says he feels honoured, while those accompanying him are busy assessing the bear as a potential threat. I can’t help but feel that this is example of what you are talking about in your post – how culture defines the way we see the world.

    1. Thanks Nick – what an interesting situation. It is so true that our culture defines what we see or even don’t see. I know that in the Pacific it is such a natural thing to try and make a fool of yourself for other people’s satisfaction – and yet this is such an embarrassing thing in the western world. Thanks also for sharing where you read my piece – nice to know that I’m reaching people all over! 🙂

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