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You’re living in a vibrant multicultural country, so it’s great that you want to understand cultures other than your own. There are a few ways to do this, but the most important is to remember that we’re all just people who are trying to do the best we can. So, taking each person on their own merit will always see you right.

This can help if:

  • you want to embrace cultural differences
  • you want to learn ways of understanding cultural differences
  • you want to learn how to talk to people from different backgrounds.
Girl and counsellor laughing

Different experiences

Australia is becoming more multicultural, which means that people and traditions from other countries and cultures are becoming more noticeable and celebrated. Unless you live under a rock (okay, some narrow-minded people do), you’re going to meet people, and experience situations, that are unfamiliar to you.

Ways to understand cultural differences

It can be very easy to stick with what you know, rather than trying to meet people who are different from you. However, actively trying to understand and embrace cultural differences can open you up to a whole world of exciting new possibilities and experiences. Here’s what you can do:

Become self-aware

Work out your own beliefs, values and personal biases. Yep, it can be confronting, but by doing this you’ll be able to think about how these traits might impact on your approach to and understanding of differences.

Do your own research

Learning about different cultures can be a great way of developing an understanding of cultural diversity. Do a spot of research online or through books, and study some of the history and traditions of other cultures.

Talk to someone from a different cultural background

Try and get to know them a bit better. You don’t necessarily have to ask them directly about their culture, but by getting to know them you’ll automatically find out more about their life and experiences.

Travel!

One of the best ways to experience and understand other cultures is to actually live among them. It might take a while to save for, but planning a trip overseas to a country you’re interested in can be the best way of opening yourself up to new cultures.

Be more accepting

Sometimes it’s not all that easy to gain an understanding of cultural difference, for whatever reason. In these situations, the best approach is just to acknowledge that some people are different and to accept that that’s okay.

Culturally different, with diverse opinions

Even if you hear or read something about a certain culture, it’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean everyone from that particular background acts/thinks/believes the same thing. Just as not everyone you know has identical beliefs, people who come from different cultural backgrounds aren’t all a certain way, either.

Don’t stereotype

One of the biggest difficulties to overcome in understanding cultural differences is making judgements based on one opinion. Do your own research and make an effort to actually learn about people, instead of making broad-brush assessments.

Everyone is unique

The main thing to remember is that everyone, no matter what their cultural background, has different opinions, habits and ways of life. The sooner you accept that everyone is different, the easier it becomes to understand and embrace cultural differences.

What can I do now?

  • Learn more about the history and culture of countries you’re already interested in.
  • Travel. Try going somewhere you haven’t been before, even if it’s just to another suburb in your city.
  • Work on your self-awareness.