The Beauty of Cultural Diversity
by Tithi Bhatnagar
Research in the area of quality-of-life, especially Subjective Well-Being asserts that culture is a very critical context that determines happiness, subjective well-being, quality-of-life, and life satisfaction of individuals. It is so much ingrained into our beings that we are not able to appreciate it unless we are separated from it. Leading a regular, a uniform life makes living monotonous and sad. It is like breathing and not living. Cultural diversity adds the flavor to life, the zeal to live, and an adventure.
How wonderful to say the same thing in different accents, and then try to identify the part of earth the individual comes from; the different symbolic meaning of similar actions; the same word and varied cultural connotations attached to it; and the list goes on and on.
Imagine all of us living within the same architecture, wearing the same dresses and speaking the same language! Run your imagination and you get an error message - life suddenly becomes black and white. If we were to go back to the way we were raised - imagine the various local celebrations, festivals, and special food of special occasions, community traditions - suddenly our vision becomes all so colorful. I always believe and research supports that the best way to pass traditions and values to children is through sharing folktales. They learn much faster and retain the concepts in their long-term memory in this way. The icing on the cake is ‘learning becomes fun’. It is true that we are all one as human beings. However, along with individual differences, it is these cultural variations that make life beautiful and meaningful. These different hues add the necessary brightness and purpose that motivates the will in individuals to lead a good life.
The fast pace of life today makes it very challenging to meet daily chores. What is important to maintain our levels of well being perhaps is creating as many experiences as possible. To laugh as much as we can, to create memories, cherish them later, meet as many people with diverse background and learn from each other’s culture, to never miss a travel opportunity. We grow when we appreciate diversity and understand the common thread that binds us all one as humans.
Last years’ annual ISQOLS conference at Seoul is a wonderful example of my experience of beauty in cultural diversity. What was remarkable was that we were all one and yet so different. This observation was very much in line with the trail of my thoughts that originated when I got down at the Incheon International Airport. The airport, the Bus Shuttle Gates, all were so similar to what we have in big cities back home. When I was on the bus, the buildings that I saw and the kind of roads, all reminded me of Gurgaon (the current city of my residence). I was happy and appreciated Globalization. With this, it is easy to move to new and unknown places. Everything looks so familiar and similar. A visit to the city of Seoul was what brought a beautiful insight. Be it the Palace, the traditionally attired young girls who looked like dolls at the Palace gate, or the market, or the stupendous colorful Namsan Tower, all very clearly pointed out the beauty of cultural diversity. There was warmth of the South Korean culture in particular, and that of Asia in general. Every place speaks about its history, heritage, traditions, and teaches us something. The experience is what keeps us going. It helps to stay connected to our roots. This creates a powerful reservoir of positive emotions and keeps us going when we feel low. We should keep being happy to move on the path of exploring this journey further and in-depth.
Tithi Bhatnagar is from Gurgaon, India. She is the Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of School of Humanities and Social Science (SoHSS) at G.D.Goenka University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.