The benefits for your family of bringing world cultures into your home are numerous. (Here are some of our favorites) Not only can you enjoy constant mental stimulation as your worldview expands, but you will also be presented with countless opportunities for inspiration, adventure, or just a little bit of “different” to make your lives more enjoyable and rich.
Exploring other cultures, though, is easier said than done. It’s just not feasible for most families to travel around the world and spend enough time in each location to experience cultures in a meaningful way. Ideally, world cultures would come visit you in your home, working their way into your busy schedule and not destroy your budget.
The good news is this actually quite possible!
There are several ways to bring the world into your home in a meaningful and entirely doable way. Short of redecorating your home to look like a market in Tangiers, most of the ideas below require only a small investment of time and money, but have a big payoff for you and your family.
1. Adventure Eating
Once a week, why not try a new cuisine? If you enjoy cooking, google around for some great recipes from India and Peru (beware the cuy) or some other cuisine you have never tried. You will be able to learn new ingredients and techniques that may spill over into your traditional cooking while creating a memorable family meal.
If you are not into adventure cooking or don’t feel like plopping down the fortune it may take to get the exotic ingredients and new gadgets you may need at Whole Foods, you can also explore the restaurant scene in your hometown. If you haven’t tried Korean barbecue yet, you are so missing out. Most towns also have a Vietnamese restaurant or two, which offer some of the best noodle dishes you will ever have. And don’t forget about Mexican! Instead of going to an established chain, however, travel to a Mexican neighborhood in your hometown and find the markets and small restaurants the people there frequent. The food will be so much more authentic and so much better. The same is true for any cuisine in larger cities that have many different ethnic neighborhoods.
Whether at home or out at a restaurant, while eating the new food, be sure to study it. Talk with your kids about the taste, textures, and techniques and what they may tell you about the culture the food comes from.
Here is a great video from Travel With Kids exploring some world cuisines.
And here is a great list of kid-friendly recipes from around the world
2. Foreign Films
Why not develop an appreciation for the subtitled? The styles of cinema in Korea, Japan, France and others are quite different, but once you get over the initial shock, you can easily get addicted to a whole new world of film.
You can find a list of the top 50 foreign films of all time here. You should also read the comments for more ideas, as well as for a chuckle or two at how offended serious film buffs can be when their choices are not among the top 50.
3. Celebrate a New Holiday
Once a month, why not hold a family celebration for another country’s holiday? You can eat some traditional foods and try to recreate the holiday customs. And seriously! How much fun would it be to douse the kids with water when they walk in the door, and when they look at you in shock, exclaim, “Happy Songkran! Now go get dried off so we can learn about the Thai water festival.”
For an amazing resource, check out Kid World Citizen’s diversity calendar, which lists every special holiday around the world. While on the site, you can also browse through tons of activities designed to introduce cultures to kids. The activities are organized by region, so it is easy to find the info you need.
4. Gift Boxes
There are a few subscription boxes that can bring the world to your home. One of the most famous is Little Passports, which is a great way to get young kids excited to learn about the world. They offer some cute kits and trinkets that kids will love.
Once they outgrow this service, we really have to mention our own education pack from The Adventurous Mailbox. We use adventure stories as a base to introduce kids to the cultures of the world in meaningful, deep, and often hilarious ways. All books are accompanied by a coding mission, 100s of downloadable lessons, and membership to a “top-secret” online community.
5. Follow Other Explorers
There are hundreds of adventurers running around the world and blogging their hearts out. Following their blogs is a great way to get first-hand accounts of life in other countries. This is a great way to give kids that sense of wonder: I wanna do that too! And it is that sense of wonder that can help them get through their day at school and get excited about making the most of life.
Explore a few blogs until you find a writing style you like. Some of the bloggers are unbearably self-congratulatory for their travels, while others write in a way that just screams, “Look at me!!!” Some, though, are just cool, smart, and interesting people sharing what they have found abroad. Here is a list of adventure bloggers you can use to get started.
6. Adventure Worship
Have you ever read through the Upanishads or the Quran, or another faith’s holy text? Doing so will reveal the foundation of another culture, as well as take the mystery out of other religions. The more you read and learn about other faiths, the more similarities you will find among all religions, while also finding the differences that may give you insight into other cultures. Don’t take everything you read too literally, however, and remember that holy books were written for a certain point in history. Just imagine what someone would think who used the Bible to learn about a Western country, especially when he or she flipped through some of the odd rules and laws found in Leviticus.
If you are feeling especially adventurous, take your family to another faith’s worship service. You may want to contact the synagogue, church, temple or mosque beforehand, though, to make sure such a visit is welcomed. Just explain that you are not looking to convert, but would just like to learn about and expose your family to other religions. You can ask if such a visit is welcomed, and if so, what one should and shouldn’t do as a visitor.
7. Dance to a New Beat
The next time you start the soundtrack for your day, explore the world music options on iTunes or Spotify. You may end up finding a new rhythm that resonates. Try a new country’s music each time until you find one you like. Then, you can start to refine your taste and create playlists with your favorite artists. And be adventurous! Sure, check out what folks are listening to in Brazil and France, but also check out what’s on the radio in Tanzania or Bangladesh. You can even shock the kids by throwing a world dance party J
8. Learn a Language
Nothing opens up another culture like learning its language. You will find new phrases and words with no direct translation into English, as well as crazy grammar structures that will give insight into other ways of thinking. Beyond the exposure to new cultures, there are a million benefits to learning another language.
In one year’s time, you could able to learn the foundations of a new language and have simple conversations. In two years, you could be fluent. Check out classes at your local community college, or even take advantage of the numerous resources online for your target language.
9. Attend Festivals
If you see a cultural festival being advertised in your city, go! Whether its Polish, Irish, or Greek, these festivals are a great way to see cultures in action, as well as to fill your belly with some new food. In addition to food, there will most likely also be art on display, traditional music being played, and a whole bunch of people awfully proud of their culture.
10. Host an Exchange Student
This is a wonderful way to bring more culture into your life while sharing your own. People who have hosted exchange students claim it is one of the most rewarding and life-changing things they have ever done. Not only are lifelong friendships made, but your own life will feel richer for the experience.
If you are interested in hosting an exchange student, you should contact your child’s school and ask them to refer you to a respectable agency that handles placements. You will also need to coordinate with them before your guest attends classes.
One of the most famous agencies is AFS, which you can find here.
If you can think of any other great way to bring cultures into your home, please share with us! The experience can be enlightening and inspiring, and help set kids off on a path of discovery with a respectful curiosity about the world.