Whether it’s because you don’t have the means to travel overseas, or your country isn’t opening up any travel bubbles, or just because you were looking through your gallery, found that picture of you swimming with pigs and are now overcome with nostalgia, the past two or so years with Covid-19 have been difficult for those of us whose holiday plans usually involve jetting off to another country. Though the world is just beginning to open up again, travel options are limited and some of us may not feel comfortable with the idea yet.
However, there are ways that you can experience just a little foreign culture from the comfort and safety of your home. So if you’re looking to spice up a date night, want to impress your friends, or just want to have a fun night in, you may find these ideas useful.
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Expand Your Palate
Food is undoubtedly an important part of just about every culture. Even the saying “as American as apple pie” has surprisingly deep roots that stretches all the way back to the 1800s (although it only became popular during World War 2), and that is to say nothing of apple pies themselves which have been made for centuries and have versions in multiple countries that span across continents.
Food allows us to connect with other people on an almost instinctual level and can tell you a surprising amount about their culture. Take the Chinese tang yuan for example. Tang yuan are balls of glutinous rice flour filled with a flavored paste and served in a ‘soup’ that is made from steeping ginger in hot sugar water. It’s a simple dish that can be enjoyed year round but is most commonly featured on the table during the winter solstice. Also, Tokyo treat serves you Japanese snacks online along with many other dishes.
In Chinese culture, the round shape of the tang yuan helps to symbolize unity and harmony and it is typically made in a large batch and served hot since it was meant to be eaten during family reunions in the harsh winter months. It’s a dish meant to be shared and through it, we can see the importance of family and harmony in Chinese culture.
Similarly, whether it’s the bold flavors of Indian cuisine or the subtleness of Japanese dishes, you can always try ordering something new from a local business near you or braving through a recipe or two in your own kitchen. All food has a story, and one way to connect with other people is through those stories. By giving these stories a place at your dining table, you can experience a little bit of someone else’s life.
Put On A Movie
Movies are a lens through which we can experience parts of reality. Films often expose us to different realities and open the door to empathizing with those different from our own. While most of us know that whatever is happening within the confines of the cinematic universe is not a direct reflection of reality, movies are nonetheless reflective of the culture that they originate from.
Movies often try to explore the different anxieties and issues that are experienced in a culture. Even watching two movies based on similar concepts can produce two entirely different viewing experiences since different cultures often have their own unique sense of story-telling. For example, if you watch Ringu (1998) and its American counterpart The Ring (2002), while both are (without a doubt) horror films that will spook you and ultimately tell the same story, the two films also take wildly different approaches as to how the story is told and how the directors choose to scare their audience. This is due to the difference in story-telling and cinematic culture between Japan and America and is reflected in the narrative beats of the movies.
So the next time you’re planning to have a movie night with the family, you can consider scrolling through the ‘Foreign Films’ section of Netflix to see if anything catches your fancy. Of course, don’t forget to switch on the subtitles and prepare some popcorn so you can enjoy yourself to the fullest.
Listen To Some (Traditional) Music
Music can differ widely from culture to culture and what sounds you associate with happiness could very well be a feature of a funeral march somewhere else. However, while our musical preferences and associations are often formed based on the culture we were born into and our own upbringing, it is nonetheless possible to learn to appreciate and enjoy music from other places.
Music is often one of the ways that the aesthetic sense of a culture is explored and expressed. While not all types of traditional music will automatically appeal to you, googling and researching a country’s music can often give you a better understanding and appreciation of that culture’s standards of (auditory) beauty. Furthermore, in just about every culture, music often has multiple styles that play fundamentally different roles by learning more about such matters, not only can you gain some fun trivia to use on game night, but you can also get a better idea of the social and cultural role of the arts in different countries.
Since most of us likely listen to music when we are relaxing or working on another task, one way to enjoy a little of someone else’s culture would be to play some of their traditional tunes in the background. Bonus points if you can use it to immerse yourself in a good book written by someone from that country!
Travelling is about connection and learning to connect with others. While physically connecting may now be more difficult, it is possible nonetheless for us to try and make our own little connections in various ways in our daily lives. With the internet, now more and more of the world is available to be learnt about and appreciated even if we’ve never set foot outside our home. So whether it’s through your tongue, eyes or ears, invite a little piece of a different world into your home and keep the spirit of travel alive.