Ten Ways to Gain Cultural Exposure Without Leaving the Country

This summer, some people are headed to foreign lands like Nepal, Peru or Tanzania.  Many others are staying close to home this year for financial and other reasons.  If you are staying in America this summer, there are many ways that you can bring the world to you without leaving town.  Here are some suggestions:

1) Visit your local museum.  Summer is often a time of special tours at your local museum.  For example, in Denver, where I live, the museum is featuring a special exhibit of John Singer Sergeant and Italy.   This offers an opportunity for time travel as well as learning more about the societal, political and economic forces influencing this artist as he created his works.

2) Go to the Opera.  You don’t have to be in New York City to experience great opera.  If you have never been to the opera before, take some time to buy the libretto before the performance and listen the music a few times in advance.  Both of these steps will enrich your experience and your exposure before you hear and feel the real thing.

3) Visit a cultural neighborhood.  Many cities have neighborhoods that are known  for their ethnic and cultural crafts, foods and special attractions.  Often in the summer, neighborhoods will feature a special event or an entire weekend like Cinco De Mayo or Celebrate Africa.

4) Try a new type of dancing.   Have you ever been tango dancing? As you listen to the music, you can almost feel yourself in the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires where tango dancing was born.   How about salsa dancing?   How about Celtic dancing?  If you don’t like to dance, you can  certainly go watch people who do this well.   It is  awe-inspiring.

5) Go to some Ethnic Restaurants.  Have you ever eaten Morrocan food with your fingers and had your hands washed for you by the waiter at the table?  Ever tasted the wine they serve in Ethopian restaurants?   Have you had fresh tabouli and couscous at Mediteranean restraurants?  Have you had the spinikoutpita at a Greek restaurant?   Break away from the traditional American and Italian fares an experience some other food cultures.  It is fascinating and you will have global experience!

6) Host Foreign Students in your home.  There are many opportunities to host  foreign exchange students in your home through Up With People, AFS or any other organization which works with foreign exchange students at the high school and college age.  This is  a great way to share your hospitality and learn first-hand about their culture and life.

7) Go to a Lecture.  Many libraries and museums feature summer lecture series  from people who have been to interesting, though oft-thought of places.  You can hear about a climb to K2 in Pakistan.  You can listen to the details of excavating for 4,000 year old clues to life in ancient Egypt.   You can discover what it is like to go diving off the coast of Kuala Lumpur in Asia.

8) Read.  Whether you get a subscription to National Geographic or read one of  Michner’s classics, you can travel in depth in one country or get a sense of many countries without leaving your arm chair.  Many novels and non-ficution books capture the heart and soul of people in countries around the world.

9) Volunteer.  Many wonderful global organizations like World Wild Life and  Habit for Humanity work world wide to bring consciousness and relief to animals and low income people, respectively.   You can join their local affiliates and meet people who have traveled the world and are now working here in the states.   Their stories and experiences are often awe-inspiring.

10) Visit a different Place of Worship.
  While many of the wars and strife around  world  has been caused by religion, we can all benefit by knowing more about religions of the world.  By becoming knowledgeable about another religion or religions, you don’t have to give up your own core beliefs.   Visit a synagogue, a mosque, a  Zen or Buddhist temple or a Christian church if you are not Christian. Ask yourself what is similar to your own faith and sow the seeds of similarity in your life and work.

From the intellectual, to the cultural to the spiritual, there are many ways to experience the richness and the splendor that the world has to offer.   What’s more, you can incorporate that global perspective in your life and be a catalyst for peace and understanding worldwide.

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