You Can Still Be Yourself by Khadija Amahal, Morocco

When I was a kid, my mother used to advise me not to talk to strangers. She would tell me stories of kids who were kidnapped or poisoned once they welcomed a friendly talk with someone they encountered in the street. That’s why I would walk on my way to school all alone head to the ground avoiding any direct contact with people I don’t know. I kind of grew up acting the same way as I did when I was a child. I feared talking to strangers because I expected more harm than good from others due to my horrible experience with people whom I thought would never leave my life, yet, ended up being strangers again just like the first time we spoke at the school, a conference or in the grocery shop. My mum was somehow right. When you avoid talking to foreigners, you protect yourself from unexpected surprises that may take a wrong turn. However, what I learnt lately is that isolating myself from the unknown world is a direct way of depriving myself from good people with innocent intentions, amazing opportunities for learning and most importantly both personal and professional growth.

Since I am an introvert, it’s likely to find me somewhere that people don’t pay much attention to. Sometimes I turn off my Facebook discussion only to avoid virtual talks that uncover a little about someone’s real mood, opinions or attitudes towards me. Nevertheless, although I somehow protect myself from many possible failures or heart breaks, this kind of thinking does have a negative influence on one’s life style. Nowadays, we no longer live in one place with its own unique identity and culture. Wherever you go, you are likely to encounter people from different backgrounds and cultures. The whole world is turning into a melting pot where people of different religious beliefs, personal styles and long ancient histories come to live together in an atmosphere dominated by solidarity and peace. Although they are different, they meet half-way where common interests arise, working together to empower each other. In workplaces, schools or supermarkets, everyone is obliged to respect each other by tolerating the dress and communication codes or acting ‘properly’ according to social guidelines. That’s because the time people spend together is limited. At a certain moment during the day, people go back to their homes where they are able to be who they truly are, practice their rituals and sing in the shower. NO ONE is forced to detach themselves from their own culture, because the truth is, that culture cannot be forgotten easily just how we lose specific terminology. Culture is an aspect of life that keeps people alive.

When you leave your country for one reason or another, you miss your culture. When you pack for a trip, most of us (or at least me) keep a souvenir from their country, family and of course culture. It can be food, accessories or art. The point is that we need something that will make us closer to the people we are miles away from. Culture exists in one’s mind and heart. It circles into our veins and provides us with an identity we go back to whenever we need to feel special or to identify ourselves with others. No matter how modern our world might become, culture can never die.

Sadly, many people still believe that by avoiding discussion topics related to foreign cultures, they prove faithful to their culture. Some people would simply yell at you if you dare to talk about another religion or express your sorrow for people from another community who tragically died. Those people are the reason why peace exists, in theory, more than in practice. By rejecting the other, you set a time for a temporary bomb to explode and harm innocent souls who committed no crime to deserve such consequences.

That’s why, a true understanding of this complex term, that is ‘culture’, is essential for the sustainability of our world. Intercultural competence is one of the main competencies a person needs in order to qualify for the title of an effective citizen. When we understand our culture and others’ cultures, we avoid clashes or cultural shocks. We no longer hold negative attitudes towards others’ practices that seem odd to us but totally normal for their holders. When there is a true understanding of the cultural variety that exists in the world, we grow respectful and join the network of good citizens and collaborate together to spread positive vibes instead of creating bloody wounds. We love instead of shooting innocent people, and most importantly we build a protected empire where future generations can live with fewer worries of danger.

To conclude, by giving yourself a chance to be in someone else’s shoes, you get to see reality from their perspective. You can still be yourself when you build a capacity to love your culture and respect others’ cultures. When people decide to resist selfishness, they will be able to have a further understanding of the history of humanity and the reasons why each and every one of us has their own practices. As a result, we see the world using the same lenses, thus have a common understanding of the world, how it is shaped and how it evolves as time goes by.

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