The existence of the internet has made it possible for us to be in contact with people from all over the world, people that we might never have had the chance to interact with otherwise. We can be in contact with so many different people and their cultures. The exponential growth in the internet community in the last couple of decades has made all of this interaction possible, but have we learned how to interact with so many different people, different cultures, in a way that is respectful?
If you have been around any social media, you may have heard the term “cultural appropriation”, but what does that mean? And is there a way to interact and appreciate other cultures in a way that is not invasive or offensive?
Cultural appropriation is, as the term suggests, appropriating one or multiple cultural aspects that are not your own. That can mean using a symbol that you don’t know anything about for pure aesthetic reasons for example. It implies that some aspect of a culture is being used without much consideration of the culture itself, its history, and its people.
As I mentioned, the term is used a lot to point out when people are being disrespectful with other cultures in social media, but is there a good way to be in contact and appreciate other cultures?
The answer is YES. But for that we need to educate ourselves.
First about our own culture, appreciating our own culture and learning more about its history can enrich our lives and make us more conscious of other cultures.
Secondly, we need to LISTEN to the voices of the people that are part of other cultures, specially the ones we more often interact with or are in contact with/want to use their symbols. Listening is a great way to learn more and create a connection with other communities, it helps us to broaden our worldview and be more respectful when appreciating other cultures.
I believe that localization can be a gateway for cultural appreciation. Localization is the process of adapting language to a local culture’s norms and expectations, it brings translation to another level – being mindful of cultural aspects. If you want to know more about localization specifically, we have talked extensively about it before:
With localization we can amplify the voices of people from all over the world, specially people from marginalized groups that are often overlooked. Making their voices louder so that they can be heard by more people, so that they can be understood from their perspective.
When we listen and we learn, we broaden our worldview and increase our empathy and understanding of cultures that are not our own. Learning about our differences and what makes us who we are is very important for us to coexist peacefully and, together, find the best ways to overcome global challenges.