Today is the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Rabbhi Yahiya gives us nine ways to get involved.
In 2001, UNESCO declared 21 May as UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. So what does that mean? Put simply, it's a chance to celebrate the cultural diversity of people around us, and find out more about what we have in common, rather than what separates us. Here are a few modest and simple ways to mark the occasion. We hope you have fun trying them out.
1. Visit an exhibition or a museum dedicated to other cultures
A casual visit to a local museum or exhibition may inspire you to create something yourself, and heighten your desire to learn about a new topic or culture. Even if you cannot make the trip to a museum, there are several virtual exhibitions you can tour. For example, you can see the British Museum's collection online, and the National Gallery has a virtual tour of 18 rooms that lets you get up close to the paintings.
2. Learn about another religion
The Dalai Lama wrote that 'finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides, at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever.' Finding out more about another religion may help you understand the multiple beliefs, cultures, traditions and histories of people in your country, and learn how these have shaped the society you live in. If you have friends of a different religion, why not ask them to tell you a little about it? And if you have children, why not teach them about world religions?
3. Plan an international movie night
You know Hollywood, and you may have heard of Bollywood – the world’s biggest film industry, based in Mumbai – but have you heard of Lollywood, the thriving Pakistani film industry based in Lahore, or Nollywood in Nigeria? Many of the films coming out of these countries are gaining prominence on the international film scene. Cultures and traditions can be so vividly portrayed through cinema, and watching a film from another country provides a window on distant and faraway places. Depending on where you live, you can also easily buy or rent foreign films to stream online.
4. Listen to music from a different culture
There is perhaps no better way to experience another culture than listening to music. It is remarkable that something so subtle can provoke such deep emotional reactions. Music has a way of cutting across languages, so even if you don't understand the words, you can still hear the influence of other cultures. The internet has created a forum where music can be shared around the world, with sites such as Last.fm that allow you to discover music from every corner of the globe. Or you could listen to the British Council’s Selector radio programme featuring a variety of UK music, often with strong international influences.
5. Play a game or take up a sport from a different culture (karate, cricket, pétanque…)
Playing a game or two is a great way to spread some joy around, while exercising both your brain and the rest of your body. I recently took up carrom which is a popular board game in South Asia. It’s easy to grab a board, get some friends and family, and get started! Or perhaps you could take up capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines dance, acrobatics and music. You can often find a local group online, through social meeting sites like meetup.com. There is something very fulfilling about learning a completely new game, and it's a great way to make friends.
6. Invite a friend and cook traditional food
Tired of the same old boring meals? Why not get creative and try making a dish from another country? You can very easily discover exciting new corners of the world without leaving the kitchen. There is a wealth of global recipes online. You could try YouTube walkthroughs of Japanese or Indian recipes to get you started. Or you could ask a friend from a different cultural background to share their favourite family recipes.
7. Learn about traditional stories from other cultures
Reading and learning about stories from another culture is a great way to expand your knowledge of the world. Many traditional folk tales have universal themes, but at the same time, shine a light on particular aspects of another culture. So now might be a great time to delve into the storybooks and read this folk tale about a young Korean boy who never shared the stories he heard. On his wedding day, the stories wanted revenge! It will surely motivate you to learn and share a new tale.
8. Volunteer with an organisation working for diversity and inclusion
Volunteering can have a meaningful and positive impact on your community and is a fantastic way to meet people, make connections and be happier. You can never tell who you will meet or what new information you may learn, or the influence this could have on your life.
9. Learn another language
Language and culture are inseparable. Even a basic understanding of a few ‘stock’ phrases can show people that you care enough to communicate with them in their own language. It is relatively easy to have a go at trying a new language through the many smartphone apps such as the British Council Learn English app or through an online language exchange. You can also search online for language exchange meetings taking place all over the world.