Learning from Other Cultures

By Kalina Davis

 “Americans have watches, but they have no time; Africans don’t have watches, but they have much time.”

These are words I heard from a local while I was in Zambia. They were simple words. But they were challenging words. What did they imply about the American culture? What did they imply about myself?

One of my favorite parts about traveling is what you can learn from the places you go to. While I was in Zambia, the phrase above was clearly lived out and made obvious by the African way of life. When I interacted with the Zambian people, their values became obvious to me. I saw how each moment was considered precious and enjoyed to the fullest. I saw that many people did not waste their lives away chasing after “more” and “bigger.” Instead, they lived in contentment, thankful for what they had. And they were generous with what they had. Even those who had little were ready to share what they had with others. When I talked with the locals, I could see that they were completely engaged in the conversation and fully present, not thinking about what was next on their agenda. They found joy in the “here and now.” The African concept of time demonstrates that life is worth celebrating, and each moment should be cherished.

Observing these cultural values challenged me in many ways. The African culture differs from American culture in many ways. In Africa, the pace of life is much slower, and each moment is valued. In America, we are pushed to get as many things done in a day that we can. It often seems as if we do not have enough hours in a day to accomplish what we want to. We are so busy racing around, doing this and that, that we often miss valuable opportunities. We are frequently focused with what’s next, and consequently, are not fully present or engaged with those around us. This is something I have definitely found to be true in my own life. After spending time in Zambia and observing their culture and values, this was made even more apparent to me, and my perspective was changed. Seeing the differences in how the locals valued time and where their priorities were made me evaluate my own life and priorities. The Zambians I interacted with taught me that instead of running around and complaining about how busy I always am, I should slow down and enjoy the moment I am in. What I learned from my time in Zambia I have tried to carry back over to my life in America. Adopting the African concept of time into my own life is something that I am confident will have a positive effect on myself as well as others.

The world we live in is so unique and fascinating. Each place, each culture views life differently and lives it out in unique ways. When we travel and immerse ourselves into the cultures we visit, we can experience these differences in perspectives. Being able to learn from these differences and change our own perspective of life is a beautiful thing. We can only learn so much from our own culture. But when we leave our communities and open ourselves up to the ideas and perspectives of those who are different, it can teach us valuable lessons and have a positive effect on our lives.

So get out there and explore this fascinating world we live in. Engage yourself with other cultures, and learn what you can from them. There is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom waiting for you. Go find it.

travel fearless

Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.

Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

copyright 2016

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