People are People
If there is one thing I have learned through travel, it’s that wherever you go, people are just people. For all the different countries and cultures in the world, we all have more in common with each other than we do differences. This is something that I’m still discovering through interaction, pub rounds, and over many a fika.
We all have wants, needs, desires, and goals. They shape and motivate different behaviors from us, for better or for worse. These behaviors can be interpreted as means to different ends, which tend to be similar no matter where you go. The means by which we tend to act is usually what sets us apart. Different means are either acceptable or frowned upon depending on where you go.
Take drinking, one of my favorite leisure activities, for instance. Let’s say your goal is to get to feeling amazing and have a nice night out. It’s more acceptable to be seen drinking or intoxicated in Sweden than here in Bible Belt, USA. Therefore there’s a vibrant drinking culture with several clubs in Sweden. Here, although it is getting better, people tend to drink indoors for fear of being judged. Same desire, different means to get there based on what is acceptable.
Our similar drives and desires give us common ground, and, augmented by social media, work to make our world smaller whether we realize it or not. It seems like every time we turn on the news, we see the inherent desire for freedom. The Arab Spring is a great example of how similar goals have set the earth on a faster track to becoming a global community. It’s weird that so much discrimination persists against the Arab community when millions are fighting for a cause we can, and should, totally relate to: freedom from tyranny. We are the same.
Now, there are some glaring differences across some cultures that I can never accept as an appropriate means to an end, such as treating women like second class citizens or socially immobile systems like the caste system. These are outdated customs that aren’t aligned to the global singularity we’re quickly approaching. But I think as we realize how similar we are, and as the world continues to shrink, most of our means will start to become more homogeneous and this undesirable behavior could disappear.
This could happen if we continue to learn from each other and explore other cultures’ means to achieve their goals, as they study ours as well. This path to a more united global behaviorism has a wide margin of error to set us back several decades from such an idyllic future, however, in the form of people who are resistant to cultural awareness. When the time comes, one of these people could have a finger hovering over a big red button.
For this reason, I wish that everyone else in the US could realize these things as well. If we could only focus on just how similar we are underneath the clothes, beyond our various dogmas, and outside the language barriers, maybe we could get along a hell of a lot better than we are now. But I digress. For now I can only encourage you, reader, to search for a bit of yourself in every new person you meet abroad. You’ll find it, now matter how many thousands of miles you are from home.