Are You a Cultural Sponge?

I’ve found that the more cultures I observe and encounter, the more diverse I become.  This is a phenomenon I’ve come to casually refer to as being a cultural sponge.  Basically what this means is that the more cultures you are a part of, the more your own cultural changes.  Perhaps you see things in a new way or learn of a better way of doing things, of thinking, of acting, etc.  So you begin to adjust your own ideas, beliefs and values accordingly.

So after travelling and living abroad, I can’t go back to simply being American.  My old ideas, perspectives and thoughts have been challenged and changed.  Yes, I hold American citizenship but my culture has been fundamentally changed.  An example to illustrate this is the idea of clothes which I previously wrote about.  In the past I would have been dressing comfortably at the airport as well.  Now it seems to go against my nature.  I know this isn’t my original nature but it’s my new nature that I’ve since adopted.

I’m curious though as to how we decide on which aspects of a culture to pick up.  Is it a conscious decision?  Do we see something that agrees with our unique personality and values that maybe isn’t represented in our native culture?  I’m sure everyone who lives in Russia won’t pick up the same things I have so I’m inclined to believe it happens on an individual basis.

Even more interesting is what this means for us, our lives and our own culture.  If people travelled more and broadened their horizons, I’m sure they would find some interesting and sometimes even better ways of doing things.  Such ideas could be brought back to their own country or culture and thus change the ways things are.  For us, it can make us feel out of place when we return home because we’re living in an unchanged culture but we have been culturally altered.  For expats returning from assignments abroad, this can cause conflict at work.  If you’re working at a company that shares your values and they the same company sends you abroad where your values are changed, you may find yourself unsatisfied at work when you return because your values are now different from your companies.

So overall adopting a new outlook can be interesting and can have some interesting results.  I’m curious to know what aspects of a culture you’ve adopted and what repercussions you think changing your cultural makeup can have.


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