As we interact more and more with people from other countries, it is becoming increasingly important to have global perspective. This isn’t something US citizens are particularly good at. If you watch the news, you are more likely to see a story on Britney Spears’ dog groomer than information about educational issues in Africa. Part of this is because the US is large and only connected to two other countries. Most of it is because Americans don’t particularly care what is going on elsewhere.
Here are some simple things you can do that will help you see the world from perspectives other than your own.
- Put $250 into Kiva – Kiva is a service that lets you loan money to people in other parts of the world. The idea is to help eliminate poverty by providing reasonable credit. You don’t make any money off of it, but you do get to choose who you want to fund. Right now, someone in Seirra Leone is looking for $175 to buy dried fish to sell in their local market. Someone else in Africa needs $500 to buy a motorcycle to make deliveries. You can fund people with as little as $25. Once enough people fund their project, they get the loan. Not only is this a great way to help people, it really gives you a chance to learn about how people live in other countries. You can even put money into it and then give the account to your kids to choose who to help. It is a great way to teach them about economics and the world at the same time.
- Travel and Help People – There are many opportunities to travel and help people. In high school I helped build a stucco house for a family in Juárez that was about the same size as our farm’s chicken house. (The family was moving out of a cardboard hut). Later, my wife and I set up the networking for a medium-sized church in central Mexico. We also flew to a remote Indian village in Canada and talked to high school kids about their careers. Each place we went, I was amazed at how it changed my perception of the world.
- Watch the Dancing Matt Video – This may seem silly, but really watch it. Matt goes around and dances (not particularly well) all over the world and then makes a video of it. Maybe it won’t have the same impact on you, but every time I see it, I get a slightly bigger view of the world.
- Listen to BBC – News from England tends to cover a lot more of the world than the US. Part of this is due to colonialization. Their proximity to other countries is also a factor. You can download many of their radio programs as podcasts and NPR stations often play BBC news early in the morning.
- Watch Foreign Films – This is interesting, especially if you can find areas where they have their own film industry and aren’t just setting out to copy Hollywood. Watch for themes that reveal different life outlooks than what you expect to see. Be warned. Not every culture has the idea that movies should have some type of “happy” ending.
- Work with a Foreign Virtual Assistant – When I was working with an assistant in India, it was very interesting to deal with the different holiday schedule, different expectations, and different points of view. Admittedly, this isn’t the best way to learn about another culture, but it can still be a very insightful experience.
- Live in a Foreign Country – My wife and I spent several months living in Mexico. Not only did it help us understand the Mexican culture better, but it really helped us clarify many of our values and priorities.