Studying cross-cultural subjects and issues, we obviously speak often about globalization. We question how it affects our own cultures and if it has created one universal culture that we can all relate too. While there are both reasons to be pros and cons, it has been proven that superficially we tend to behave relatively the same but deep down we actually feel closer from our native culture than ever.
However, after travelling, working and studying with people from all around the world, the culture that I see emerging around me is not a globalized or universal one. It is rather a culture related to our experiences abroad. No matter where you come from, no matter where you go, it is striking to see how travelers have their own codes. They behave the same, recognize each other immediately and somehow have built their own hybrid culture.
This socialization process that defies all the barriers that usually groups have, is quite fascinating. As travelers, comunicating in different languages, used to meeting people who are radically different from us, we base our new group culture on the values of sharing and exchanging. We include in our lives pieces of all the other cultures we encounter. We don’t feel close to the people who look like us and share our native traditions, beliefs or habits but we are rather attracted to our opposite knowing that what will bring us together is our cross-cultural experiences.
“To become a true global citizen, one must abandon all notions of ‘otherness’ and instead embrace ‘togetherness’.” Suzy Kassem
A very basic example is the way we eat. People referring themselves as “travelers” and evolving in cross-cultural environments will tend to eat food coming from all places and include it in their daily diet. Their cultural eating habits will shift from their native cuisines toward a mix of all the ingredients they tried and loved when they lived abroad. I personally cannot spend a day without my coffee and pastry habit that I got from Austria, or without a mix of spices and fried vegetables coming from my travels in India and China. When I cook, I wouldn’t know how to describe it, is it French cooking style? European, Asian? Probably none of them and all of them in the same time.
Another significant characteristic of traveler’s culture is the way they relate to traditions, festivals, religions and cultural events. From what I have experienced and observed, in a group of “travelers”, every single feast will be at least acknowledged or even celebrated. When it is the time of Ramadan and Aid for Muslims, it will be a reason to wish each other good. When it is Diwali time, it will be another occasion to treat each other well. And, when Christmas comes, once again it will be a time where people get together no matter what are their beliefs. If we all have our own faith and opinions, when evolving constantly in a multicultural environment you recognize and value everyone’s faith. It creates and reinforces friendship between people.
“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” Cesar Chavez
What I absolutely love with “travelers” is of course the open-mindset that is always here. In the behaviors, in the way we talk and the way we judge (because even the oldest traveler judge others). It is even quite relaxing to have serious talks even when we disagree because we know that there is no universal right or wrong. We can speak about tricky issues such as politics, religion, equality, and so on with an open mind. We do have our own opinion and we fight for it, but we also are aware of how much we can learn from the other side. I believe we dare more to say exactly what we think. Because being with people coming from all backgrounds and already having accepted to be together, there is no point at filtering what we say and who are. It is also probably why multicultural teams are so interesting and full of resources for companies despite the issues it can bring.
One final element showing how strong the “traveler’s culture is and pointing at the differences with other sub-groups ‘culture is probably what happens when we leave our cross-cultural circle. At that time, we usually go back to our families in our native country. Sitting at dinner and listening to our families members talking, we realize that we relate to a different set of norms.
We can measure how much our experiences abroad shaped us. It is not necessarily completely in opposition with our relatives’ ideas. However, we do feel disconnected from the way they perceive things. As a result, we go back to acting like a native for a couple of days, eating our country specialties and enjoying all our traditions. It is nice and comforting and still a part of who we are. But the truth is, that after a while we miss our spices.