Why opening yourself up to cultures is so important

Why opening yourself up to cultures is so important

In an unappetizing way, I eat a noodle dish with chopsticks. I still wonder how you can eat noodles with chopsticks in a normal way. Next to the bowl of noodles is a knife and a fork. I can also eat with those, I think. I shake my head noisily. I’m adapting to the Chinese way of disheveling a dish to the inside of my stomach. Perhaps you have also been in China. Well, I can tell you, the chicken bones really fly around your ears in some restaurants over there. Now, I’m not really in a Chinese restaurant, actually an Uighurs restaurant.

Uighurs? Do you perhaps wonder what it means? It is a population -or so called minority- in China, just like the Tibetans an ethnic group, with a Turkish culture. The restaurant is called Urumqi, in the centre of Rotterdam and named after the capital of Xianjing province in China. Most of the Uyghurs prefer to live in an independent state that would then be called East Turkestan.

I was once in East Turkestan. I cycled through it. The part of my 16,000 kilometer bicycle trip which I remember the most.

Man eating watermelon
Smart kid selling nuts at a street market in Kashgar
Watermelon seller in Kashgar old town

Traveling is a way to develop yourself, because you are forced to let go of the cultural values ​​that you are used to. And here it is, the essence of my motivation to travel.

But what are cultural values?

It is the conduction of habits and rules of people from a certain culture or society. Adjusting to the values ​​of a country you visit during traveling is very valuable in my view. I believe that when you open up to the cultural values ​​of a country you get an incredible amount of new insights into life.

In my experience, our Western culture holds a lot of materialistic and superior cultural values. Many people are inclined to travel with these values ​​in their pockets and, in doing so, completely refuse to adapt to a different culture, even hold judgments about what is true or not in a country. Apart from certain political issues, I find that sin and always try to adapt as much as I can to a different culture. I am also happy to do that when I am a guest in a foreign restaurant in the Netherlands. And that’s why I eat in a ridiculous way this noodles that go through my eyebrows along my ear into my mouth.

It is delicious and I never learned that in my own culture.