We live in a society of safety and security where we’re comfortable. Where we know what we know and what we don’t know is tolerable as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with our daily routines, norms or change what we know. Where difference is okay and sometimes interesting to learn about but it is still different. Which becomes extraordinarily difficult when every day our environment evolves to adapt to fit the ever changing climate of culture, population growth and immigration.
The amount of exposure we get to culture here in New Zealand is expansive and considering our size, population and locality in the world we really are lucky to be able to have such a melting pot of diversity. However this cultural train doesn’t come without its carriages, the cultural jokes, racism, alienation and the thing that humans do so well fitting groups of people into neat boxes. As a country we have an identity and branding that we promote to the world. We are clean and green, we’re very relaxed with a “devil may care” demeanour and not to mention our Kiwi ingenuity with our ability to problem solve with few resources (missed my gene pool).
As human beings we feel more comfortable when we can group certain things together, when we can categorise and attribute traits and characteristics of an individual enabling us to fit them into a larger category. This allows us to process and make sense of certain situations and the environment around us. As single units we are all individually unique. As an entire culture we are vastly different and this becomes more apparent when presented in a large number. So as a result we end up associating mannerisms, traits and behavioural norms to large groups of people (example: cultural differences).
We become frustrated when confronted by a fellow driver lacking basic driving skills and common courtesy when using the road alongside you. We speed up next to them to intimidate and ensure they know we disapprove of their existence and what do you know, they’re Asian. Confirming our bias and what society already knows, Asians can’t drive. However they are good at making fish and chips, maths, art, travelling in large groups, talking loudly in their language, jogging slowly and know all the best spots to take the best tourist pictures. They’re assertive and get what they want. Making them an unsuitable match for the easy going lifestyle we have in New Zealand.
Our European constitutes, we owe them our lives in fact. For pushing society forward and helping the Maori become a civilised race. With your gun power, diplomatic ways and superiority you were able to colonise New Zealand. However we don’t appreciate your racism but enjoy your scone making abilities and Sunday roasts. Your farmers markets are top quality and you’re also good at English, Drama and History (mainly because your history is the only history we are taught).
Without our Polynesian population we wouldn’t have any sporting teams representing New Zealand, nor would we have any reason for P.E classes in schools. All night markets would be cancelled because no one would show up.
In the end we may have approximately five people in New Zealand who could stay and fit the brief of what it takes to be a true New Zealander. We put so much focus into what makes the ideal Kiwi we forget that we aren’t all from New Zealand (that population is dwindling). We are all from somewhere further abroad with roots spread deep and wide across the globe. The way we behave and what we share with each other is a direct reflection of the environment we have spent the most time in.
Therefore, one of the biggest and most important lessons I’ve been able to have the time to reflect and think about is observing cultures within their context. Everything and everyone makes so much sense when you take the time to immerse yourself and see exactly where we originate. Spending even the smallest amount of time in another country is so valuable to enhance understanding. We behave the way we do because of what we’ve brought with us, not because we’re rude, or inconsiderate, or lack skills it’s because at one point in time we were in a place that required us to be assertive and dominate, or relaxed and calm, or physical and active.
Think about culture and environments. Think about what it takes for people to succeed globally and make it in this world. I don’t believe we should be expecting people to change cultural behaviourisms to suit expectations that no longer make sense in our world. Maybe we need to be adopting a more inclusive, tolerant perspective in society that understands rather than groups and excludes. Because everything is relative when put into context.