Four No- or Low-Cost Ways to Jump Start Intercultural Dialogue in Your Home in the New Year

 While today’s economy might prevent international travel for a spell, there are plenty of inexpensive things to do to share cultural traditions, inspire curiosity and empathy and improve your intercultural communication skills.  Here are just a few:

  • 1) Hang a map of the world on your wall! Ignorance breeds indifference. Point out locations of world events on the map as they happen, or make it a game to see who can find it first. You’ll instill compassion and learn geography at the same time. ($2.22 plus shipping from Amazon, or free online).
  • 2) Host an international visitor. Contact the local office for any of a number of person-to-person diplomacy organizations, such as Sister Cities International, Partners of the Americas or the National Council for International Visitors, and let them know you are willing to provide a home stay for international visitors. Home stays for professionals are generally short, from a few days to a week or so.  (Some programs even offer a stipend to the host family.)
  • 3) Create your own, new cross-cultural traditions. Don’t be afraid to adapt or even combine traditions while honoring their source. What a fun way to experiment or use your imagination. What might a combined sweet potato/pumpkin pie taste like? My Brazilian husband went out of his way to bring sugary, pineapple Danish to our New Year’s Eve Celebration. “Okay…great,” was my initial, baffled response. At midnight as he served the Danish he explained to our friends how much he enjoyed the Jewish tradition of eating something sweet (Apples and honey is the traditional fare for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah) to ring in the New Year. How sweet indeed! (Cost of ingredients-and you have to eat anyway, right?)
  • 4) Learn words and phrases in another language. word2word.com has links to free online language learning resources for 119 languages.  The Portuguese link even had audio for correct pronunciation.  (Free)

These just scratched the surface.  What else can you do?