Cultural exchange is a form of tourism that differs from the mass travel that has become common in recent years. It aims to promote mutual understanding and respect between cultures. It also provides opportunities to learn about the local language and traditions.
Kyle Ta-ay, SIS/MA ’24, brings the warmth of his native Philippines to AU. He shares his experiences and insights in the new This Week at AU feature, Cultural Exchange.
It promotes mutual understanding and respect
Cultural exchange is an essential part of fostering social cohesion, reconciliation and peace. It promotes understanding and respect for the cultures of all people, recognizing their equal dignity. It also helps to deconstruct stereotypes and prejudice, as well as build new relationships between nations.
The United States offers many different cultural exchange programs for students, professionals and educators. These programs provide a valuable immersive experience that enhances English language skills and broadens worldviews. These benefits are invaluable to future professional development, a strong resume, and a sense of global citizenship.
Moreover, cultural exchange can promote inclusivity at work by offering employees first-hand exposure to diverse cultural practices and beliefs. Companies can also encourage culture exchange by promoting diversity and inclusion in their policies. In addition, they can offer virtual exchanges such as remote “shadowing” programs or regular video calls.
It promotes innovation and creativity
A cultural exchange experience helps people to break out of their cultural bubble. In addition, it fosters more creative ways of thinking. This is especially true for young people. Creating links with people from different backgrounds is a great way to expand their perspectives and develop empathy.
In general, this kind of experience is beneficial for both participants and the host country. The participant is able to gain work experience in another culture, meet local people and learn more about their lives. They also build professional skills that can help them in their career. This is a very valuable asset in a world where employers value virtues such as adaptability and cross-cultural awareness. It is also a chance to build personal relationships and strengthen international relations.
It can lead to the erasure of marginalized cultures
Cultural exchange can be a powerful and positive experience, but it can also lead to the erasure of marginalized cultures. This can occur when members of dominant cultures use aspects of minority culture without understanding or respecting their historical and cultural significance. This can be seen when traditional clothing or music is worn as a costume, or when sacred symbols or artifacts are used in commercial activities without respect for the culture from which they come.
The other major concern with cultural exchange is that it can lead to the commodification of minority cultures and perpetuate power imbalances. This is especially dangerous when members of dominant cultures impose their own expectations and cultural norms on participants from marginalized communities. This can cause feelings of isolation and loss of cultural identity for members of minority cultures.
It can lead to the exploitation of minority cultures
One of the disadvantages of cultural exchange is its potential to trivialize or diminish a culture when it’s mishandled. This can happen when people from dominant cultures take elements of a minority culture and use them for their own purposes, without respecting the complexities and nuances of that culture. This is called ethnocentrism.
This can lead to the erosion of a culture’s identity, the commodification of its traditions and the perpetuation of power imbalances. For example, when members of a marginalized community create unique textile patterns that become popular in the fashion world, they may not receive the proper credit or compensation.
Additionally, cultural exchange can cause a dependence on tourism, making local economies vulnerable to changes in global trends or events. This can have negative health and safety implications for the communities involved.
It can lead to the appropriation of other cultures
When people take elements of another culture without permission, it’s called cultural appropriation. It is not the same as appreciation of a culture, which involves giving credit to the creators of those cultural ideas. Cultural appropriation can be especially damaging to marginalized cultures like African Americans, Native Americans and Asians. For example, Black Americans can experience cultural appropriation when whites assume protective hairstyles like cornrows and make them “trendy.”
Cultural appropriation is a harmful form of cultural exchange that exploits and devalues minority communities. It includes the use of a culture’s language, dress, food, music, and art without crediting the originators. It can also include the use of a culture’s symbols that have deep meaning to the community. This can lead to the erasure of these symbols and history, which is a big part of why it’s important to understand the difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation.