“Local minded people will never understand global minded goals.”
One of the first educational toys I received as a child was a world globe. I took great pleasure in spinning it on its axis and admiring the colors of each continent as they floated on the vast blue oceans. As a child, however, I never really noticed the names of each place.
One day, my mother sat with me and began teaching me what the globe meant. “This is where we are,” she said, pointing to the Arabian Peninsula, “and this is where Disney World is,” while pointing to North America. By using landmarks that were familiar to a 6-year-old, she gave me a sense of the world and planted the seeds of curiosity.
This sensibility and drive to learn about other countries has proven to be an invaluable tool, especially in situations where I’ve been immersed in a multicultural setting. It has also been a burden at times, especially when around people who are provincial in their thinking and have a limited perspective of the world.
I still believe there’s a certain charm in having strong roots in where we’ve come from and holding on to the traditions, customs, and practices of our cultures. Staying local allows us to stay informed about the latest developments in our neighborhoods, and can inspire us to take steps to enhance and improve our surroundings. However, when we stay too close to home, our vision of the world becomes myopic, and we run the risk of becoming ignorant.
This is a disadvantage in a world where people are more connected than humans have ever been. Rapid improvements in technology and the affordability of international travel has connected us in ways we often take for granted. The internet and social media have given us a massive platform for conversation and allows us to gain insight and witness world events as they unfold from every corner of the globe. We get to see common issues through the diverse lens of others, and this enriches our personal views.
An increase in connectedness has shifted the dynamics in our global community, and as members of it, we must recognize that the world is made up of complex interdependencies. Every choice we make on a local scale may have ramifications on a global one. If you’re aware of your role in the wider world, you’re more likely to become a spokesperson for social injustice on both local and global levels. For example, when you’re aware of the injustices of conventional trade in developing countries, you’ll choose products that support decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers.
When we have high global fluency, and we’re open to connecting with people, we’ll see that we have more similarities than we thought we did. We all have the same basic need for love, safety, food, clean water, and if we stay informed about the world, we’ll realize that due to corrupt governments and the wealth divide, too many citizens are not having these needs met.
Having global fluency goes beyond basic etiquette to avoid a cultural faux pas, learning a foreign language to better assimilate into a foreign country, or having the know-how to find your way around a new one. It is the ability to see and understand viewpoints beyond your own as you think deeply and critically about complex problems that affect everyone on the planet. You’ll have the ability to find opportunities, problem-solve, and question what is truly acceptable and just in our society and take a stand based on what feels right to you.
Most importantly, a higher global fluency gives room to form more profound and meaningful connections with people, no matter what their race, nationality, or socio-economic background. When you understand the nuances and issues of their country of origin, you demonstrate compassion and invite them to open up to you. Nelson Mandela captured this truth best when he said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Here are four ways to increase your global fluency:
1. Consume both local and international news: When it comes to news consumption, it’s easy to stick with what’s familiar. We prefer to tune in to the local news or read news apps that provide us with useful information like the weather, traffic updates, and local events. But if we want to increase our global fluency, we need to make a conscious effort to step outside our local news bubble and tune in to international news sources that can inform us of issues occurring in other countries. Familiarizing ourselves with international stories gives us perspective on what’s happening in our own backyards.
2. Travel regularly: The quickest way to stimulate fresh thinking and create new mental models is through regular travel outside your locality. Diving into a new environment, whether that be a foreign country or different region of your own, and engaging in their food, art, music, history, and culture, breaks any fixed outlooks and challenges any assumptions we may have. Increasing our knowledge about a completely new place enhances us personally, and opens the doorway to continual learning and innovation, as well as it connecting us to a diverse range of people.
3. Visit different cultural communities in your town: If you’re unable to travel as much as you would like, an alternative option to expose yourself to other ways of living is by visiting neighborhoods and communities in your own city that are dominated by specific ethnic groups. For example, in cosmopolitan cities such as London, there are neighborhoods inhabited by specific populations such as Asian, Caribbean, African, and other Europeans. Similarly, in New York, you’ll find pockets of ethnic groups all over the cities that include European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American. Attending festivals, eating at restaurants, and interacting with the people in these areas will broaden your horizons and increase your global fluency.
4. Be open and curious: None of the activities above will create an impression on us if we lack an attitude of openness, curiosity, and tolerance. When we’re curious and passionate about what lies beyond our immediate frontiers, we’ll be naturally inclined to seek knowledge, experiences, and people who shed light on new ways of living and being in the world. For most of us, life is hectic and busy, and we prefer to stick with a routine and what’s familiar. That’s why we need to prioritize practices and occasional adventures that boost our global fluency and gets us out of our bubble.
The former first lady of the U.S., Nancy Reagan, famously said: “There’s a big, wonderful world out there for you. It belongs to you. It’s exciting and stimulating and rewarding. Don’t cheat yourselves out of this promise.” When we decide to step into that big, wonderful world, we’ll fully experience its richness and beauty, and be inspired to make it better and brighter.
All my best in your journey,
Question for you: Why do you think it’s important to increase global fluency? What are some steps you’re willing to take to enhance your own fluency?
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