[Y-SPACE] Chopsticks and Forks: Why Cultural Openness is Important for the Youth
Updated: Jun 10
By Pia Sison
Have you ever questioned the little things that you are accustomed to growing up? Did you ever wonder why others would use chopsticks instead of spoon and fork like you do?
As I sit and have breakfast while talking with my good friend – Remi, I came to realize how interculturality has been a part of our growing years as individuals. Remi was originally from Belgium who I met as an exchange student in Korea. He is now living in Vietnam, working with various nationalities, and managing a team of 35 people – none of which come from the same culture as his and they are doing just fine.
Is cultural openness important to the youth? He shared with me how he grew up in a home where his parents taught him never to think in a “me vs. them” manner. At such a young age, he has learned to try to understand why a person wants to achieve a certain objective – regardless of how he or she wants to get there and as long as the intentions are right – we should all be able to enjoy the cultural aspect of the process. He indulged himself in questioning his own culture when he sees others doing things differently and he loved learning from these questions.
Similar to Remi’s exposure to diverse cultures – moving abroad at an early age of 17, having lived in Korea for more than 4 years surrounded by an international community, and working for international organizations for more than 3 years now, the diverse cultures that I have been exposed to significantly served as a coloring factor to my daily life.
If I would compare my multicultural journey to anything, it would be similar to the different ingredients of the world-renowned Korean dish: Bibimbap. Each experience and every friend gained represents vibrant colors that match up to their own unique personalities and cultures. They act as different ingredients that made me who I am today. They each give distinct flavors that freshened and developed my ideas, actions, and perspectives on every bit of everything.
Be much the same as the famous dish, an already mixed-up Bibimbap symbolizes the power of multiculturalism. As they said, the open-mindedness to diverse cultures "encourages people to grow outside their boundaries and learn something new about a culture they may not be familiar with." And most importantly, it enlightens our notions over some of the yet outstanding important issues of the world today despite the undeniable globalization — racism and inequality.
This experience has changed me as a person – from discovering my unexpected love for wasabi and kimchi that I used to remove from my food, learning Korean, Vietnamese, and even Russian language from my classmates, to educating myself with the differences and similarities of our traditions and cultures. Being in an environment with diverse people of different backgrounds, we learn that each and every one of us has our own unique opinion, religious view, and way of living. It would be a lie if I say that there were no disagreements throughout my university life. However, through time, we learn the lesson of developing our understanding of each other: we learn to listen twice as much as we speak. We strive to be well informed and open to diversity in culture. Above all, I became even more inclined to fully understand my own culture as I aim to share my Filipino identity with the world.
While I was writing this feature article, I came up with an idea of utilizing social media to hear the thoughts and voices of my friends who have been exposed to other cultures or have assimilated to other nations and asked them this question through an Instagram story: “Is cultural openness important?”
The answer is simple. Cultural openness shapes our holistic views and opinions. It teaches us the values of international solidarity and unity in diversity. It contributes to who we are and who we can be as a person – a global citizen that bridges cultures and connects with the world.
The youth, most importantly, should not miss any opportunity to learn, develop, and improve their understanding of how the world works in reality — diversity: not just of cultures and languages but also of opinions and backgrounds.
Pia Sison currently works as local employee of a foreign embassy in the Philippines. She graduated from Kongju National University, South Korea as a scholar of the Global Leader Scholarship Program with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies major in International Financial Engineering. She is also an Honorary Reporter for KOREA.net, the official website of the Korean Government under the Ministry of Culture, Sports Tourism - Korean Culture and Information Service. She has a vast number of experiences in terms of cultural development and public diplomacy.
YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.