As westerners watch the news or search the Internet, they are increasingly aware of their isolation from other cultures. With opportunity for increased travel and globalization, more and more Americans are interested in learning about how people live in other parts of the world. But how would one go about doing that?
The most obvious first step would be to visit the public library and get books telling about the country. If this is inadequate for your depth of interest, consider writing to the country's embassy or department of tourism for printed materials. Many are delighted to send as much as you want. The Internet also is a seemingly endless source of information, both true and false. So be selective. If you know the language of the culture of interest, you would probably find it fascinating to read local newspapers. If you don't know the language, you might find an English newspaper printed in the country.
The United States has admitted more immigrants than any other country in the world. Over 100 million immigrants have come to America over the years and the country is still accepting almost 700,000 new immigrants every year. Therefore, it is likely that you wouldn't have to go very far to interview someone who recently moved from another country. In large cities, cultural groups tend to stick together (like Chinatown). Visiting such a community would be much like being in the country first hand with Americanisms added.
Another idea is to offer to work with local ESL people (English as a second language), helping them learn to speak and read English. Through befriending these new neighbors, the volunteer could pick up first hand knowledge of their culture. Culture is also often expressed in things like food, music, and artistic expression. Local University or community college classes might offer courses in one of these areas that would introduce you to the culture. Of course, you might be able to take a class to learn the language of the country. If not, many mail order language opportunities are available. One of the best is Rosetta Stone.
Check with tourist information in your city. It is possible they are aware of groups traveling from your country of interest and you could meet them. Sister city exchanges are also a good way to meet the natives.
Of course, there is nothing like visiting a country firsthand. Tourism is educational but it can also be expensive. Some have been accepted in exchange programs to study abroad. Some colleges offer a semester or year of study overseas at no additional cost. For those who have completed their teacher certification, opportunities abound in teaching at international schools. Over 4000 are presently hiring western English speaking teachers.
Opportunities to expand your knowledge of other cultures are at your fingertips. Why not take the first step and head for the library. If you are interested and available, investigate opportunities to teach abroad by visiting a job fair or contacting organizations that are offering teaching jobs overseas . International schools are hiring now.