51 Ways to Enhance Your Cultural Understanding

As you work to enhance your cultural understanding, include in your activities learning about people who are not like you. The social world is a fascinating place, full of immense opportunities for life-long learning.  Health care professionals increasingly seek opportunities to deepen their awareness of cultural and social diversity in their commitment to providing the best care to as many people as possible.  No single event, course, or experience makes us culturally sophisticated or sensitive; embracing many opportunities over the course of our lifetimes allows us to more deeply understand the remarkable connections and the rich differences among people.  Here, we offer a short, general list of some experiences some people have found exciting, interesting, and valuable in their efforts to become more culturally aware.  We hope they inspire you.

  1. Learn a foreign language
  2. Use your foreign language in community service
  3. Study abroad
  4. Take a course in anthropological fieldwork
  5. Serve as a host, tutor, or goodwill ambassador to people from another country
  6. Tutor minority kids
  7. Volunteer at a minority health fair
  8. Take courses in Black History, Chicano/Chicana Studies, Women’s Studies, Asian-American Studies, Native American Studies, sociology, and anthropology
  9. Read history and sociology texts written by women and people of color
  10. Make cross-cultural friendships
  11. Organize a multi-cultural event
  12. Diversify an organization to which you belong
  13. Under the supervision of a faculty member, undertake a research project on a cultural group different from your own
  14. Study white privilege
  15. Produce a cultural portfolio documenting your own family’s cultural history
  16. Travel
  17. Put yourself in situations that allow you to be in the minority
  18. Familiarize yourself with the musical traditions of your cultural group and those of others
  19. Learn the history of several forms of dance—and how to do them
  20. Study the world’s religions
  21. Take a course on global politics or global ecology
  22. Volunteer at a minority health clinic or an HIV education program
  23. Volunteer at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community center
  24. Join a LGBT & Allies group – or form a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school
  25. Volunteer in a community health clinic or Veterans Administration (VA) hospital
  26. Join an organization working to end racism
  27. Help organize Black, Latina/Latino, Asian, Native American, or Women’s History Month activities at your school
  28. Volunteer with refugees
  29. Participate in an organization that provides social services to a minority community
  30. Organize a film series around religious, cultural, ethnic, or racial diversity
  31. Watch the Black history documentary series Eyes on the Prize
  32. Study ethnobotany
  33. Learn the history of & how to cook the food of another cultural group (after you’ve learned to cook the food of your own community!)
  34. Read, read, read!
  35. Become the pen-pal of someone in another country
  36. Volunteer at an ethnic community festival, celebration, or pow-wow
  37. Become involved in a political initiative related to minority, women’s, or LGBT interests
  38. Form or participate in a theatre-of-the-oppressed or diversity-oriented theatre project
  39. Organize or participate in a disability awareness program
  40. Educate yourself and, then, your peers about hate speech
  41. Initiate LGBT safe-space programming in your school or workplace
  42. Organize, attend, or participate in a krystal nacht or holocaust remembrance event
  43. Attend religious services, lectures, or celebrations of spiritual traditions different from your own
  44. Learn sign language
  45. Make your school, workplace, or residence hall a violence-free & harassment-free zone
  46. Volunteer at a women’s shelter, homeless shelter, or food bank
  47. Learn the games of other cultures
  48. Read the alternative press; discover free speech radio news
  49. Learn karate, aikido, yoga, meditation, shiatsu, t’ai chi, qi gong, or another form of Eastern energy work
  50. Familiarize yourself with the dynamics of hate crimes
  51. Study conflict resolution; teach others; bring strategies for ethnic harmony to the places you live and work