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Cultural Awareness.

We are privileged to live in a culturally diverse country where we have the opportunity to make connections with and learn about people who live a different lifestyle from our own. Cultural difference or identity can mean many things though. It could be someone who was born in another country, who dresses in a different way (e.g. more modest, revealing or expressive), eats different food, practises a different religion, adopts a different gender, has a particular sexuality or adheres to certain rules around sexual behaviour (e.g. no sexual relationships outside marriage). 

Whilst this creates diversity within our community, sometimes misunderstandings can occur as a result of belief of myths or being fearful of a “different way”. We often judge a person’s character based on popular stereotypes however some stereotypes can be quite negative and cause us to be explicitly or implicitly prejudiced towards others. We should try not to see others solely through the lens of a stereotype. 

 Sometimes we hear of (poor) discriminatory behaviour shown towards others who adopt a different lifestyle to our own but treating people in an unkind or cruel way simply because they have a different lifestyle or particular preferences is never acceptable.  No one deserves to feel ashamed or embarrassed because of a particular thing they like or something that they do that is part of their life style.

Maybe changing the way we perceive or think about a different culture or lifestyle, could help us celebrate diversity and embrace the opportunity to learn from others. After all, it would be very boring if we were all the same!

Some tips…

  • Be kind and inclusive.
  • Behave within the Law.
  • Be curious with sensitivity, respect and understand the rights of others.
  • Understand the Law when in a different country, as it is the Law of that country which must be obeyed, for example – use of alcohol or romantic/sexual relationships with someone of another culture.
  • Respect religious and sacred monuments of a country.
  • Respect goes both ways – you have to give it to get it.
  • Respect boundaries and be open to learning about other people’s boundaries.
  • Don’t mock others lifestyle choices, religion or faith.
  • Keep learning and don’t believe myths – do your own research and find out the facts.

As soon as we are all able to respect and accept each other’s cultural differences, unique values and beliefs, we can embrace cultural diversity fully. We should all strive to be more open to understanding one another and try to understand various backgrounds because there is an abundance of good things we can learn from each other. There is something special about all of us and someone out there would love to hear about it.

Stereotypes.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase countless times. It means do not judge somethings value or worth based on its external appearance. You’ve probably heard it used with objects but also with people which is ironic since it takes the average person, upon looking at someone, around seven seconds to have made an overall judgment of their character. First impressions really do count but for some people it’s harder to make a good first impression due to certain aspects of their identity and stereotyping.

There are many things that make up our identities for example: the colour of our skin, our sexual orientations, religious beliefs or our gender. However some of these qualities can be accompanied by particular stereotypes (which are fixed, over generalised beliefs about a particular group or class of people). We all use stereotypes whether we realise it or not. They’re a major way in which we simplify our social world since they reduce the amount of processing we have to do when we meet a new person and allow us to respond quickly to situations by inferring a person has a whole range of characteristics. 

However, often some stereotypes seem to favour some characteristics and belittle others. Whether they are positive or negative they are never entirely accurate. For example gay men are stereotyped as always being overly feminine, south Asians are likely to fall victim to stereotypes correlating to terrorism, blonde people are stereotyped as being unintelligent and transgender people are often perceived as ‘transitioning for attention’ or told they are just ‘confused’.

So why do we use them?! Stereotypes make us ignore differences between individuals leading to social categorisation, discrimination or racism. They can also affect individuals within these different categories. They may feel segregated or misplaced if they don’t adhere to their appointed stereotype e.g. a vegetarian black person when black people are ‘supposed’ to love meat.

Stereotypes have been around for years and can be attributed to things like why the LGBTQ+ community has only recently started to be accepted, why racism is still around and why we are only just starting to see improvements in gender equality. By disusing some stereotypes we can begin to allow equality and acceptance to thrive. An example of the positive effects of acceptance is Pride month. Homosexuals were historically stereotyped as being sinful since homosexuality goes against some religions but recently Pride month has been introduced and is celebrated by more and more people. By becoming more open minded we can collectively create a better future for us all where we embrace each other’s differences.

Chloe, age 15

Stereotypes

Helpful Websites.

Written by: Charlene Hayes

Specialist School Nurse Dorking

Written by: Caroline Hollingsworth

School Staff Nurse Epsom

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