Consider how our worldview affects the way we perceive the world. Every single one of our past experiences influences our worldview, and therefore the meaning we give to our experiences.
Our involvement in cultures plays a big part in creating the way we see the world. Both the way we assess a situation and how we approach decision making are filtered through our cultural lens (or lenses). We notice these lenses especially when we travel to a new area. We might find ourselves feeling confused by a new culture. We might find the experience of being in a new culture to be odd, interesting, or just plain different. We might feel invigorated, uncomfortable, or even frightened by the differences in culture.
When we find ourselves exposed to new situations and experiences like this, we face uncertainty. As we have discussed in other sections of this curriculum, we humans really like to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty, so we – without even being aware of it – seek certainty. When we don’t know something, our brain goes to fill in the blank with something we do know–and that something will come from our own cultural lens!
Our lens is simply what we know or consider to be “normal.” So it is understandable that we can have a really hard time becoming aware of our cultural lens. It feels much easier to just rely on what we already know and believe to be true for us. This is why it can become so easy to make assumptions and judgements about people from other cultures. When we are home in our usual environments, with our usual community, we most often forget that we even have a cultural lens that’s always at work. This is especially problematic when we interact with people from different cultures within our usual settings (work, community, etc.).
“Our cultural lens is so much a part of us that we are not even aware of how obvious it is to others. Like the nose on your face, you may forget that it is there, but everyone else sees it. I can’t look at you and not see your nose.” ~Susan C. Young
- Has there been a time when you felt uncomfortable or nervous in a different culture? Why? Do you think that has anything to do with your own cultural lens?
- Have you ever felt invigorated by another culture? If so, what attracted or intrigued you?