Written on
September 2, 2020

Ethocentrism: The Importance of Cultural Diversity

With Australia being one of the least culturally diverse countries in the world, we must be able to look through someone else’s lens with compassion and understanding. This doesn’t just make us better citizens, it makes us better human beings. Here’s a brief post on how you are ethnocentric… a little! 

Etho-what?

Ethnocentrism sounds like the final word in a spelling bee competition, but we promise it’s not hard to understand! The word essentially means the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s ethnic group or culture. Whether we know it or not, we have all behaved ethnocentrically in the past. Most of the time, you don’t even know you’re doing it! 

For example, in Australia, we drive on the left side of the road. So why is it that when we see our American counterparts, we say that they’re driving on the “wrong” side of the road? It’s not wrong, it’s just different than to what we are used to. Why don’t we say they drive on the right-hand side or they drive on the opposite side of the road? Japanese and Mandarin are both written from right to left, however, we tend to say that they write “backward”. Just like the previous example, they aren’t writing backward and we are writing forward; we’re just writing differently! No one way is better than the other! 

I know what you’re thinking. Am I a bad person because I’ve said things like this? No! Using phrases like this doesn’t automatically make you evil! Most cases of ethnocentrism are unintentional and non-aggressive. The reason we tend to say that another culture is “wrong” or “backward” is that we aren’t accustomed to it or we just don’t understand it.That’s why we all need to take the time to walk in our neighbor’s shoes! 

What You Can Do

The more often you are exposed to various cultures, the more you will understand them. This seems simple enough, but is it? When you watch TV, when you look at magazine covers, when you’re shopping online, you notice a pattern. A vast majority of these actors and models are of European descent and they highlight their culture. It’s no surprise we all have ethnocentric tendencies; look at the media around us!

In recent years, people have grown more aware of this fact and are branching out to show representation in all forms. Streaming services like Netflix have made designated categories highlighting the struggles of African Americans. Hulu has reality television shows like “90 Day Fiance” and “Arranged”, which shows the ways couples from different worlds learn each other’s culture and way of life. People of color like Samantha Harris, Rupaul, Jameela Jamil are constantly on runways and magazine covers, sharing their stories! 

When we hear of other’s experiences, the tribulations they’ve faced, and their traditions, we become more accepting. It helps us eliminate stereotypes and the biases we may have towards different groups of people. Diversity also creates plenty of opinions based on facts and not bias. Maybe you wouldn’t know how to market to a certain audience, but your colleague could help you through their first-hand experience. So what can you do? Learn! Try watching television shows from different countries. Follow people from other states and territories. Try that Thai restaurant on your street. Listen to K-POP for god sake. Become educated in the world around you; there’s so much more than Ariana Grande and vegemite! 

Even though we may not understand other cultures entirely, we must respect them and learn that there is no wrong or right; there’s just different!