Last weekend, I got the chance to meet up with a group of friends whom I hadn’t seen for months. After the usual pleasantries, the conversation steered away from catch-up banter to more substantial stuff. As I was regaling the group on my recent trip to France, and how I was blown away by Claude Monet’s house and garden in Giverny, someone chirped in asking, “What’s Monet?”
It was a palm-to-face moment for me. I salute her for jumping in to clarify something she didn’t know as not many people are brave enough to do that. How else can we learn, right?
Do not get me wrong. I am far from being a snob and will be the first to admit that there are plenty of things that I am completely ignorant about. However it didn’t stop me from feeling just a tad astonished that someone as brilliant as her, a highly sought after accountant, did not know one of the greatest Impressionist painters.
It got me thinking about culture in today’s world. In an age that is totally obsessed with the most trivial and mundane of things, have we lost our way culturally? You would think that living in the age of information and innovation would allow the world and all its wonders to shrink and become easily accessible to everyone.
However that is not the case. Instead of sharing information on things that matter, we are obsessed with sharing filtered pictures of Sunday brunches and selfies of abs and boobs. There is zero insight into things that used to matter, such as art, literature, community, and music that does not involve “licking that ass” lyrics.
Ways to be more cultured in the modern world
So why not start now and inject a little bit of culture into your life? Here are 12 simple things that you can do to be a little more culturally aware in an age that’s obsessed with social media.
#1 Go to museums. Do not turn your nose up at an afternoon at the museum. Even if you are not privy to art, it is still a wonderful way to be exposed to culture. The only way to learn something new is to open your eyes and your mind to what is right in front of you.
Many museums do not even charge an entry fee, and even if they do, it is generally the same price as heading for a movie. Instead of watching Liam Neeson reprise his role for the umpteenth time, why not make a date with the museum?
No matter where in the world you are, if there is a museum close by, there will be something worth checking out. There is no need to head to Paris or London for a dose of culture. As of right now, I call Taichung, Taiwan home and a museum in town is hosting a wonderful exhibition on Edgar Degas, a renowned French artist. If I am able to absorb a dose of European culture in the Republic of China, then you have absolutely no excuse not to follow suit. [Read: 20 fun date ideas for the cultured couple]
#2 Attend anything artsy. To become more cultured in an age that’s obsessed with all things online and social, you need to jump at the chance to attend anything artsy. From random photography expos and poetry slams, to gallery openings and farmers’ markets, dabble in the arts any chance you get.
You can also buy tickets to watch a play, ballet or opera. Take the time to mingle with others during the show’s intermission, and do not be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone interesting. When you infuse your life with a taste of the arts, you open the door to an endless possibility of garnering knowledge and meeting people from this new and exciting world.
#3 Make new friends. Perhaps you are culturally inept because of the social circle that you are moving in. Do not get me wrong. It is not your friends’ fault that you have no interest in the arts and culture. It all comes down to you taking the initiative to grow as a person. However sometimes, it is nice to have someone there to push you to open your mind and try something new.
I’m not saying forsake your current friends for new ones. All I’m saying is that you should expand your social circle to include those who are already involved in that world. Join a club or reach out to artsy acquaintances and spend more time with them. [Read: 12 tips for meeting and making new friends]
#4 Watch foreign films. There is more to films than Hollywood. For once, why not forsake the trite Michael Bay blockbusters and indulge in something different? The internet contains myriad download and streaming sites, where you can access hundreds of thousands of foreign films.
Language schools, clubs and even foreign ministries tend to organize foreign film screenings so the next time you hear of such an event, make an effort to attend it. You will be surprised at how wonderful non-Hollywood cinematic experiences can be.
#5 Stop publicizing your life on social media. Only use social media for connecting with people, finding out the latest happenings in your community, keeping track of organizations, looking out for upcoming events and so on.
Do not use social media as your platform to publicize yourself, because at the end of the day, no one cares about how your bowl of ramen looks, what your new perm does for your face or how much you love your boyfriend. The moment you stop indulging in the stuff that no one cares about, your focus will shift towards more meaningful communication. Basically, just get a life instead of pretending to have one. [Read: 16 signs you’re being an attention whore]
#6 Read often. I am a giant fan of fiction, and I indulge in works by everyone from Haruki Murakami to John Grisham. However, reading shouldn’t be limited to just fiction. Keep an open mind and read nonfiction works as well.
Biographies are a wonderful way to learn about people and their world. If you do not have the time to consume an entire book, or if books simply aren’t your thing, how about settling for an article a day? I highly recommend using Wikipedia. Download the application and bust it open every time you have a minute to spare. Click on the “Random” or “Today” tab, and engross yourself in the piece that pops up. It is the perfect way to learn about all sorts of things, people, and places from around the world.
#7 Understand music. Perhaps it is time to turn up the volume on music that does not involve booty, champagne, grillz and fast cars. Although I have to admit that modern music, especially rap, can be somewhat poetic, hard hitting and very clever at times, there are plenty of other genres out there worth listening to. Jazz, bossa nova, classical pieces and even stuff from the golden oldies are great to zone out to.
If you do not know where to start, make use of apps like 8tracks or Spotify, and type in the genre you want to explore. You will be inundated with tons of choices, and you will have no excuse not to listen to something different.
#8 Travel far and wide. Saint Augustine of Hippo once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page.” I could copy-paste thousands of inspirational travel quotes here, but you get the idea.
Traveling and meeting new people is a fabulous way to absorb culture. Seeing the world through a television or computer screen is not the same as being there in person. Sure, you will be able to learn plenty of things by being an armchair traveler, but nothing is better than being there in person and getting the chance to see, hear, smell, taste and touch everything that comes along.
No cash to travel far and wide? No problem. I’m sure that your country, and even your state, has plenty of budget-friendly locations to visit. [Read: 7 life lessons you’ll learn from an awesome road trip]
#9 Indulge in food and wine. Another way to be more culturally aware is to indulge in good food and wine any chance you get. Foodies are perhaps the most culturally aware people out there as they are open to trying stuff that many people shy away from.
Instead of heading to your favorite spot this weekend, why not make reservations at that new exotic restaurant in town? You should also consider signing up for a wine course and learning a thing or two about the nectar of the gods.
Not a fan of wine? No problem. Beers and spirits are heralded by pretty much every culture in the world. So whether you are trying 12-year old single malt whiskey from Japan or oak aged ale from London, revel in experiencing a taste of someone else’s culture. Literally.
#10 Learn a language. Another way to be more culturally aware is to learn a new language. Always wanted to learn French? Just do it. Fascinated with Japanese and the kanji? Why not learn it? Stop making excuses for yourself.
If you do not have the time to dedicate a couple hours a week on heading to a formal class, feel free to learn it from home. Programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo are perfect for those who want to pick up a language and learn it at their own pace. [Read: 6 excuses that will get you nowhere]
#11 Be classy and mindful. The way you behave is a direct reflection of how cultured you are. Being respectful and open to others, no matter their beliefs, is an important virtue. Behaving well and minding your manners is also another quality to possess.
Stop gossiping and cussing, or at the very least, tone it down a notch and try being mindful and aware when you go about your day. Put some effort into looking neat and smart, and do not forget to be kind and understanding towards others. [Read: 14 ways to stay classy at any gathering]
#12. Poke your nose into the hipster culture. No, I’m not kidding when I say that you should find out more about the hipster culture. I’m not asking you to go all out and don skinny pants, suspenders and a polka-dot bow tie whilst sipping on a cup of overpriced java.
All I’m saying is that you should pick up some of the stuff that this sub-culture enjoys. Attending art fairs, listening to indie music and taking an interest in literature and the arts are fabulous qualities to indulge in. Not just that, hipsters are a riot and lots of fun to be around, especially when they are not busy judging you for wearing mainstream labels and liking Coldplay.
Remember that living a life filled with culture in an age that is obsessed with social media is a lifestyle choice. Just like quitting smoking and giving up gambling, being cultured is a choice that you have to make for yourself. No one can shove it down your throat.
[Read: 13 ways to bring out the best in yourself]
Think of being cultured as a mind blowing way of operating in today’s world. Only you can turn your world of black and white into something filled with color and life. Once you take the first step, the rest will come easily.
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