Written by Brittany McBride ’18, Client Service Associate, Cary Street Partners
Different cultures teach us understanding, open our eyes, and change our perspective.
I was lucky enough this past year to travel across the world with my parents and brother. We all love traveling, especially together, and decided our next adventure would take us to India. We found ourselves surrounded by millions of kind, curious, and grateful humans.
The country, culture, way of life, and people of India changed our perception of the world we live in today. I left India with a great appreciation for the simple luxuries most of us have in our everyday lives.
India is a relatively poor country, but seeing poverty with your own eyes is different than simply knowing it exists. My family and I spent time in the big cities, but also traveled into some smaller cities and through villages by car. Cows, pigs, and dogs walk the streets as casually as people. Men, women, and children balance large packages over their heads. One spigot of water aims to satisfy the whole village for bathing, drinking, and washing clothes. The remarkable thing is that these vibrant, extraordinary people appreciate the aspects of their lives just the way they are. They do not feel sorry for themselves. They work incredibly hard for what they have. They are very proud and grateful for every opportunity and success that comes their way. This observation forced me to reflect on my life that day and every day since. Now, I stop to appreciate the secure roof over my head, the hot indoor shower, and the food on my table every night. Even more luxurious items give me pause for appreciation like a car to get to work and a television to entertain and inform. Intangible aspects of life in America are significant including the opportunities for growth and education, open-mindedness, and our rights. These items allows us to discover our passions and reach our fullest potentials.
Something that really stuck out to me was the way I was treated as a white woman in India. My family and I were approached several times asking to take photos with locals or just to have a conversation. In the smaller villages, children would approach us in awe and ask to touch our pale skin or blonde hair. They had never seen anything like us with their own eyes. This was fascinating to me and made me appreciate such a diverse culture we find in America. Can you imagine only ever seeing people who have similar features to you? Can you imagine seeing someone that looked so different than you that you couldn’t take your eyes off of them? Can you imagine saying hello to someone just to hear the way they said it back to you? I feel lucky to be engulfed in so many different cultures every day. We are lucky to collaborate with and learn from people of all different shapes and sizes. Not only did I notice different treatment from the color of my skin, but from my gender as well. At introduction, my father and brother received respectful handshakes, while my mother and I were given kind smiles. All but one of our tour guides were men and each of their wives worked to tend the home and raise children. One man was amazed that I had a job. He kept asking us to clarify that it was my father’s job we must be talking about. He simply could not believe it. Women in our country have done such an amazing job in our country paving the way for equality that I am lucky enough not to feel these assumed ideas in my everyday life.
I was not offended by any of my observations in India, but they made me appreciate aspects of my life and the country I live in, in ways that I could not imagine. I certainly think we have a journey ahead of us, but I am proud of the continuing efforts to improve inequality in this country. Traveling forces us to step outside our comfort zones to learn about and understand what makes us all so wonderfully different in this world.