Cross-cultural exchange A matrix of inter-personal relations

Amit Sharma
The success of cross-cultural exchange in the world is based on inter-personal relations between people / organizations / nations. In order to understand the concept further, we need to throw light on what we actually understand by cross-cultural exchange based on true inter-personal relations.
Cross-cultural exchange is a very common and old term which is not properly understood or usually undermined in terms of its importance. The fact is that it is a complete subject in itself which requires deeper understanding. Cross-cultural exchange means when two individuals or entities of completely different cultural backgrounds meet-up with each other, they tend to exchange or interchange their cultural attributes, qualities, habits, thoughts, rituals, etc. Sometimes, it may happen that the two entities have entirely different backgrounds like North and South Poles. But when they start interacting and staying together for some time, lot of cross-cultural exchanges start taking place between both of them in terms of ideologies, activities, behaviours and even daily routines. The success of these exchanges purely depends upon the ability to assimilate, merge and converge in terms of above parameters by both the entities.
Firstly, the most common example of cross-cultural exchange can be a marriage alliance between two people belonging to completely different backgrounds. If a Kashmiri boy from J&K gets married with a Malayali girl from Kerala or vice-versa, it would require a complete cross-cultural exchange. Right from basic marriage rituals to post-marriage life including linguistic habits, eating habits, sleeping habits, rituals, cultural differences, climatic conditions, etc., everything may or may not pose challenge(s) before the newly-wed couple for a better future. So, here comes the role of cross-cultural exchange exercises. Herein, both the partners need to understand, adopt and adapt towards the dominant cultural attributes with consensual agreement on same amongst them of respective cultures so as to strike a balance and tying a common thread to carry-on the routines of life in a successful manner.
Another example of cross-cultural exchange can be seen in student exchange programs happening in various educational institutes such as Universities at national or International levels. During such programs, people belonging to different regions, cultures, religions, castes, colours and creeds come under the same roof and exchange various cultural attributes for good number of days. Major sports events such as Asian Games, Common-Wealth Games or Olympic Games are other glaring examples of cross-cultural exchanges wherein sportspersons belonging to different nationalities exchange cultures, pleasantries and try to expose and adapt themselves to completely different cultures during the entire period of their stay in these games venues.
One such event I personally attended was Youth Millennium Parliament 2000 A.D which was organized at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi wherein I was fortunate to attend this mega event. It was having participation of youth with excellence in various fields such as education, sports, agriculture, art & culture, civil services, public life, journalism, sports, etc. from all across the nation and even SAARC countries had gathered. While speaking in one of the Plenary Sessions, I shared the dice with a girl from North-Eastern region of the country and we exchanged lot of cultural attributes. Also, we developed strong ties with youth of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, etc. and spent lot of time together while attending this Parliament. It was indeed a unique experience for me which served as a perfect example of cross-cultural exchanges, especially in the evening times after the formal sessions used to get over.
Here I want to emphasize that cross-cultural exchange can be successfully used as a very powerful tool to spread the message of peace, harmony and universal brotherhood. This helps to remove inhibitions, fears, misconceptions about various cultures and people. People tend to open-up, understand positives of other cultures, come out of our shells and become more awakened and exposed to outside world which is a pre-requisite of success in today’s world.
Other very popular platform of cross-cultural exchange are the medical colleges, engineering colleges, boarding schools, study centers, etc.  wherein students with different cultural backgrounds, languages, states and even nationalities happen to study and stay together for quality amount of time. Again, I was recently very fortunate to learn a lot and get exposed to cross-cultural exchanges during my full-time one year residential e-Governance specialization at IIM, Indore. Here, I happened to learn a lot of great cultural attributes from my batch mates hailing from South, West, East, North and even Central belts of the nation. We could enjoy celebration of various festivals, be it Pongal or Easter or Diwali or Holi or Eid or Gurpurab at different occasions. We all tried to get exposed to dressing, eating and working habits of one another. Even we used to sometimes enjoy the differences between our superstitions and cultural lags between our varied cultural attributes. It was indeed a very enriching and a useful experience for me while undergoing through this e-Governance specialization which I rate as a true cross-cultural exchange exposure program at IIM Indore.
The importance of cross-cultural exchanges can also be gauged from the fact that off-late, it has emerged as a specialized department altogether in various Universities of the nation. Not going far, our University of Jammu has also started a full-fledged center of excellence in this field under able guidance of expert faculties for exclusive specialization in this area. At the same time, a lot of global R&D is also going on in the field of cross-cultural exchange and it has emerged as a lucrative profession in demand at present wherein global corporates induct these experts as leaders in HRM Cells so as to ensure retention of new trainees in multi-cultural cosmopolitan competitive atmospheres.
Even the United Nations, which is the biggest consortium of nations across the globe, also understands the importance of same. UN, in itself, is a perfect example of global cross-cultural exchange as all its wings such as UN Peace Keeping Force, WHO, UNICEF, etc. which attracts the best of the best talents from across various cultures and nationalities of the world and deputes them on global missions spread across all continents. Even the UN General Assembly consists of representatives of all the nations of the world who depict their respective cultures, values and national attributes during its regular sessions.
I am myself, a strong votary of cross-cultural exchange. But the only condition is that it should be used in a very constructive manner so as to bridge the wedge created by cultural lags or cultural divide, created by humans deliberately, be it on linguistic grounds or demographic grounds, communal grounds or caste/creed/colour based grounds. Every human being born in this world has an equal right to breathe, move and grow in any part of the world, irrespective of her/his nationality or cultural background. But this is only possible when we keeps our eyes, ears and mind open towards adopting and adapting to different cultures around us.
The basic motto of perfect cross-cultural exchange should be to give best attributes of our own culture to others and take the best out of others’ cultures. Dipankar Gupta talked about the bent towards Westoxication rather than Westernization in his book “Mistaken Modernity”. It meant that we are overtly picking-up only vices or outer layering of western culture fast such as live-in relations, partying, drinking, leading emotionless lives, etc. (which he termed as Westoxication) but we hardly focus on core values of western world such as being natural, true, honest, living selfless lives, national character, etc. (which he termed as true Westernization).
To sum-up all, the earlier, we develop our skills & bent towards cross-cultural exchanges and to get exposed towards multifarious cultures existing in our own culturally diverse and rich nation and even varied global cultures, the more are our chances of becoming successful global citizens which is one of the major demand of time and need of the hour so as to make this world a true global village and a better place to live in, in the times to come.

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