The key to living in a multicultural society

With today’s globalization, connecting people from different parts of the world, societies become increasingly multicultural. “Gran Torino” and “When Rich came to Sunday Dinner” are both stories that tackle and debate upon the cultural differences one can encounter in America. Originating from different places can create a gap between families and neighborhoods, however, much can be prevented if one take the time to learn about each other.

Firstly, America, where both stories are set, is considered one of the most multicultural countries in the world. In many ways, it can be seen as a multicultural mosaic, where each culture has a say in creating the picture shown to the world. Furthermore, the saying focuses on how every society, living side by side, has to fit and adapt to each other. In the film “Gran Torino”, a traditional American and a Hmong family are neighbors. In the beginning, neither of the parties are happy to live next to people with another culture. The same can be said about “When Rich came to Sunday Dinner”, where the American and the Chinese norms crash, and create a divide between the people involved. However, they try, or have to try, to adapt to each other to live peacefully. In order for the American society to function, the different parts, or people, have to co-operate, such as the neighbors in Gran Torino did.

Despite having the intention of adapting, cultural differences can create a gap between people. Ignorance and prejudice might be two of the reasons for why people find it hard to communicate with others, or do not want to learn more about their neighboring cultures. Mr. Kowalski in “Gran Torino” is an example of the last. He was narrow-minded about the people originating from Asia, most likely a result of his participation in the Korean War. As a consequence, he stayed away from his neighbors, not wanting to learn about their culture. As for ignorance, Rich from “When Rich came to Sunday Dinner”, can be an illustration of how people, despite being aware of the differences in norms and traditions, choose to overlook them. When he was invited to dinner with his fiancées parents, he broke almost every “house rule”, or cultural norm, consequently being marked as rude, when his intent was entirely different. Cultural differences can, therefore, act as a dividing power between people, even though the will to adapt is present.

On the other hand, as a result of the differences, one can learn much about living in a multicultural society. Both stories are similar when it comes to them trying to teach people about the importance of understanding various cultures. “Gran Torino” focuses on finding the similarities uniting people, whereas the extract “When Rich came to Sunday Dinner” shows how not paying attention to other people’s traditions can make adapting even harder. For instance, the Hmong people believe that the soul of a child is situated in the head, and one should, therefore, never touch their heads. When the meaning of the gesture was pointed out to Mr. Kowalski, he had the opportunity to learn about the Hmong culture, whilst at the same time, explaining that he meant no harm. He chose to consider their traditions in a way that Rich did not. Rich, despite having a Chinese girlfriend who could inform him, made many mistakes, and seemingly, did not try to correct them or explain himself. The lesson is therefore, to try to pay attention to different cultural norms, because when one has the knowledge about other people’s cultures, it is easier to understand the different points of view.

To conclude, “Gran Torino” and “When Rich Came to Sunday Dinner” are stories set in the multicultural America, showing two approaches on how to handle the cultural differences. However, they both focus on the importance of taking the time to learn about other cultures, because in today’s society, countries are becoming increasingly multicultural. As a consequence, one has to take into account the variety of norms and traditions when communicating with others, and trying to make a country work as a whole. Knowledge is the key to adapting to the development. Knowledge is the key to living peacefully in a multicultural country.

If you are curious about “When Rich came to Sunday Dinner”, it is an extract from the book “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan, starting on page 176.

Multicultural societies

Holding hands

– Kristin


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