In 2020, COVID-19 put a halt to international travel. The number of passengers passing through Amsterdam Airport dropped by 80%, and the start of 2021 didn’t look much better. We lived life virtually, and human connections turned into online encounters.
Travel was no exception. The best option to sightsee was either close to home or through Google maps. Movies, music, and books became the best option to experience other cultures, and if there was ever a good moment to start this blog, this was probably it. The idea, however, had started a while back.
My Personal Story
During the summer of 2014, I moved to Barcelona for an Erasmus exchange. I had always wanted to live in another country, and this was my opportunity to do so. I set a goal to learn the language and make new non-Dutch (and preferably some Spanish) friends. It turned out to be just the start.
Later that year, I embarked on a 2-month AIESEC volunteering project in the Philippines. My first international experience was mostly with other Europeans, so now it was time for a broader scope. I spent those two months with a group of 50 people of different nationalities. Among them: Nigeria, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Ecuador, Colombia, Finland, Vietnam, and of course, the Philippines. As a group, we slept in the same dorms, worked on the same projects, and spent each night talking, watching movies, and playing cards.
After these experiences, I started a Master’s back in the Netherlands but kept a yearning to explore more. So I returned to Spain for a few months and shortly after landed a job with the Red Cross. This period accelerated my international journey as it gave me the chance to work with people with different cultural upbringings. I spent 3 months working in Kenya, 9 months in Ecuador and Peru (where the interest in Spanish culture turned into a love for anything written or produced in Spanish), and several weeks on projects in other countries.
By now, I had built a habit of buying books from local authors whenever I traveled. I saw that culture connected people and produced a better understanding of the world around me. Books led to music, music to movies, and the combination of these 3, eventually to this blog.
So Why This Blog?
I have given you some insights into my personal story, but the most important reason for this blog can be summarized by a quote from the film director and screenwriter Krzysztof Kieslowski that says:
“There are too many things in the world which divide people, such as religion, politics, history, and nationalism. If culture is capable of anything, then it is finding that which unites us all.”
We live in a more international world than ever, yet we constantly find reasons to divide and judge others. Instead of being ignorant about our differences, why don’t we try to see what they teach us? I strongly believe that we can enrich our lives by learning from others and especially those who are further removed from us (whether physically or culturally). However, it can be difficult to know where to start. This blog is an attempt to compile the best works of each country in a consumable format.
What Is In It For You?
If you enjoy culture or travel, this blog can be a useful tool for learning and finding inspiration. You can take it with you on your journeys and find more in-depth articles if you are keen to read more about a specific country.
On your next trip, let’s say to Cameroon, ask the taxi driver about Mongo Beti and Manu Dibango, and see what response you get. Again, if you find someone’s culture truly interesting, you’ll have surprisingly fun and positive conversations. Just imagine meeting a tourist in your country, that read some of the books you loved in high school. Wouldn’t you be pleasantly surprised?
In my opinion, the best way to learn about and from other cultures is to listen to what people from those places have to tell you. I’ve therefore decided, with a few exceptions, only to include writers, movie directors, and musicians from the respective countries versus stories from people who visited the country but might not fully comprehend the cultural intricacies.
How You You Contribute!
As you may have realized right now, I sincerely hope that this platform can become a cultural exchange. To continue building the recommendation list, I need your help.
If you have any book, music, or movie recommendation that the world should know about, please leave a comment below or below one of the posts!