Today, and probably even more so than ever before, opposing tendencies characterize our world.

  • Whether we like it or not, ‘globalisation’ has made its way into our lives and affects us in many ways. We are exposed to greater contrasts in the people with whom we interact. Different cultures, beliefs, social classes and lifestyles are regularly presented to us, regardless of whether we seek that out. ‘Diversity’ has almost become a fashionable buzzword in many institutions or corporations, as they aim to project an open, attractive and modern image to their stakeholders. Globalisation often evokes looking outwards, tolerance, the lack of physical or virtual borders and the notion that the world is getting smaller and smaller in many aspects.
  • On the other spectrum is a certain tendency to withdraw, turn inwards and seek refuge in what is similar to us. Familiarity may be comforting and appealing to many. Instinctively, the ‘known’ is generally considered as being secure. We have seen this recurring tendency also in politics and economics, in varying degrees. Fear, among other factors, may lead to one’s refusal to step out of his or her circle, explore and confront novelty. Indeed, ships do not risk too much if they stay in the harbour.

Talking about ships, author and professor John Augustus Shedd famously referred to them in the following way:

“Ships in harbour are safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

“Ships in harbour are safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
- John Augustus Shedd

And what incredible lands and cultures were brought to light thanks to the past navigators’ courage to leave the harbour and venture with their ships into the unknown!

We take an enormous learning leap when we decide to give ourselves the opportunity to discover and try to understand a part of what, until now, has been foreign to us. By taking a genuine interest in the people and ways of being that are different to us, we may get the surprise that we find out a great deal about ourselves too: mirror effect!

The more we extend our comfort zone and overcome our fears of those and that which are different, the more familiar everything becomes. Straightforward: what was once foreign becomes familiar. With time the perimeter of the unknown becomes known. Fear dissipates. The more we explore, the more we want to keep exploring.

Authentic, global-minded people have a way of connecting with each other easily, despite that their ‘cultures of origin’ seem worlds apart. On that particular level, they understand each other. Global citizens have opted for a similar lifestyle, even if, for instance, one is originally from Japan and the other from Chile.

Being a global citizen definitely does not signify that one ‘erases’ his or her own culture of origin — on the contrary. Pride in one’s background and being open to the world are totally compatible and complementary.

Curiosity and openness are a state of mind that transcends fashionable trends. Fortunately, in today’s intertwined world, such qualities have the possibility to be developed even further and put into positive use.

Originally published at on May 17, 2017.