It was true when the world was much younger, but all the more so in this age of easy travel and speedy communication: the globe shrinks, cultures meet and intermingle, and there’s less and less difference between one city and another. A minuscule part of me is sadder each time I see English plastered across the signs and storefronts of a foreign country that used to seem more exotic and culturally distant from where I grew up and lived my life. Intermingling can easily lead to homogeneity, and that can be mighty boring.
But then I am reminded that even when travel was arduous and communication as slow as molasses in a meat locker, cultures met, mixed and mated, and gradually produced new and fantastic variants of themselves. Where would we be if languages had never borrowed and stolen terms from each other, evolved and changed over time? If nobody had ever crossed a border, learned about another culture, married a foreigner, or learned the way a more advanced or inventive group could accomplish tasks more efficiently and elegantly, would humans even still be around to do that stuff anymore?
My attitude is changing. Now, I really do still greatly appreciate that there are recognizable ethnic neighborhoods in nearly every city, every country. They’re wonderful microcosms of the nations and peoples that immigrated and founded them. But I also love that there’s a regular hurricane of linguistic mash-ups, cultural blending and reinvention of characteristics that comes from our happy meetings on new shores. It’s how we got here; it’s how we’ll move forward and continue to thrive.
Meanwhile, as long as there are those fantastic ethnic-enclave neighborhoods still in action, I’ll know I can follow the locals and find the best jiaozi and sticky rice in town when I get hungry.