Continentalism

There is an attribute I find attractive, if not essential, in both the women I am attracted to and the friends I find myself spending time with. Due to lack of a better term, I have called it “continentalism” for the past many years. Essentially, a person’s continentalism describes how broad they have traveled, how exposed they are to the various cultures and customs of the world, and how comfortable they are with those from continents other than their own. Maybe a better term may be “cultured”, but I have used continentalism and will probably continue to do so.

Let’s look at an example. When I first met my wife, one of my first questions I asked was where she was from. For most people, this is an easy question to field, a freebie, if you will. With some people, this can be a hairy question, because the questionee has no idea how to answer. When asked, I usually respond Seattle, merely because I spent my childhood and adolescent years there, not to mention that I think it is a great city and am proud to say that I am from there. (I am less proud of the state where I was actually born, and therefore rarely ever offer the information in conversation.)  When my wife is asked where she is’ from, she tends to say California, although she has spent little time actually living there. Her childhood was spent in Michigan, Singapore, Connecticut, and the People’s Republic of China; her family now resides in California. As you can see, claiming to be from only one of those locales is hard to do, especially since each one made her a part of whom she is now.

Needless to say, my continentalism radar went off when I first heard this and I naturally became more interested in her as a result of her living and traveling throughout many parts of the world. I have been fortunate to live in places that have vast diversity. As I have been places in the U.S. that tend to have less diversity, I am struck at the obvious difference in the people around me and their thought process and openness. Where one is from is becoming increasingly harder to tell based on looks (just ask a Japanese Brazilian or a Chinese American Samoan). But that is the direction that the world is headed, and it is up to us to learn about the world around us.

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