Cassandra Jeffery / The Silhouette

I’ve recently returned from a one year study abroad tour in Mannheim, Germany. Putting aside my overwhelming enthusiasm for copious amounts of cheap and delicious beer and basically everything Deutsch, I began my adventure with a desire to discover every possible nation surrounding Germany that my wallet and my schooling would allow.

A memorable adventure is an understatement. My year abroad was filled with the diverse tastes, sights, and sounds of continental Europe and although there is nothing comparable to experiencing a country and her people authentically, returning to Canada has reminded me that we are incredibly lucky to call such a vast and diverse country home.

This past weekend I attended a Muay Thai competition. My personal opinion on fighting as a sport aside, what I did appreciate about the event is the fact that multiple cultural traditions were integrated under one roof. Although I admit that I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing an authentic Muay Thai match in Thailand, I was impressed with the way Thai ceremonies and traditions were upheld in honour of the Muay art form. Appropriate Thai headdress was worn by each of the competitors and a ceremonial bow and offering took place before any of the fighting begun. It seemed as though there was a large amount of respect for the art of Muay Thai that went beyond simply imitating a fighting style.

Along side the traditional event, some of the club’s patrons created an authentic Jamaican dinner for those attending. The food was wonderful but more importantly the dinner helped to influence a particular atmosphere of bringing aspects of global culture right to the table. Bringing together two different national symbols such as traditional food and a form of martial arts is one of the reasons why I love being Canadian.

We have a plethora of opportunities to educate ourselves and discover the various cultural traditions of our fellow Canadians and this idea that we can incorporate traditions from opposite ends of the world in order to have a wonderful evening is a privilege that we may sometimes overlook. We literally have a global perspective at our fingertips in that we can experience cultural traditions from around the world without having to leave the province.

Of course, living here in Canada simply cannot compare to the level of cultural understanding you can gain from travelling around the world, but tapping into our resources as Canadians is a fantastic way to begin your education on a particular country or cultural group. Exposing yourself to a level of culture can be as easy as taking a stroll around the park or in my case, skeptically accepting an invitation to a Muay Thai competition. Such exposure will almost always work to your benefit in that you will have a little more understanding, curiosity, and perhaps interest than would have otherwise. Perhaps you’ll never witness a Muay Thai event in Thailand and maybe you’ll never be granted with the opportunity of enjoying the culinary arts of Jamaica while sun bathing on Jamaica’s beautiful beaches, but as Canadians, we are privileged with getting just a little taste right in our own back yard.

So my question for you is, what are you waiting for? Get out and see what Canada has to offer. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be able to get a better German beer here in Canada than you could get in good ole’ Deutschland. I doubt it, but just maybe.

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