Can someone still be cultured if they haven't traveled?


Fact Box

  • Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines ‘cultured,’ as it pertains to people, as “well educated and able to understand and enjoy art, literature, etc.” 
  • A British study from 2015 found that seven out of 10 people consider themselves 'cultured,' as indicated by 'owning a library card, watching subtitled films and being skilled in the use of chopsticks.'
  • According to Ethnologue, over 7,100 languages are spoken throughout the world. 
  • Etiquette around the world varies amongst different cultures. Examples that deviate from commonly held US standards are belching as a 'way of complimenting the host on the food' in China and not tipping for service in Japan. 
  • Lonely Planet lists the top 10 'must-see destinations' in 2022 as the Cook Islands, Norway, Mauritius, Belize, Slovenia, Anguilla, Oman, Nepal, Malawi, and Egypt.

Luke (Yes)

There are a great many colloquialisms about rude travelers, whether they be from a foreign country or simply from a different part of one’s own. While these stories about travelers are not true across the board, what is certain from these anecdotes is that merely traveling to destinations does not induce culture within a person. Instead, being cultured requires special attention to detail and a strong desire to learn from and about other people.

Consider that throughout history, people have been able to culture themselves without travel by reading books, listening to music, watching plays, and speaking with those who have traveled or were from a foreign land. This is only more accessible in the modern era due to mass communication and the internet. Now more than ever can a person learn about, experience, and meet people from other cultures, all without the need to travel.

The internet allows a person seeking to understand other cultures the option to use various--even free--software to learn new languages quickly and even virtually travel the streets of another country. Modern technology does not only offer the ability to gather cultural experiences secondhand, but one can also directly engage with people from all over the world through online forums, chatrooms, and video chats. This engagement is further amplified through social media, where people are regularly introduced to different cultures, ideas, and concepts.

Our modern era can make someone worldly without the need for travel by utilizing the incredible amount of information and resources easily available and by directly communicating with people from all over the world.

Dougie (No)

Cultured people know how to appreciate the finer things in life, such as worldly foods, art, lifestyle, and etiquette. Much of this diverse information requires travel to learn of them first-hand. No matter how much someone reads or watches, one simply can’t glean all the complex nuance that comes with practical exposure to other cultures.

Annually, over a billion people spend time abroad. Visiting other countries teaches life skills and offers long-term physical and mental health benefits. Hands-on immersion in another nation’s geography, history, sociology, etc., rounds out and fortifies the knowledge of another culture, thus contributing to how cultured someone is.

Live performances such as plays, concerts, ballet, and opera, offer countless sensory details to make them especially memorable and impactful to audience members. Without international travel, this necessary component of being cultured would be lacking.

Creativity boosts can be prompted by environmental change, and multiple famous authors were inspired by travels abroad. Additionally, research has found that living abroad is associated with more daring and creative work performance among executives.

When speaking with a cultured person, the conversation isn’t limited to bookish topics and details. Visiting another country shows the multifaceted aspects of the region’s society, like education, work, family, and more. Travel challenges conscious and unconscious biases and expands personal perspective. As Mark Twain put it: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

The qualities of a cultured person include appreciation for art, books, film, and education, with worldly exposure to language, history, politics, and engagement with other cultures. Travel directly informs many of these traits and is therefore essential in earning the descriptor.

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