As a child, my dad told my siblings and me stories about an adventuring man who trekked through another world. I only remember snippets of the story, but I remember feeling awe, excitement, fear and joy as I listened.
Throughout my time in college, I learned that storytelling is the best way to connect with people from every culture. Experiencing stories from different cultures is crucial to expanding your perspective and connecting with others.
One of the first foreign films I watched was Spirited Away, a Japanese animated film. It was released in Japan on July 20, 2001. The following year it was released in America. Spirited Away was completely different from the American animated films I grew up watching.
Spirited Away opened my eyes to a different culture. It showed me a bathhouse, different spirits, clothing, traditions. It was amazing. It was a fictional setting, but it held deeper cultural undertones.
While I watched Chihiro, the main character, struggle to find her way through this fictional world and try to save her parents, I related to her.
Stories reach across all boundaries and walks of life. We can all feel connected with people who wear different clothes, speak different languages and follow different traditions. However, we must be open to seeing those different cultures and knowing we won’t understand everything.
On campus, the BYU-Idaho International Cinema plays multiple foreign movies throughout each semester. This semester, I went to view Castaway on the Moon, a South Korean film. It was quirky and there were cultural elements I didn’t understand, but I grew to genuinely love it. I cared for the characters and what they went through by the end of the movie.
In addition to films, foreign books are also important to read. This semester, I read All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. It focuses on the experience of German soldiers in World War I. It’s horrifying but also important because it shows a side that Americans rarely discuss. Too often we focus on our own experience without seeing the perspectives of others.
Foreign films and books give a glimpse into cultures we may never experience. Although I’ve never traveled outside of the United States, films and books have taken me to different countries.
Understanding different cultures and connecting with people is part of our experience in this life. Life would be extremely dull if we only lived in our little bubble and never saw or experienced the amazing cultures others live in.
If you’ve never watched a foreign film or if you’ve only watched one you disliked, pick up another; read a foreign book or two while you’re at it. Your understanding will be expanded and you’ll be able to tell better stories too.
Telling stories is the best way to connect with others, but how can we tell stories without pausing a moment to listen to others?