I recently did a post about William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, and that is definitely my current fave. The lives described are very different from my own, but beneath their exotic surfaces lie common human desires and fears: the desire for love, the search for spiritual enlightenment, the need for respect, the fear of rejection etc.
I’ve read a great many books, both fiction and non-fiction set in foreign cultures. I read them for entertainment and to learn – to see how others live and think. But I keep coming back to how alike we all are in our deepest being.
Foreign is not only found in another country. The people in a historical novel like Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall are a lot more different to me than anyone in the modern world.
‘Foreign culture’ need not be elsewhere or elsewhen. The website of The University of Texas at Austin, under Foreign Culture Categories, states that students can satisfy their foreign culture study requirement by taking courses in American Sign Category, where they will learn about Perspectives on Deafness among other things related to culture and disability. I suspect that not only will they study differences, but will also discover likenesses.