Discussing how culture affects daily life

Magdalena Mot (left) has lived all over the world and been exposed to many different cultures. | Photo courtesy of Magdalena Mot

Magdalena Mot (left) has lived all over the world and been exposed to many different cultures. | Photo courtesy of Magdalena Mot

In light of a fast-growing multicultural community, the City Philosopher Cafes will explore culture – specifically if it is something someone is born into, or if it can be learned or borrowed. Magdalena Mot and Mayyahah Al-ani will moderate the event (Dec. 14). 

The monthly inclusive talks were created in partnership between Surrey Local Immigration Partnership, SFU and the City of Surrey.

Everyone has culture. Culture
describes our way of living and some internal factors that
affect our behaviour, like our values, beliefs and attitudes that we use in day-to-day life.

“We will moderate answers to the above-mentioned question, while looking at various cultural
aspects and both their visible and invisible components,” says Mot.

Enriched understanding of culture

People are born into cultures, but we can learn and adopt or ‘borrow’ some aspects of different cultures,” says the website.

Mot suggests if culture is something that can be learned, maybe people’s cultural intelligence should become part of our education system.

“Cultural diversity is a huge topic and this talk is far from being a heavily documented discussion, but we’re looking forward to sharing ideas with our audience as well as learn ing and ‘borrowing’ ideas from them,” says Mot.

Mot has been exposed to different cultures (she has lived in Germany, Quebec and Vancouver).
Born in Romania, where as a child, she learned to accept that her religion and ethnic background were not validated by society.

“Being exposed to new cultures every day, as I worked with new immigrants for a long time, has enriched my understanding in a beautiful way,” she says.

Mot has been living in Canada
since 2003 and has a Master of Arts degree in Slavic studies. She has previously volunteered with Human Rights education in Montreal and is currently co-chair of the Surrey Immigrant Advisory Roundtable in Surrey.

Al-ani has lived in Surrey since 2013. She immigrated from Iraq to Canada where she obtained her PhD in computer science and is a member of the Surrey Immigrant Advisory Roundtable.

Dialogue of understanding

Mot finds it hard to define her culture – as it has changed over time.

“Culture is always changing, it cannot be static. Someone once said that culture is the lenses we see the world through. As soon as we acquire new knowledge of surrounding cultures, the lenses change a little. As long as we remain open to growing our understanding of the world, new layers will be added to our perception of other cultures,” she says.

Mot points out people’s cultural backgrounds affect them at all levels. For example, an employer at a job interview might perceive “a feeling of entitlement” in a candidate and will assign it to the candidate’s cultural background.

“Sometimes this is simply based on a lack of under-
standing. As Peter Alfandary (who is passionate about cross-cultural issues) mentioned, we, as a society, should emphasise the relevance of studying cultural intelligence,” says Mot, “because cultural differences will always be there, but we can do a better job when relating to those differences. We believe this type of discussion is
crucial, as it provides access to a safe dialogue space, where all ideas are valued.”

The Inclusive City Cafes is a place for community members to discuss the challenges and opportunities of living in a diverse community. The Café started in the fall of 2015. This series is a partnership between the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership, the City of Surrey, SFU Philosophers’ Cafe, and the SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre.

For more information, visit www.surreylip.ca