Every place has a thousand stories

If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend making 20 minutes to listen to this talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the danger of a single story. It’s funny, articulate and very true.

(Original here)

Our countries and cultures are made up of thousands of lives and stories. We know that, because we grew up with them.

But what about far away places? Sometimes we don’t get to hear all the stories. Sometimes we make generalisations from the ones that reach us.

To really understand another country’s culture go in search of the other stories.

Read the newspapers – find local (national) newspapers as well as international. But don’t stop there.

Talk to people who have been there – and talk to people who grew up there. They will give you different perspectives, which you can use to create your own picture.

I’ve been asked a few times recently what inspired us to create PocketCultures. Well, it was to show alternative points of view – the second, third and (one day) the hundredth story. We collaborate with people who live all over the world, each has a different story to tell.

Sometimes it’s the one you expect, sometimes it’s something else completely.

Read more:
Immigrants: Citizens of the World by a Mexican in Canada
Blogs of the World – life in different countries and cultures
Have stories to tell? We’re looking for regional contributors.

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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  • Alice, London

    Thanks for posting this talk. I found it really interesting. It made me wonder why African countries are lumped together so often as ‘Africa’ in the UK. Is it because the continent is less fragmented geographically than other continents or because we assume that African countries (and people) are all the same? I recently spent a few weeks travelling in Namibia and South Africa and people I met laughed when I said it was my first time in Africa. They found it strange that I referred to ‘Africa’. But its also really common in the UK to refer to the USA as ‘America’, as if that were the only country on the continent.

    Really inciteful look at why people have stereotypes. I agree that the one-sided coverage we get from world news has a huge influence on people. But the internet can really change things for the better because it opens up the world to people. And especially websites like this one!

  • Glad you enjoyed the talk Alice. Thanks for commenting! It’s a good point that Africa looks more consolidated than other continents. Maybe that does play a part. I think you tend to hear less about the individual countries too. I read an article recently about fashion designers from Cameroon, and they were saying they look forward to the day when more people have heard of Cameroon so they can stop describing it as ‘the country next to Nigeria’

  • marie

    I love this video of a topic that resonates deeply with me and, I’m sure, many others. She spoke at the Auckland Readers’ and Writers’ Festival this year and I was amazed by her storytelling. I’ve already forwarded a link to this post to about 10 people:-)

  • Thanks Marie :-) That must have been a great experience – from the video she seems a compelling speaker. I enjoyed her books too.