All one has to do is travel to realize that everyone is not like us! Shaking the head in a horizontal direction in most countries means “no” while in India it means “yes”. In Hindi language the voice lowers in pitch at the end of a question. In most western countries showing the thumb held upwards means everything is ok, while in some Islamic countries it is understood as a rude sexual sign. In most countries laughing is connoted with happiness but in Japan it can be a sign of confusion and embarrassment! In Mediterranean countries it is normal (or at least widely tolerated) to arrive half an hour late for a dinner invitation whereas in Germany and Switzerland this would be extremely rude!
From the beginning of human history clans and tribes viewed those not like us as a threat. Society and culture has broadened our understanding of who our neighbor is (as in the Christian parable of The Good Samaritan) but for many people there still seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to differences whether provoked by skin color, sexual orientation, political beliefs, cultural customs or religious affiliation. Oddly enough that reaction seems to be rooted in both fear and a sense of superiority to the one perceived as different! There is an invaluable form of therapy designed to address fears, called Phobia Therapy. The process employs gradual exposure to that which we fear, enabling us to gradually realize that even though we fear the object we can still survive contact with it. In some cases through gradual and prolonged exposure the phobia can even be eliminated! The point of all of this is that we CAN change! Just because we fear or dislike something or someone does not mean that we can’t come to accept it!
As I have grown I have learned to watch for signs of my automatic rejection of things. A good example is, of all things, sour cream! Long ago I concluded that I didn’t like or want sour cream and then spent years reinforcing my dislike of it by automatically rejecting it at every opportunity! At some point nearly 20 years ago a bowl of sour cream arrived in front of me and I immediately went to pass it down the table. Then I wondered why I was doing that since I hadn’t tasted sour cream since I was small so I took a spoonful of it and dumped it onto my baked potato. And guess what? I LOVED IT! My own informal phobia therapy has helped me come to appreciate brussel sprouts, graffiti art and even certain individuals who at first were simply not my cup of tea!