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What is multiculturalism? I have been thinking about it recently.

Taiwan is perhaps the most tolerant place towards people of different cultures and faiths I have ever been to. The foolish activities of foreigners are shrugged off and with a hearty laugh they will ask you where you are from, what you do and why are you here. A genuine inquisitiveness which is incredibly welcoming. But no matter how long I stay, how good my Chinese gets (unlikely) or how close a friendship I make, I will always be a ‘waiguo’ (ousider). Is acceptance without any chance of assimilation multiculturalism?

Britain – especially London – is one of the most multicoloured, faceted and influenced places I have been to. A country that has opened its doors to the world, and I believe in most ways to be tolerant. If a person arrives from Italy, India or Innsbruck there is every possibility that they, or at least their children, would be regarded as ‘English’. But to become English, you need to leave your cultural luggage at the door and nobody will ever be interested in the slightest about where you come from, or be pleased that you took the time to visit this fine country. So, is assimilation without acceptance multiculturalism?

Is America, the ultimate multicultural society? For as long as they are ‘One Nation Under God’ this is surely an impossibility. Or Canada, where all countries, faiths and origins are welcomed and this right is embedded in the basic rights of the citizens?

Or maybe multicultralism is a myth. A word to describe a multitude of different situations and balances as society self-organises itself into equilibrium with the addition of new ideas and blood. One thing is for sure, it took a trip around the world for me to be able to ask this question.

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