We’ve had quite the international week!
Earlier, I mentioned those I encountered on my daughter’s birth-day, but we also were blessed when long time friends came to stay with us for a few days…friends who live and work in Africa. Hosting an open house brought others who also have traveled the globe. One of which, was their niece. Blonde, blue-eyed…she grew up in Haiti and recently spent three years in Japan. This young friend shared how she was used to living in different cultures, she often learned to adapt where ever she found herself.
It was my conversation with this young lady that I found quite interesting.
Her time in Japan was a good experience. She told me she was pretty much the only English speaking westerner in her area, so it was total cultural immersion. Now, she’s back living with her room mate, with whom she has a great relationship…or so she thought. My young friend noticed her roommate becoming impatient and testy with her, and she couldn’t figure out why…until…she realized…without realizing it…she had brought home some habits and behaviors from her host culture.
Not really huge habits, but enough that caused her friend to bristle.
Asian culture is often seen as polite and respectful…even friendly…depending on where you visit. This is a fairly accurate assessment. But, when you combine it with our western culture, we surprisingly find we don’t receive it so well.
A couple days later, our house guests moved on to their next destination. That same morning we greeted our next guest at the airport, a university student arriving from Taiwan. She will be living with us for a few weeks and we are delighted to have her in our home. She speaks Mandarin and when I said “Nee-how” (hello), she told me I said it perfectly with no accent!! I evidently had enough practice using that single word while in China!
Our new house guest hasn’t been with us but a few days and already I’m experiencing familiar reactions to her cultural ways similar to when in China…and, similar to my young friend’s roommate. It is very subtle, but, it is things that challenge our western independent behavior and thinking. The I-can-do-it-myself kind of things. It’s the pushing your shopping cart even though you have a handle on it. Or, insisting on carrying your bags, or making sure the smallest utensil in the sink is washed and put away. These things seem small, and really not a big deal…but, after awhile…there’s this feeling of, what part of the word “no thank you” don’t you understand?
And so, my blonde friend was bringing these issues home to her roommate without realizing she was, well, too helpful. Not taking “no” for an answer…because to some of our foreigner friends, “no” means you probably mean “yes” and so they keep offering until it is received.
I have to pause….
Because it makes me wonder…
…how many times does my Father in Heaven keep offering his kindness….and I say…”no thanks.”
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?