Homesickness and culture shock have officially set in!
I'd love to hear Paul and Timothy's reaction to our culture shock. I can just hear it…"Oh please, try reaching the Romans." I can't help feeling like a wimp in comparison.
Those people were the first missionaries. Even though we were missionaries to college students in the U.S. for many years, it's different for us to take on the same tasks but in a place and culture that is unfamiliar.
Here are some examples of cultural challenges:
- Let’s begin with the infamous salt and pepper shakers. Every time I'd go to salt my food when we first arrived, I'd turn over the shaker and then…bam. Pepper. Then it occurred to me…they're in opposite shakers here (salt with one hole, pepper with multiple holes). It never occurred to me that that I naturally assumed which container held the salt. I just knew. Creepy, right?
- A child in the US would proudly hold up his index and middle finger to say that he’s two years old. Little does he know, across the ocean in Ireland he would be making a pretty rude gesture! Here, counting is done starting with the thumb as "one." I keep my hands in my pockets a lot.
- Asking questions is very "American." The way learning is done here is by observation…not asking. This is why I keep getting strange looks at the grocery store. Americans are taught (subconsciously?) that to ask a question is to flatter someone’s expertise. It is encouraged! Seriously, how many jokes are there about men refusing to stop and ask for directions? Here, asking a question is a sign that you can’t figure it out for yourself. It really encourages the use of critical thinking skills...but to a crazy American who can’t locate the baking powder, it can be emotionally taxing.
These things are reminders that we have to learn how to do life all over again. It’s like realizing after 28 years that I’ve been breathing the wrong way. We know that it will take time.
Keep your eyes open for next week’s more positive conclusion to my rant!