We all have to bridge cultural gaps. Sometimes they are small other times gigantic. Please see this 2-minute video right now.
My first attempts.
My first cross-cultural jolt was when I spend a few days in Cairo Egypt. The streets we cluttered with shiny new Mercedes Benz cars and buses. As well as beasts of burden carrying heavy loads and pulling carts. But also people were carrying huge loads and even pulling ox carts.
The next major jolt came many years later in Hatti. Only this time I began attempting to bridge some of the gaps. Here my focus was on spiritual as well as the economic differences. When I got home, I recognized that working in corporate America was for me a waste. It was not having a positive spiritual impact on others. And I had just had the thrill of seeing lots of it.
My experience in Alaska. I was invited to teach a seminary class. Everyone spoke English, and we all wore about the same clothes. Even the food at school was much the same. So I assumed that most everything was the same. Wrong! Just one example. They asked me to explain Psalm 23. I asked “What in particular about that psalm.” They said, “The whole thing. We know it is important and we quote it at funerals. But we just don’t get it!” The next day I started explaining how and why you tend sheep. The blank faces told me I was not communicating! They agreed with that. At that point, I said, “Taking care of sheep is like taking care of a tiny child. But they never grow up.” With big smiles, they replied, “Oh, ok NOW we get it!”
My suggestions on how to bridge cultural gaps
- Realize there is a gap! Think there is one. Most differences are not visible. Just keep all of your senses active including your spiritual insight. You will soon spot some divides. Remember the iceberg illustration in the video. There is a lot that is not visible. That hit me big time when I started in Alaska.
- Be quiet, Just actively listen to the other person. This article has suggestions. Also, see my post his need to talk. This kind of attention even includes positive non-verbal expressions and low vocal sounds that show you care. The same sort of advice applies to using all your senses.
- Observe, Notice what they like to do. When others do something differently, see if you can imagine why. Think about it. When they sense you are curious, they may explain why. When all else fails, carefully, respectfully ask an individual who now know.
- Participate, Join the people from that culture in their activities. If they survive and you are in good shape so will you. I have a few boundaries. One is I will not permanently mark or disfigure my body. That may block me from having a good relationship with some other culture. Second, I will never worship any god other than the Ultimate Creator God. A name He gave Himself is Yahweh meaning “I am.” See Exodus 3:14-15. He is the God described by the Apostle Paul to the men of Athens. See Acts 17:22-31.
- Ask questions only when necessary. Learn by listening, observing and participating. After doing that for a long time then ask a friend from that culture. Just do not be like the little girl in Kipling’s famous poem.
- Touch them. Notice in the video how often the speaker is in, physical, cross-cultural contact. Touch demonstrates personal acceptance and care. I believe there is some energy exchange or spiritual transfer between people when they have physical contact. I often feel it.
- Never see yourself as superior to anyone else. But view others as brothers. If your ways, even spiritual ways, are better your brothers will, in time, adopt yours. If theirs seem better to you, then do not be afraid to try theirs. Feel free to share your ways. They may be better, but each person needs to make that decision without undue pressure.
Now it’s your turn to Bridge Cultural Gaps.
Have an adventure. Step outside your social comfort zone. Enjoy the experience as you bridge cultural gaps. Bridging those differences will mature you and educate you more than you might imagine. It will also help your brothers across the cultural or spiritual divide choose what is best for them.