Cultural Differences

13 May

It usually begins to happen within the first 24 hours.  You begin to get to know an individual who has grown up in country other than where you have grown up.  In our case – Africa.  You get past the usual surface level conversational topics, maybe not even too far past, and your heart says, “Something is different.”  Not bad or better.  But the drum is beating a different cadence in this persons psyche.  There are cultural differences that have been at work molding this persons core values that are different from the way yours have been molded.  Here are some of our African discoveries.

Relationships are a lot higher up the priority ladder and money a lot lower.  Individualism is out.  The village is in.  Obligation for hospitality rules all social etiquette.  Financial responsibility is in the present, the future is too unsure to merit much worry.  Gentleness and grace trump kool.  Public display of anger is beyond rude to the point of anathema.  Age is respected not mocked.  Personal space is measured in centimeters rather than feet.  The group mission supersedes individual goals and personal ambition is sacrificed more readily for the sake of the larger entity.  Family heritage is huge and responsibility to carry on that heritage or the disfavor that comes from rejecting that heritage can control lives.  These are only a few.

So, decision-making and choices start from a different place.  Sometimes this origin does seem better; sometime worse.  Sometimes the conclusions contrived at the destination of the process are hard to understand in light of where we would have started to reason on the same decision.  Culture impacts each of our lives beyond what we have ever stopped to think about and being stretched to understand these differences should not end in the condemnation of either.  This cultural diversity should enhance our understanding of the immensity of the Glory of God.  Magnifying that Glory will share hope with hearts.

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