Enjoy the HoneymoonBy
Mike and Kelly had just finished 20 hours of air travel. The clock indicated it was time for lunch. Their jet-lagged schedule and eye-lids pointed toward time for a long night of sleep. Deferring to the clock at the country of arrival, we went to lunch. Landing at a food court, I provided an overview of their options. The response was something like, “Anything that’s national.”
This couple understood and embraced the need to begin to understand the local culture even in a state of sleep deprivation. When arriving in a new culture, people would do well to seek to be a student of what is happening in the environment around them. Do people talk? If so, who is talking and to whom? At what volume do conversations happen? Do locals make eye contact with others? If eye contact is made, is it with both genders? Are people smiling? Do they touch each other? How much personal space do they allow? Is the amount of personal space different in public transport systems? Through simple observation, what can you learn about their social interactions, history, religion, etc.?
Be an experiential student of the local culture. Use all five senses to begin to understand your new surroundings. This is a honeymoon period. If a person stays in another culture long enough (often ranges from 1 to 18 months, though I have seen this happen in just a couple days), the honeymoon will pass. (This is another conversation for another day…not during this Upstream honeymoon trip.) During this time, seek to enjoy and acknowledge appropriately the things you observe and experience. Participate. Learn. Savor. Don’t complain. Don’t seek to fix things. Be a gracious visitor while being an ardent learner.
Some of the best advice I have heard for short-term partners and people starting a long-term commitment comes from a friend of mine that has been to many countries with groups. He shares with each group that there are 2 rules for his groups. First, no whiners. Second, semper gumbi (always flexible). These two rules work pretty well for allowing someone to put their preferences and expectations aside to be a learner that embraces the experience.
I have seen people be challenged in a cross-cultural setting when a Coke is served warm with no ice or perhaps with only a cube or two. When coming from a car for every person and a person for every car culture, adapting to a lot of walking and crowded public transportation can be challenging. On the Upstream Collective JetSet vision tour happening right now in Taiwan, the guys shared about an Idols-R-Us shop where you go to select and purchase your own scary little idol. As observers, we could enter an experience like this feeling condemnation for the shop and everyone that would participate in such a practice. But to learn about their beliefs and rituals and how those have come to be will go much farther in beginning to contextualize the gospel for the lost. Compassion for the lost at such a difficult juncture will help to build bridges for the gospel.
At this point, I would like to ask my honeymooning Upstream Collective coffee-loving friends…How’s the tea?