Thursday, 1 April 2010

Caution: High Voltage

Warning signs are there for a reason; something dangerous, something to be cautious of and a reminder to be prepared. You don't just go waltzing into a high voltage zone, or stick your hand into the circuit box. When presented with an outlet you don't recognize, you're very likely to go check the voltage to make sure you won't blow your appliance or the wiring in the house. Its also useful if the plug matches the outlet. :) Wouldn't it be nice if we could have some kind of warning when entering a new culture or situation? A reminder that we're in a new context and need to be prepared.

Living in Bangladesh for a number of years we became accustomed to living with a different voltage. Everything there is wired to 220 volts, so either you check your 110v coffee maker at the door or get a transformer. You get used to reading the small print on your plugs.

The point I'm trying to make is this; at home, you don't have to think. You take the standardized electrical system and corresponding appliances for granted. You plug things in and expect them to work. You don't have to worry about sparks flying or that terrible smell of burning plastic. You don't even think about the small print on the bottom of your tea kettle.

Likewise, our own culture is something we take for granted until we are confronted with something unfamiliar, something which conflicts with a tradition, belief or attitude we hold.  Something that hints at a different electrical system. When faced with a conflict we must approach with caution. There's a reason culture clashes can be so potent. As the "outsider" the impetus is on us to make adjustments; find the right tools to interact so neither side gets burnt out.

So what's hard about adapting? Not much; you just have to be determined, open-minded, willing to change, humble, persistent and patient. And if you're being immersed into a foreign culture, you have to be aware of this all the time. No wonder people experience culture shock! It takes time to figure out how things are wired and to discover the adapters and transformers that allow you to "work" in this new culture.

For me the hard thing has been this constant sense of questioning, double checking, reading the fine print to make sure I'm going to fit. I feel like I'm losing my confidence. I have to rely on other people to get the simplest of tasks done, (something which can be painful for an very independent person!) How long will I be second-guessing my every move? How does my unique cultural identity fit?

Only one question remains; what is my unique cultural identity?

1 comment:

  1. Do you find that the lack of self-confidence helps you rely more on God? How does the pain affect your relationship and dependence on Him?


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