Living cross-culturally is challenging in so many ways. One of my biggest challenges is understanding cultural differences and allowing space for the differences, but not hiding behind them. Some cultural differences are obvious- language, etc. Some of them show you the sin in one of the cultures. Some of them bother you more than others.
I've been here for 9 months now. And while it feels like time as flown by, it also feels like Ive been here for years. One of the things I like about living in another culture is how much it stretches you. It's just plain hard sometimes to live in another culture. There are plenty of people (mostly North Americans) who go live in other countries but stay in bubbles of their own culture. I am not here to do that. I have a few gringo friends, but I am very purposeful in who I spend time with. I know how easy it would be to spend all my time with people who speak English, who understand my culture, who share my worldview. But I want to be here in Chile, to be HERE.
Some cultural differences are mixed with sin. I could write an extremely LONG post on this but for now, I want to share an example from my own life. The gringo culture tends to be very individualistic. One of the ways that this plays out is in hospitality. We tend to think we are hospitable, but it's on OUR terms. We are okay with inviting people over for dinner, but WE invite them over for the time that WE want. And generally, the dinner lasts a few hours and then they leave. But the chilean mindset is much more open to people just dropping by, almost unannounced. And people staying WAY longer than my comfort level. I've already had a few instances where people came over to my place late on a Saturday night and I informed them that at 2am I was going to kick them out to a bar. I just need to know that if I want to go to sleep at 2am, I have that freedom. But I want to be more hospitable. So I am intentionally pushing myself in this area. The culture gives plenty of opportunity to practice hospitality. So this week, Im letting myself feel the push. When I get a call from a friend asking if she can come over in an hour for lunch, I say yes. When my small group leader asks if our group can meet in my apartment this week, I say yes. I want to be hospitable, so I am opening that door.. slowly. So far, God's given me grace to really enjoy the times and not feel the stress that usually accompanies such events.
I know that God wants to use my cross cultural living to make me more like Him. So I trust Him in this whole process. It get's uncomfortable sometimes but it's ok. I have a God that is bigger than all my discomfort. And it's in Him I rest.