Culture, defined simply, is a total way of life for a particular group of people. Similarities of thinking, speaking and behaving are ways we define ourselves and those like us. Humans are complex beings. It’s amazing that through all of these complexities, there is one thing we all have in common. Humans, by design, notice differences.
Americans, defined simply, generously teach people how to do things the right way. Bless our hearts. Subconsciously and sometimes consciously, we’ve place superiority over other cultures due to this mindset. At times, we look at these differences and instead of accepting them for what they are, we label these differences as right or wrong.
There are numerous cultural differences between back home and my new home in Namibia. Everything from manners, beliefs, knowledge, morals and values, laws, religion, government, food, family dynamics, clothing, the list goes on. But, each day I have to decide to let those differences make me love my host country more while providing myself with the opportunity to learn or leave a sour taste in my mouth while deciding whether these differences are right or wrong.
For myself, I make a daily effort to not use the words “America” or “American,” while speaking to HCNs. Unless I am responding to specific questions asked or comments made, I don’t use these words. I want to avoid comparing Namibia to America at all cost.
While perusing PC blogs I came across Tim and Lindsey who are Texans (whoop) but also RPCVs from Namibia. I think this hits the nail on the head, Tim writes:
“I believe the most important fundamental about adapting to a new culture is to not constantly compare the new culture to your own…it [comparing] kept me from fully enjoying and embracing the new culture because I was so focused on the differences between the two.”
Similarly, I don’t want only focus on the differences between cultures, that will certainly cloud my experience of living abroad. Being completely submerged in a culture different from my own is not an opportunity many of us get our lifetime.
So, if it means eating with my hands, running barefoot through my village, or even sitting amongst locals and not understanding a word being spoken, I want to fully embrace the culture right in front of me.
This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week three: Cultural Differences.