After spending so long trying to fit into a new culture, no wonder mission workers find it hard to slide seamlessly back into life in the UK or USA. Catherine’s cultural mismatches have found herself a (social) rule breaker now she’s back in the US from Papua New Guinea:
Then there are the rules for greetings. In PNG [Papua New Guinea], a proper greeting for both men and women is a handshake. In fact, it’s extremely important to shake everyone’s hand when you enter a room or a gathering. However, that’s it. Other than a handshake, men and women rarely have any other physical contact. They often sit separately, eat separately, talk separately… even married PNG couples will often barely acknowledge each other outside their own home. (In fact, I can’t even remember the last time in PNG that I saw a missionary couple offer a public display of affection—it’s rather unheard of!)
So, after living for years within this very segregated set of rules, can you imagine my absolute shock and dismay when I’m greeted with a very traditional Hawaiian HUG AND KISS ON THE CHEEK by a completely unknown young man of a similar age!!? I think a diamond statue would have been more responsive than I was! (At least, thank heavens, I managed to replace my shriek of horror with a stuttered “nice to meet you too!”)
It’s much more than just greetings that are causing headaches – read more on Catherine’s blog.
Sharing God’s word involves sacrifice, even sacrificing being comfortable in our own culture. If you think committing to another culture could be part of what God is calling you to, book into one of our First Steps events to find out more about taking steps into overseas mission.