TopTen Cross Cultural Lessons Worth Applying
Lesson #6 – Avoid continuous comparisons.
Whenever we have new experiences we all have a tendency to compare them with previous ones. This is natural. Our minds work to fit our thoughts and experiences into pre-existing categories that provide context and understanding.
North American culture wires people to compare so that they can determine “rightness.” We compare because we are trying to figure out the “best way” of doing things. In a positive sense, we are always trying to improve. American innovation is founded upon constantly evaluating and improving. That requires comparison.
Introverted people tend to compare cross-cultural experiences internally and those around may only notice that they have become more quiet. An extrovert however, will probably work through the comparative process out loud for all to hear. That can be dangerous.
There is certainly a place for comparison as a place to begin to understand culture and people. It is our first point of reference. However, too much comparison can be detrimental. Introverted people can get lost in their thoughts and extroverts can distract others who may not be able to relate to their previous experiences. Constant comments like; “last year, we….” or “when I was in…… we…” or “in our church, we…..” create distance and difference more than understanding and shared experience.
That’s why cross-cultural lesson #6 is to Avoid Continuous Comparisons. Instead, look for ways to affirm your host culture. Point out the places and ways you see the character of God in others. Work to edify. A better response to differences is to work towards valuing the present and affirming all that you can in the culture and people who you are serving.
I’m not suggesting that you turn a blind eye to sin or the consequences of it in a society, but don’t let comparisons rob you of deeper cultural reflection or dominate your conversations with others when you travel on a short term team.