Cultures “Stress”

We started off this morning by dividing into four groups of four and being handed instructions for a card game. Each table had its own set of instructions with a small deck of cards. We had five minutes to learn the rules of the game and begin playing. After that, the rules were taken from us and we could no longer communicate…except through gestures. After another five minutes, the winners rotated clockwise to the next table. We played another round and then we rotated, etc, for another 15 minutes. Sound easy? Oh…if only.

The first round was okay because we all had…you guessed it…the same rules. But, when we moved, we discovered that either the new players or ourselves played by a whole new set of rules. We could not talk, so the only way to explain what was going on was either to just go with it or try to gesture. Of course, there’s always the few (ahem, Karen) who don’t even catch on that people are playing differently and just simperimpose their own rules onto them! [I mentioned her name because I figure her family and friends would appreciate knowing her blunders. ūüôā hehe. She’ll get me later, I’m sure.]

Anyway – a definition of culture¬†is, quite¬†simply, “the rules by¬†which the game is played.” Culture Shock can be defined¬†as, “the disorientation we experience when all the cultural maps and guidelines we learned as children no longer work.” All of a sudden, this¬†little role play made sense.

It was, honestly, frustrating when you learned that people were playing differently. When my team moved, we all of a sudden started losing every hand because the other team’s “trump” card was¬†different;¬†our rules didn’t work and weren’t¬†gaining us any points. And we couldn’t communicate!! How INCREDIBLY frustrating!

But, then it turned fun. How in the WORLD are they doing this?¬†How can we fit in? How¬†can I play this so I can win? How can I stop looking so foolish and start feeling more confident? I wonder how everybody else is playing this game…

It was nice to hear during this class that culture shock is part of life. A lot of people say it’s because you’re not spiritual, you’re not mature, or you’re just not handling this well. No – in all reality – it’s a very real experience.¬†It affects you emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. You can get actually physically ill from culture shock!¬†This¬†is real!

The nice part¬†is…we aren’t gonna die. We’re gonna get through it. It’s up to us how we handle it.¬†I’m positive we’ll break at some point (probably myself more often than Brian…), but that’s okay. It’s normal.¬†

It was interesting to hear them relate it all to self-esteem. Basically, when you feel like you’re not fitting in and things aren’t going well and you’re not catching on as quickly as you’d like to, you feel like it’s you. You feel like¬†there’s something wrong with you!¬†The common thoughts are, “I am abnormal; I am unspiritual; I¬†missed God’s call; I am not skilled for ministry; God is punishing me.” It’s an attack.

So – my request is that when we head off to our¬†new home – please be praying for us. They say the normal cycle for getting used to a culture is two¬†full years. Well, that’s our first term. To be honest, that’s not horribly encouraging. So, will you join our prayer team?¬†We could use all the help we can get!! ¬†

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Brian & Lisa

We are missionaries with Bible Centered Ministries International, living and serving in NEPA.

One thought on “Cultures “Stress””

  1. Oh, you! I’m going to wait and meditate on what I may write about you… ūüôā

    In all seriousness, wonderful posts! You really describe well what we’re learning here… so glad we can process this all together!

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