July 17, 2011

Cutrual sensitivity

I like to think of myself as pretty culturally sensitive. I am aware of what I wear when I am around people of different cultures. I watch for cues from people I am around; Do I shake hands, nod, bow? I think as a missionary kid you have it drummed into you to watch and then act in a way to cause the least amount of offense.
The church we have joined with have a large percentage of their congregation from a Chinese cultural background. However most are 2nd or 3rd Australian born and so are culturally as Australian as I am. I haven’t noticed any cultural differences in being with people from church – so much so that I often forget that we (supposedly) from different backgrounds. Because we really aren’t.
But I still kept my eyes open, for example when I went to a family’s house for lunch I did the quick glance at their front door to see if I should take my shoes off at the door or not. They didn’t and when I mentioned this to some of my friends they laughed and said "Oh that family are sooo Anglo!"

There is also a couple from Canada in Sydney for a few years who I have become friends with. We laugh at the different words we have for things and different expressions but I didn’t really think of us as having a different culture – rather sillily thinking because we are both of Anglo background from Western countries that it’s all the same.

But I was at their place with some friends and a few minutes into the conversation Colin remarked mildly – “So apparently people in Australia don’t take their shoes off at the door” Oops – I even saw the shoes at the door but it didn't click to take my shoes off.
I was just struck that in one situation I went in trying desperately to keep to the home owners culture and there was no difference, and the other it didn’t even occur to me that there would be a different culture and there was.

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