USA (MNN) — Culture affects nearly everything we do – how we speak, where we shop, what we do in a crisis, how to care for a sick person – the list goes on and on.
“In the U.S. culture, if you’re sick, then people take care of you by putting the water and medicine [within reach], and then nobody’s in the room so you can have a full rest,” Wycliffe USA’s Sunny Hong says, describing a “cultural norm.”
Clashes happen when your actions don’t meet another person’s cultural expectations or “norms.”
For example, when someone falls ill in collectivist cultures, “then people have to come and stay with you the whole time to take care of you,” Hong says.
Imagine a person from a collectivist culture who moves to the U.S. One day, this person gets the flu, and none of their American friends visit. “They don’t understand that as a kindness because nobody was around them when they were sick,” Hong explains.
The same principles apply to mission work, whether at home or abroad.
Wise cross-cultural communication is essential because culture affects how we share the Good News of Jesus. The people around us may – or may not – receive the truth about Christ because of how we communicate.
Whether the people around us are immigrants or “they are refugees, [recognizing cultural differences] does matter,” Hong says.
“Different expectations make it difficult to share the Gospel with people from different cultures. They don’t take it as the Good News.”
Learn how to engage in God’s global mission, no matter where you live.
“You need to understand their culture. Behave the way you are expected from their cultural understanding, not your cultural understanding,” Hong says.
“If you try to [behave] the way they expected you to [behave], then it communicates to them that they are cared for.”
Header image is a representative photo courtesy of Christina @ wocintechchat.com/Unpslash.