Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cross-Cultural Adaptation

For the first 30 years of my life I have lived in a specific cultural setting.  Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to visit and experience other cultures on a short term basis, and I have gained a wealth of knowledge from those experiences.  Living in a different culture allows you to experience many new things.  Our family is coming up on a full year of living in Macedonia and we have had the opportunity to learn many things about life. We have learned that there are multiple ways of doing things.  In the same way that we have to learn to speak different languages, we also need to learn new ways to act in a new culture.  As “visitors” in this new culture we have to learn how to interact with people around us, and do so without making it harder to build meaningful relationships.  Living in Macedonia we have learned that just because things are done differently does not make one way of life better or worse than the other, they are just different.  Some things ultimately do not translate from one culture to the other, but having compassion for each other does translate.

Some will enter a new a new culture claiming to have all the answers, but it has been our experience that we do not have the answers; therefore we must become the learner.  We must defer to the other and their expertise in experiencing life in this culture.  I recently had the “opportunity” to experience one of these differences while trying to get the car registration renewed.  From our cultural experience this should be a simple process, in the States you can take care of this administrative task through the mail. Well, 12 government and bank officials, four institutions, and three days later, WITH the help of a local friend, the task was finally complete. This was a difficult and somewhat frustrating experience, not because their process is “wrong” but only because of the differences between our home culture and our adopted culture.  Every time we experience something new it is a learning process, and we can say that we have learned something new from that.  It is hard to try things that are new, but it is imperative in order to learn and grow. 

From now on we will be individuals and a family living between two cultures.  It is the choice that we have made.  We have come with our own personal experiences, feelings, behaviors and beliefs. The task of cross-cultural adaptation requires that we learn the rules, societal norms, customs and languages of our new culture and begin to integrate ourselves into our new society by adjusting to and accepting the new standards. While we will adapt to our new culture and integrate ourselves as much as possible we approach new relationship with vulnerability and a willingness to learn and change. In this we can build meaningful relationships.


  1. Well said - a part of everyday life right now. :) Can't believe you guys have been there almost a year!!

  2. Love this! Encouraging and amazing what you guys are learning! Keep on learning brother and sister