Characteristics of community living #5: It’s not weird, just different…
I used to say the word ‘weird’ a lot. In all kinds of situations. Here I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible because every time I used the word ‘weird’, people would say, semi-joking: ‘no, not weird; different!’ Being with YWAM means being surrounded by different cultures and that means being confronted with things that are not ‘normal’ to you. I love it!
We have people on our base from all over the world: from Japan to Australia, from Canada to Germany. And then there is me, the Dutch one. I have learned things about cultures I have never been connected with. It’s fascinating to see how there are differences in how people eat their food, how they celebrate birthdays, how they make jokes, what they value in conversations or what they think is rude or awkward. Being out of my own country for a longer time really opened my eyes. My worldview has broadened enormously and I’m way more culturally aware than ever before. It’s crazy that an only one and a half hour flight can take me here, into this place of multiple cultures, languages and habits. I can hardly imagine how much more of other cultures is still to be discovered!
I have come to this place where I’m not only more aware of other cultures, but also of my own. I notice things in my culture about which I now wonder: why is that, why do we do that? I loved hearing people say that they enjoy my Dutch directness. I also remember people’s confused faces when I said ‘congratulations!’ on their birthdays. Weirdly enough, that’s just how we say it. And that one time when we walked through the glen and I was hysterically enthusiastic about seeing a squirrel. No one, surprisingly, shared my joy. I discovered in North America squirrels are basically vermin. Well, now you know that it’s really special for a Dutch person to see a squirrel. We don’t have that many. I was really surprised though to hear that our Australian guy saw a hedgehog here for the first time in his life. And apparently in Japan everybody knows each other’s blood type! I don’t even know my own. It fascinates me. At least I wouldn’t say it’s weird anymore. Just really different.