Culture Clash

Something is afoot. Normally, I would follow that statement with, “It’s that thing at the end of your leg,” but not today. Today the blog is apocalyptic in nature. That’s an ominous-sounding, shock-value word in the Christian community, for I am revealing something.

I knew nothing of culture shock until I was neck deep in it. After some rather ridiculous, albeit hilarious, experiences, I realized it was a real problem.

For those of us entering a different culture long-term, that new culture presents some challenges. Things are just different, sometimes perceived as wrong because the host culture doesn’t do things the way our home culture does.  As we seek to assimilate, we begin to take on some of the characteristics of the new environment. I noticed this week how Paraguayan I have become.

 Penny for your thoughts

This week, Chipotle restaurants admitted to rounding their bills to the nearest nickel. This news met with mixed reviews because people love Chipotle’s food. Many were willing to overlook the problem. There were still those members of the council of “That’s not right”, pointing out the injustice of stealing pennies.

It’s likely I would have been one of those hating on the corporate arrogance of “Big Burrito” except for one thing. In four years of commerce in Paraguay, I have yet to receive correct change.

Today the exchange rate is 4380 Guaranies to one Dollar. They have not had 1 guarani coins in 30 years. There are no 10 or 25 Guarani coins either. In fact, routinely my tab is rounded to the nearest 100 or even 500 Guaranies.

Sometimes I get a handful Banana-flavored knock-off  Brazilian Jolly Ranchers as appeasement. When we first moved here that bothered me, A LOT. Now, it’s just how things work.

That’s the pits.

Paraguayans love pizza. I love pizza. Seems like a match made in heaven, right? Paradise Lost comes in the form of the olive. When you order your Italian delight here with olives they come whole. By whole I mean with the pit still inside. I nearly ruptured my fillings the first time I had slice here.

You have to pull the olives off and slice that oily goodness off the “bone.” I looked like a sideshow Goliath trying to cut those tiny olives with my enormous fork and knife.

Once cut, you must space the pieces on your giant cheese cracker. What. A. Hassle. When we first moved here that bothered me, A LOT. Now I know olives on pizza mean I get to play a part in its preparation. It’s like a pizza kit.

Urinals mean nothing.

One of the first things passed on to me as I grew to be a man was the time-honored tradition of the urinal search. One can never be too careful when entering public restrooms.

  1. Identify the door plaque with the male stick figure on it.
  2. Push the door open enough to clearly see the entire room.
  3. Visually sweep the room to locate the wall-mounted billboards shouting “Men’s Room.”
  4. Proceed as needed, flush with foot, dry hands on pants.
I have ignored these rules once or twice and ended up overhearing some awkward conversations in the ladies’ room.
Imagine my surprise when, as a new missionary, the female custodian brushed my foot with the mop while I was using the urinal. Now that’s efficiency. Don’t wait on those pesky men to leave to start cleaning the restroom, get right on it.
Since that initiation, I have averaged one woman in the restroom per four visits. That would be, roughly 25% of my bathroom trips include a non-family female. When we first moved here that bothered me, A LOT. Now I know I need to huddle up on that wall bowl or use a stall. It’s just how things are done.

Dry erase, not Sharpie.

As God allows time and experience to stretch the boundaries of my thinking I find my opinions changing. Many of the things I thought were written in stone were actually more like notations on a white board. They are whisked away by circumstances, only to leave a faint reminder of what they once were.

 What used to b0ther you A LOT but doesn’t so much now? Have your surroundings changed your culture? Have you changed your mind about something over the last few years?

 

4 thoughts on “Culture Clash

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  1. “OMG!!! I guess thats why they say “When in Rome….” Good thing you are so good at adapting!!! It does pay to be flexible… Gumby had it going on.

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  2. Haha, those are some funny examples of having to learn how to adapt! I’m trying to think of what used to bother me that doesn’t anymore and all I’m coming up with is PEOPLE! I used to be the type of person who was always annoyed – silently annoyed, but annoyed nonetheless. After about a million truth journaling sessions, I don’t get annoyed much anymore. When I do, I can usually get over it in just a little bit rather than stewing about it for days like I used to do – I guess it was worth all those hours. 🙂

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