Ready for Some Culture Shock? (CZ08)

by Helen Wong

When first asked to write the article about culture shock for the missions newsletter, I thought “Sure, why not?” since this would be my first overseas trip and there would be plenty for me to share about. I was the perfect candidate…or so I thought.
I would have to unfortunately say that I was wrong. By God’s grace and just the amazing wonder of how He alone can unite people from afar, I never once felt that far from home. The fact that about 6,000 miles and an ocean separated me from the area where I grew up, lived and rarely left for the whole of my life, did not even cross my mind. The Ostrava church felt like family and they opened up their homes and lives to us as if they had known us for years. It was an abundant outpour of love and support that made it even more difficult for us to leave them when the trip finally came to an end.
But before I leave you with the impression that there are barely any differences between the US and Czech culture, I will admit that there were some adjustments that needed to be made. To throw out a few items, one thing that stood out the most was the emphasis on lunch versus dinner. I am sure that some on the team, if not all, would agree with me. While in the US we highly value dinner as the large sufficient meal of the day, the emphasis in the Czech was on lunch. Dinner would sometimes consist of just bread with a simple snack and tended to be on the lighter side. I would sometimes find myself wondering if what was placed before me was all that we would get and hope for more.
Also, even though vegetables are included in their meals, they consisted mainly of bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes versus the vast array of green vegetables we have in the States (although some here would probably be more than happy about that). Moving away from food brings me to one thing that boggles my mind and perhaps a few others as well. Screens do not exist on windows, thus at night there was always a wonder of what the open windows would bring into the well light rooms. Bonding with nature is one way to look at it, but truthfully it wasn’t really that bad. It was actually nice at times to be able to stick your head out the window to survey your surroundings and admire God’s handwork. Also, why the US decided to have its own metric system confuses me. I’ve heard the complaint before, but now I’ve experienced it first hand. On top of trying our best to converse in English with each other (since it is not their first language), it was quite interesting trying to correlate the measurement of distance, height and time with the Czechs as well. It was funny how something so simple to speak about would sometimes be so time consuming and involve calculation.
Overall, the adjustments were more fun and interesting to note versus difficult. They just didn’t make the huge impact I initially thought they would and I believe it was because of the greater reason of why we were there: to serve and minister with the Ostrava church so that God would be known and glorified. God works in such a wonderful way. He changes our perspective and hearts so that it would not be focused on ourselves but on Him, so that things like culture shock becomes a small thing and is used for His glory.

When first asked to write the article about culture shock for the missions newsletter, I thought “Sure, why not?” since this would be my first overseas trip and there would be plenty for me to share about. I was the perfect candidate…or so I thought.

I would have to unfortunately say that I was wrong. By God’s grace and just the amazing wonder of how He alone can unite people from afar, I never once felt that far from home. The fact that about 6,000 miles and an ocean separated me from the area where I grew up, lived and rarely left for the whole of my life, did not even cross my mind. The Ostrava church felt like family and they opened up their homes and lives to us as if they had known us for years. It was an abundant outpour of love and support that made it even more difficult for us to leave them when the trip finally came to an end.

But before I leave you with the impression that there are barely any differences between the US and Czech culture, I will admit that there were some adjustments that needed to be made. To throw out a few items, one thing that stood out the most was the emphasis on lunch versus dinner. I am sure that some on the team, if not all, would agree with me. While in the US we highly value dinner as the large sufficient meal of the day, the emphasis in the Czech was on lunch. Dinner would sometimes consist of just bread with a simple snack and tended to be on the lighter side. I would sometimes find myself wondering if what was placed before me was all that we would get and hope for more.

Also, even though vegetables are included in their meals, they consisted mainly of bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes versus the vast array of green vegetables we have in the States (although some here would probably be more than happy about that). Moving away from food brings me to one thing that boggles my mind and perhaps a few others as well. Screens do not exist on windows, thus at night there was always a wonder of what the open windows would bring into the well light rooms. Bonding with nature is one way to look at it, but truthfully it wasn’t really that bad. It was actually nice at times to be able to stick your head out the window to survey your surroundings and admire God’s handwork. Also, why the US decided to have its own metric system confuses me. I’ve heard the complaint before, but now I’ve experienced it first hand. On top of trying our best to converse in English with each other (since it is not their first language), it was quite interesting trying to correlate the measurement of distance, height and time with the Czechs as well. It was funny how something so simple to speak about would sometimes be so time consuming and involve calculation.

Overall, the adjustments were more fun and interesting to note versus difficult. They just didn’t make the huge impact I initially thought they would and I believe it was because of the greater reason of why we were there: to serve and minister with the Ostrava church so that God would be known and glorified. God works in such a wonderful way. He changes our perspective and hearts so that it would not be focused on ourselves but on Him, so that things like culture shock becomes a small thing and is used for His glory.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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