Just before going overseas as an exchange student, I received some great cross-cultural advice.
“Don’t think of things as being weird. Think of them as being different.”
I took that advice to the other side of the world with me and I didn’t meet anyone weird, eat anything weird, go anywhere weird or hear anything weird. I certainly did, however, come across many people who were different to me. I ate different food, learnt a different language and had to adjust to different norms and practices like riding a bike everywhere, even when it was –2 degrees outside!
I learnt how to cook Pakistani butter chicken from a Pakistani man I volunteered with at a café. I experienced my first Thanksgiving with a mixture of American and non-American friends from my international church. I learnt that Danish people are creative and kind and warm even if their expression of it at first seems different to the Aussie way. My community was made up of Danes, Austrians, Germans, Dutch, Kenyans, Filipinos, South Koreans, South Americans, French, Italians, Bulgarians, Russians and many more! These people became my friends. I was encouraged to adopt an attitude of curiosity and learning.
As I reflect on where we see curiosity in the Bible, I’ve spent time with the story of the woman at the well in John 4. She showed genuine curiosity in Jesus. He was very different from her in culture, gender, faith and social standing. It would be understandable if she had written off his perspective as weird or wrong. But she doesn’t. Jesus chooses to reveal so much to this woman, and I wonder if that is in part because she is curious? She asked questions. She listened.
It’s amazing how we can learn and grow when we have a healthy curiosity towards others. A willingness to hear their point of view can create wonderful opportunities for real connection and relationship. This is why Curiosity is one of the themes we explore together as part of CultureConnect’s CHAT program. CHAT is a program for schools and youth groups that uses activity based learning to help young people build respect, understanding and appreciation for one another across their differences, especially cultural. CHAT stands for Cultural Hearing Asking Telling.
Through our theme of Curiosity we develop new communication skills such as how to ask respectful questions and the importance of asking clarifying questions rather than assuming we understand what the other person is saying. Acknowledging our differences can also help us explore, understand and express our individual beliefs and views. We learn that everyone is not the same as us and that that is okay and good. It is evidence of God’s creativity that we are so diverse.
“It’s amazing how we can learn and grow when we have a healthy curiosity towards others. ”