Culture in My Country and Why Learning it is So Important

Today I am very excited to introduce to you a guest on our blog. Her name is Katie Gardner. She and her family are faithfully serving the Lord in Peru, South America. We’ve made this post a sort of interview. Enjoy!

I have been asked to answer some questions in this post and I am going to do so to the best of my ability and with honesty.

What are five cultural differences that stick out to you in your country?

1. Greeting every single person in a room upon entering.

You may think “What is the big deal with this? This doesn’t seem so bad or weird.” I’ve never really understood why I think this is so strange but it doesn’t matter if there are two people or thirty, you must greet each person individually with a kiss to the cheek or hand shake.

2. Bundling babies in multiple layers to the point of make them sweat.

This tradition I think is just a little crazy and it is one that I do not personally observe. When learning about and adapting to a new culture it is not necessarily necessary that you do every single little thing they do. I’ve learned to be gracious and listen as mothers tell me that I need to cover my babies more and then thank them for their “unwanted” advice.

3. Offereing more than once.

Peruvians are typically very polite and they are not going to want to “put you out” if they can avoid it. When someone comes to my house in the states I don’t really find it rude that they might ask for a drink, especially if I know them. However, here it would be rude of me to go into someone else’s house and ask for something. You wait to be served and that is that. Often you will need to offer more than once depending on what is being offered and then on the second or third time you will be taken up on your offer of food or help etc.

4. Never turn your back.

This one now comes to me kind of second nature. Showing someone your back when in a group setting is rude. Most of the time for get togethers chairs are placed in a circle so that everyone can see everyone. Needless to say a party here is very different from one in the States. Instead of many tiny groups chatting in different areas, everyone is seated together.

5. Learning to be more social in general.

Peruvians like to be together most of the time and instead of being alone they would rather be in a group. I love privacy and being alone but living here has taught me to be more social and open to people in general.

What is one vivd memory you have with culture shock and how did you deal with it?

This is a little difficult to answer because I have many embarrassing moments I could tell but I have tried to always deal with every single one the same way. Laugh at myself and with those laughing at me and always thank the person who corrects me. I think if we are honest we all hate feeling embarrassed especially me but how you react is so crucial to not only learning but how people perceive you. Being humble makes you more approachable and helps people feel more inclined to help you in the future.

What is the most difficult aspect of culture to adjust to?

This is also tough to answer cuz there have been so many things that have been difficult to overcome and get used to. I think something that really bothers me is how I am perceived just for being white. People assume I can’t speak, that I don’t know what I am doing or how much a taxi ride costs. People will try to take advantage of the “dumb tourist.” I just have to get over it because that is part of life for me here.

What are tips to adjusting to a new culture?

Never ever ever take yourself too seriously. Be willing to be told your wrong and graciously accept correction. There is no room for the least little bit of pride and in fact it is not always a bad thing to get knocked off your high horse now and again.

How to overcome pride when learning a new culture?

Jesus! Love him, read His Word and strive to be more like Him every day. If you read about Jesus’s ministry it will astound you how disrespectful and just flat out rude people could be. He is God after all but He gave and gave and then gave some more. He loved and was ever so patient with his often dumb followers. My goal is to be like that. Stay close to Him, learn more about Him, talk to Him and ask for His help because we all struggle with pride.

How do you help your family transition into a new culture?

I’m not sure I am the best person to speak on this since I only have small children, but I personally believe that your attitude counts for so much in this area. If mom and dad are negative so are Chloe and Allie. I have literally pretended to like something and be happy and then turn around and in the privacy of my room scream into a pillow or vent to David about how stupid it is to have to wait at three different windows at the pharmacy just to get some pills. My girls love it here, by the way, and love the people too and I am not saying that I am so wonderful but I think a lot of it has to do with how much David and I love it here.

How do you pick which aspects of your home culture to keep and which ones you will change in the new culture?

In my house, it is like a tiny America. We speak English, eat American food often, we are loud, we watch American movies, and take long hot showers. When we have Peruvians in our home (which is very often) we tend to tone things down a bit and consider our friends. Same goes for when we are in public. Different families do different things but the fact is, we love Peru but we are still American. Peruvians don’t seem to mind this either. They don’t necessarily expect us to be just like them but I think there is a balance. We don’t obligate our guests to abide by our American house rules, instead we want them to be comfortable but what we do in private (when no one is around) would be more like a normal American family.

How did your language learning affect your culture adaptation?

I firmly believe these go hand-in-hand, and you can’t have one without the other. As you strive to learn the language it so necessary to understand the culture otherwise things just won’t make sense. As you strive to learn a culture it is almost inevitable that you will be learning the language. After four years I still feel like I am learning both.

How does adjusting to the culture affect your relationship with those around you?

I think you have to keep things in perspective. It is a process and you can choose to become irritable and annoyed and repel people or you can take it a day at a time, enjoy the ride and attract people. It all depends on your attitude. I spoke to a missionary wife recently who has been here long enough to know certain cultural things but she just doesn’t. As I listened to her talk, I could tell she was a little hung up on her America culture. I’m sorry but Peruvians don’t really care how we do things in America. Only Americans care. Learn your culture and learn it well. People might not call you dumb to your face but that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking it.

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  • 3 thoughts on “Culture in My Country and Why Learning it is So Important

    1. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview! I loved the answer to the adaptation process that starts with “Jesus.” Keeping Him foremost makes other things pale in significance. Thank you for sharing, Teri.

    2. Great stuff Katie! Thanks for sharing. “People might not call you dumb to your face, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking it.” Now that is classic! (And oh so true! ) I totally get the part about greetings and bundling babies!

    3. That’s was good! Thank you for being honest about adaptation and how to deal with it and be positive w your children! That is so true! Bundling babies and always having people around you is also huge here in Mexico.

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