Every time I move to a new place, there’s a huge learning curve figuring out how to get things done. I don’t know where to buy the things I need or get connected with services.
I already talked about how helpful neighbors can be. Often they are the first people we ask our questions, like how to get drinking water or how to get internet installed. Neighbors not only know the town, but they know your neighborhood and how it works. They are your first connection to your new community. (more…)
Entering a new culture is always a challenge, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. So, how do you move into neighborhood, a new town, in a different culture from your own?
In the years we’ve lived in Asia, we have had some wonderful neighbors. Some have turned out to be very helpful and some have even turned out to be great friends. I always wish that when we move into a new place that the neighbors would take the initiative to come over and welcome us. What is usually the case, however, is that we have to be proactive and make a point to meet people. I try to put myself in their shoes and realize that it must be intimidating for them to introduce themselves to the new foreigner living next door, especially if they think that they won’t be able to communicate with me.
We have found that we need to be the ones to make the point of meeting people and showing ourselves to be friendly. Even though those first few meetings can be awkward, it sets us up for good relationships that can be a real asset to adjusting to a new place. Although I’m sure that we’ve unknowingly offended some at times, we’ve found people to be very gracious and accepting. Taking the effort to show yourself friendly always pays off.
There is a new trend in tourism known as ‘voluntourism’. In his article, “Can white people do development,” Kevin Hawkins said, “Voluntourism can be a dirty word in the aid and development sector; the idea that you can walk into a rural community and make a sustainable difference in a couple of days is a crude and unrealistic perception, reflecting a typically colonialist Western mindset.”
Ryan and Melissa Crossett helped collect blankets, warm clothes and money donations to provide relief to a village in need in northern Thailand. The money was used to purchase rice. Ryan Crossett then got to participate in packing it all up and delivering it to the community himself. The donations were happily received by the people and the Crossetts hope it will be a help to the community during the cold winter months.
We put a high priority on learning the language and script of the country we’re working in. It often feels like having a second full time job. Being able to communicate is crucial to being effective in our jobs, building relationships and finding out how we can best help a community.