Learning from Locals
When in Osaka, I did not know how to react to the bikes. They were everywhere. I had never seen so many bikes in a city. On top of the congestion, there was no pattern to the bike movements. They were everywhere, on both sides of the sidewalk. So I had to fight my way and listen for the faint “ding-ding”. There were many dirty looks given to me during those seven days.
As an international worker, I am always on my toes listening for the metaphysical bikes to run me over. There are so many social cues I am ignorant of everyday. So here are some difficult things I have learned while adapting to Korea.
I don’t get my way.
As a foreigner, I do not always agree or understand the methods of handling an issue. I do not see the point of many things. I also quickly interject how my way is much more streamline and better. Yet, I usually don’t get my way.
For many months this bothered me. I wanted things to run more smoothly and adaptable for my way of living. Over time I realized my solutions were never carried through. I took this issue personally. I thought people did not respect my opinions or great ideas. If my way was not carried through then all other parties were ignorant and foolish. This self-consciousness was confronted when I realized I cannot take this personally, but there are people wiser and smarter than me.
I am usually wrong.
Also, not only was I not getting my way, but also I was told I was wrong. It was either implied or clearly spoken. Many times I learned that my way of living or thinking is wrong for this culture; for the first few times I took it personally. I thought that people were calling me ignorant about things. My pride was attacked. The problem was not my idea was wrong, but it is wrong for the current context.
I will never understand fully.
There are many things I scratch my head at and wonder why. Just like some people will never understand why southerners feel the desire to grease all vegetables in butter and oil. I don’t understand why I cannot wear my shoes where and when I want. What I can do is gain a deeper understanding for the way of life and also seek to understand. It is easy to judge, but difficult to understand.
My heart was hurt many times
I am a planner and an administrator. I like things to remain in order and promises kept in a timely manner. The amount of times I have been disappointed and let down would astound you. Many of those times lead to anger and poignant words to people. I regret my selfishness. We must realize things are simply different. Even though you want all your furniture in one night, it might be a week. Learn to be patient and seek to understand.
You will change before they do
For a few months I gained a complex that everything was my way or no way. I thought with my few months of experience and U.S. background I knew how to fix problems quickly and effectively. Over time, I realized my solutions were tabled and problems if fixed were not done in the “Hunter approved way”. As much as I don’t want rice for every lunch, it is still there. I learned: I need to change before I expect anyone to do likewise.
To the say the least, my pride has been deflated to an all time low. I have had to review what I thought I knew about dealing with locals and the result is I still clearly don’t know. Thankfully, grace has been lavished upon me and more opportunities have arisen to humble myself.
Here are some passages about humility from Peter’s first letter which have continued to humble me:
1 Peter 1:22-23
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”
1 Peter 3:8-9
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
1 Peter 4:8-10
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”
1 Peter 5:6
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”