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Clues at the Front Door

Bobby Cox

Building Bridges: From Neighbor to Friend with Refugees

Building cross-cultural relationships, specifically in the context of supporting and connecting with refugees, often starts with a little understanding and building trust. Transitioning from a neighbor to a friend is a journey filled with learning, understanding, and compassion. Here, we offer you a guiding light on this path, framed within our mission to serve and share in the context of our faith.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Initiating contact might seem daunting, but extending an invitation to yourself is often the first step to turning neighbors into friends. Yes! Go ahead and invite yourself over for a visit. This may go against everything you were taught as a child, but most cultures are great at hospitality, and they love welcoming you into their home. Engage with an open heart, ready to explore cultures and perspectives different from your own. This involves understanding the delicate balance between Honor/Shame and Guilt/Innocence cultures, as well as appreciating the difference between being relational versus task-oriented. These are essential frameworks that can shape our interactions and help us navigate new friendships respectfully and effectively.

Cultural Etiquette: The Basics

The Welcome Mat: Always remove your shoes when entering a home – it’s a universal sign of respect. Observing the front porch can also offer cues about cultural practices and expectations.

Greeting Customs: Avoid initiating physical contact with individuals of the opposite gender unless they do so first. Let your hosts set the tone for greetings and interactions.

Communication Beyond Words: Language barriers can be challenging, but they’re not insurmountable. Use visuals, smile frequently, show photos, and utilize tools like Google Translate. These aids can bridge gaps and foster understanding.

Be Prepared for Anything: Embrace the unpredictability of your visits. You might encounter loud environments, energetic children, or the opposite – a quiet, more reserved atmosphere. Each home and family is unique; respecting their space and energy is key.

Dining Etiquette: When sharing a meal, observe and adapt. It’s polite to leave a little food on your plate, but also try to eat what is offered to you. This delicate balance shows appreciation without offending.

A Reassuring Presence: Compliment your host’s cooking, their home, or décor. Kind words can go a long way in making others feel appreciated and comfortable.

Hospitality vs. Pushiness: Some cultures show their hospitality by being insistently generous. Don’t misinterpret this as pushiness; it’s their way of making you feel welcome.

Building Relationships: The Heart of the Matter

The essence of our visits and interactions is to foster genuine relationships. While it’s important to share our personal experiences and faith, including our journey with Jesus, let your actions and the genuine care you show speak volumes. Remember, building trust and friendship takes time, and patience is a virtue in cross-cultural relationships.

Time and Friendship: Understand that different cultures perceive time differently. Being asked to stay longer can be a sign of politeness and affection. While time management is important, sometimes being present, engaged, and relational takes precedence over strict schedules.

In our journey to move from being a neighbor to a friend, let us remember the core of our mission: to build bridges, to understand, and to love. As we navigate the complexities of cross-cultural friendships, let our actions reflect the compassionate spirit of our faith. Here at GoTEN, we believe in the power of community, understanding, and kindness. Let's walk this path together with open hearts and open minds.

Thank you for joining us on this journey. May your interactions be filled with learning, joy, and genuine connections.