Culture Shock
written by Rev Gary Heard

In 1991, Ev and I landed at Stockholm airport in the evening, and boarded a bus to cover the ‘three Swedish miles’ into the city centre, where we hoped to find accommodation. The trip took over half an hour at high speed! Disembarking the bus in the centre of Stockholm in the darkness made finding accommodation difficult (to say the least). Signs and maps were in language unfamiliar. Our frustration grew with the passing of time and increased tiredness, so we settled on what turned out to be rather expensive lodgings for the night, simply because it stood out as the only lodgings available!

There is nothing more isolating than landing in a strange culture, where the language is at best unfamiliar, and the normal guideposts by which we find our way are absent. The fallback option only served to isolate us more from the Swedish culture we were hoping to enjoy (although we did learn that one Swedish mile was equal to ten!)

In many ways we find ourselves landed in a new culture in Australia, where there is a different language (ICQ, spamming), new customs (email, SMS), new sights (.com, .edu, .gov), new forms of writing (:-), CUL8R), and new rituals (logging on, blogging). Today’s generation makes us feel somewhat like immigrants in our own land.

The danger we face is that facing all immigrants – to retreat into enclaves of like people, a place where we can maintain our own cultural outlook, language, and rituals. But the future in such a case is certain – we die out within a generation.
In a sense we are called to cross-cultural ministry here in our own setting: to learn the language of the natives, to understand the world from their viewpoint, and to find connecting points towards a relevant expression of faith to this new community. As we consider the incarnation, particularly in the light of Easter, we know that it is a costly process, but a godly one.

March 24, 2002
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