Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Canadian Cross-Cultural Experience

I anticipated cross-cultural experiences when I lived in Mexico. I was looking forward to immersing myself in a different culture, learning the language, becoming friends with Mexican brothers and sisters.

And I knew that there would be some inevitable awkward moments of cross-cultural faux pas.

I fully expected and was prepared for the same when I was in the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and even Baton Rouge Louisiana (which, although in the USA, is not very American).

I'm also not completely unfamiliar with guns. And shooting things.

For example, after returning from four months in the remote northern Canadian bush as a re-forestation specialist (tree-planter), I stayed with a good friend who lived in a gutted school-bus parked behind the rural gas station/general store/post office where he worked. On first night of my stay, he informed me that the evening's sustenance would look something like this:

And Wendy -- my brilliant, talented, and beautiful wife -- is also from a northern Canadian culture, and therefore has certain... skills... peculiar to her background. Such as shooting those pesky avian vermin known as "prairie chickens", which took place in three stages:

Part 1

point at which Wendy
fires at doomed fowl
Part 2

point of feather
Part 3

point of Wendy's butt impact after rifle kickback

All that to say, I'm not completely unfamiliar with firearms. I even went hunting with a friend and his father in the hills of Tennessee when I was 10. We went looking for bear, but the only thing I shot that day was a very large and clearly lethal garden spider.

But today I had a truly cross-cultural experience, in my own town, and in my own culture.
I went to a "men's breakfast" at the church we now attend in Kelowna.
Okay, enough with the snickers. Yes, men's breakfasts -- like church women's groups -- do tend to be somewhat cross-cultural, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I didn't know anyone at the group, so I just tagged into a table-full of guys, and as a newcomer, tried to blend in. Which, as I quickly discovered, was not about to happen.

Why, you ask?

Because everyone at the table is a big game hunter. Grizzlies. Black bear. Mountain sheep. And each one of them owns guns. Lots of guns.

And speak of these guns in reverential and tender terms usually reserved for more deserving and common-sense items such as Fender guitars.

And of course, there was the inevitable and awkward moment when one of them turned to me and enthusiastically asked, "What kind of guns do you have, Rob?"

I made some weak joke about guns being illegal in Mexico unless you are (a) a cop, (b) a Mexican marina, or (c) part of a drug cartel. Talk about a conversational gear-grinder. So much for "blending in".

So, today I discovered that you don't have to leave your country to experience cross-cultural awkwardness and inability to connect. You don't even need to leave your province, your town, or in my case, even travel more than 2 kilometres from your house.

What made me laugh -- quietly, to myself, as I drove home -- was the question of "what would Jesus do?" to reach out and be culturally relevant to big game hunters. Because He would have. And it was a funny revelation to me to realize that -- somehow -- I need to, as well.

Proof yet again that God has a very quirky sense of humour, methinks.


  1. Hi Rob,

    Glad to hear you are trying to fit in back home again. Good luck with that. :)

    This ties into what I think God has been teaching me lately.

    Suppose I was in some tribal land where once a week they all gathered together and listened to one person give a great speech, and then they made music unique to their culture. What would I do?

    Assuming there was nothing really wrong with what they were doing. I would want to go and do what they are doing, and try to fit in, so I could be Christ to the people in that community.

    If I didn't go, I wouldn't fit in, and my impact to the people would be limited.

    So what does God want me to do with the Sunday morning traditional worship service? Considering the relationships I have... I will try to be all things for all people. I'll try to fit in the best I can, just in case God wants to use me in this community.

    No guns tho... you gotta draw the line somewhere. :)

  2. Did you bring 1 inch by 1 inch brownies?

    also, I am loving those font changes ;)

    good story!
    That would have been a good opportunity to 'love not with words or speech, but in truth and action' (1 John 3:18) since your words on guns are limited to a group of questionable mexicans!

  3. Jonathan, yeah I would agree that drawing the line on guns in a church service would probably be the right thing to do. :)

    Jordan, your use of font sizes was my inspiration, 'tis true! But I hasten to point out that at least one of the Mexican groups I mentioned (las marinas) is legit. :)

  4. Hey Rob,

    I can help you!! I was in this very exact situation...except that it was a bunch of guys at the Port Authority's Maintenance Department that I did the AP, cost recovery, and budgeting for.

    The key is...wait for it...act like you are really interested!! Then they will invite you to the BBQ feasts they have with the game they bagged. Let me tell you, moose and elk are incredible in hamburgers, steaks and sausages!!

    You don't have to worry about those guys and their guns. If they are talking that openly about them, then they are fully registered and ligit here in Canada.

    Seriously, though, the truth is that God will give you something to talk about with them that will help you bond. The frustrating part for us humans is that it will be in His timing, not ours, so you may have a few more auckward "Men's Breakfast" meetings before things smooth out!!

    Cheers, Neil

  5. Great story! I have no advice to offer other than what Neil said nice so you can get some of nature's bounty!

  6. I do like moose jerky, and there's nothing quite as nice as bear meat in your spaghetti sauce. (Lessons from my summer of re-forestation!) :)