A simple dinner conversation explained everything. iPhone presents.
For the last four years I have been living, working and leading Europeans and clashing with them at every turn. They don’t find me funny, I find them opinionated and aggressive, beautiful and powerful but very uncomfortable to be around. I knew it had something to do with my Australianness, so I tried turning that voice off and related to what I knew for the persons character. Still unknowing and confused.
Yesterday I sat with an amazing German lady who has been married to an Australian man. She spoke out the simplest of observations. And the ramifications may be huge.
1. Germans typically will end friendly and honest questions in the same tone of voice Australians end angry statements and vice versa.
So we hear anger or even accusation while they are sending friendly query. Which links in with the apparent bluntness of Europeans, but they are actually just communicating life.
2. Opinions. Germans state opinions in a way that sounds concluded but they expect to begin a dialogue. Opinions are a sharing of ones heart with the hope that others will share theirs and begin a passionate argument that has nothing to do with the individual’s, it has everything to do with the subject of conversation. And then when a conclusion is reached, the two walk away knowing that they are loved. Australians don’t hold opinions. It has to do maybe with tall poppy or a spirit of rejection. But if we do state an opinion we state it as a final outcome of our personality almost. If someone comes along and argues with it, or brings an opposite opinion we take offence at that to our core. We are offended by the discussion and the idea that someone thinks they are better then us. Europeans end up looking arrogant.
But then Europeans also see Australians as strangely quiet and dumb because they have no opinions. We also are pretty thin skinned and our offence creates the same in others because we are so caustic in our defence. And, when one thinks about it, having a dialogue gains much more understanding.
3. Germans don’t have a word for personal space. Whereas Aussies will sometimes sit a few seats away from you because they don’t want to invade yours.
This was a part of the conversation I totally understood. I’m very much a physical touch guy and when i can’t love people like that it gets uncomfy. But I have also learned that some people are the opposite of that. So we communicate one thing and hear something else.
You could go on forever through all aspects of cultures all around the world. But at its base there are principles of love.
When we were in Cambodia I learned something of team dynamics. The balance board of – never give offence, never take offence. If no one defends themselves and we go out to not offend, unity becomes rife. I’ve found in teams we find the most break down happens internally because we accidentally offend and there’s no dialogue about. So if we communicate possible hurt inoffensively we restore quicker.
The other thing is, God celebrates all cultures. He commands us to disciple them all. Not because there is one right one. But because we all have bits and pieces that need to come under gods lordship. But we too, need to celebrate Each others likes and awkward things.
We need to stop touching certain heads and stop saying certain foods are stupid. We need to stop correcting pronunciation of the locals. We need to to wear certain clothes and greet in a certain way, because we have been asked by our creator to try to out do each other in honour. It’s a competition.
Honour more. Celebrate more.