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Tags - culture shock
I recently went into a little convenience store one night. The young man behind the counter, probably in his early 20’s, was unbelievably handsome. He rang up my things and asked me in English, “Anything else?” I responded, “Just your love.” He looked at me blankly. Little did I know that “anything else” is about the only English he knows. Hebrew… Oh, Hebrew. Had I only known you!
There’s always culture shock. Even in my times in fellow English-speaking countries (although, I swear at times they were toying with me) such as England, Wales, and Scotland, there is culture shock. Of course it’s wise to study up on a new land and culture before heading there, but there are little things about life that I would never think to wonder about. Like, I wish someone had told me that you’re hard pressed here to find coffee that isn’t instant. That has been the number one hardest adjustment for me, believe it or not. Midol and Monster energy drink are non-existent, which has been a hard adjustment for everyone AROUND me. And there are all of about 2, maybe 3, kinds of cheese in the dairy section at the grocery store, none of whose names contain words like “cheddar” or “jack”. These are not flaws; just things I wish I had known.
If it's got to be instant, it's got to be... whatever this says...
I have never really experienced culture shock the way I always imagined it to be. I think I adjust pretty well. My situation was something different from culture shock. It wasn’t cultural differences or language barriers that affected me. It was something else, but we’ll come back to that.
Part of culture shock can be the language. In languages that do not require transliteration (languages based on the Roman alphabet with no symbols involved – like English or Spanish) a person at least has marginal hope of being able to find their way through some things. Not in Hebrew. Even if you learn the alphabet and can sound out a word from reading the symbols, you still probably have no idea what the word means. I still go to the grocery store and don’t know half of what is what. The language is a complete puzzle. This makes trying to figure out bus routes, websites, where the shampoo ends and the body wash begins, and everything else a challenge. Day after day, it can compound into a frustration that builds to a point of being lost and helpless until it is somehow worked through.
At first, I had also wished I had known that it would be basically impossible to find a Christian church service in Israel. They exist, but there are so few of them, and depending on where you are in the country, it is nothing short of a feat to get to one. It was and is some degree of struggling, but I knew I had done the right thing by coming here. At this point, now I’ve been through it and I laugh about things. At first, it was harder. But there was something else going on.
Thankfully, some things are always identifiable!
When I first got to Israel, I had gotten very sick and had to go to the emergency room. That is when my problems began. I realized that it wasn’t so much how different things are here, but that the enemy was leveraging all things combined – new land, new culture, foreign language, no friends, just arrived, everything uncertain, then being terribly sick on top of it all – to make me miserable when I was in my weakest state. A very deep and heavy darkness came over me, and I was drowning in it. Gilgamesh had nothing on me (“The Epic of Gilgamesh”). I had far more inner turmoil than I ever let on. It was a very dark time. I knew I wasn’t regretting my decision, and I knew I would never turn back. I also knew that what I had to do was make it through somehow. Somehow… But how?
The only thing I knew of that could help me through that really rough period was God. I asked God, “What am I going to do? I have no place to go. I need to hear something that is going to help me through this.” God said, “You need the truth.” I said, “Actually, I need something that is applicable to the situation at hand, thanks.” He said, “You need the truth.” Clearly, I had no options. I couldn’t learn Hebrew overnight. I couldn’t adjust to a new culture overnight. Worst of all, I was so sick and my darkness was so awful. I desperately needed the darkness to end, and fast. I had to have peace somehow. So, I asked God for the truth.
Thank God for pictures! Honey mustard, indeed.
He told me that there is nothing I can do or not do to be worthy of anything. He told me I already am worthy of everything He gives because He sees me through eyes of righteousness. He told me He sees me that way because that’s what the cross did for mankind and I accepted it. He told me I can’t BE holy, so stop trying to achieve it somehow by doing right things and trying not to do wrong things through my own efforts. He told me that only He is holy and all I have to do is believe in who I am in Him and His holiness covers everything for me. He told me He is not an angry God just waiting for me to stop sinning so He can finally work in my life. He told me I don’t have to try to “be good” or “be righteous”; that I can’t be, and He knows that, and that’s why He died for me – because we can’t save ourselves; we can’t “be right” in His eyes by what we do – He does it in us. He told me I don’t have to try to please Him. He told me there isn’t a way that I have to be in order to be eligible or worthy or good enough now to receive miracles and blessings from Him. He told me I already am eligible, worthy, and good enough to receive every good thing from Him because I believe in what He did for me. He told me even more truth than this, but in the end He told me peace is mine. It just is. And like that, the darkness was lifted. I was still very sick for many days, but I was a new person.
I guess in some ways I am in some kind of culture shock because I can’t speak Hebrew worth a dime, which is no help at all. Rather than be the “dumb American”, I walk around in public saying, “Mi scusi, mi scusi”. Everyone thinks I’m Italian, and the pressure’s off. I’m not completely used to the low context communication style. I have a ways to go in matching my Israeli counterparts in being more raw in manner than I am used to. And it will never cease to amaze me, no matter how long I am here, that there is no concept of being in line. If you were behind me when the bus came along, don’t try to push on before me. But that’s life in Israel. Culture shock perhaps exists in that there are things I do not get used to, but the peace of the Lord is mine because He freely gives it to me.
(For those who are interested in what this message of truth is and where I found it, I began listening to Bertie Brits on-line at Dynamic Love Ministries.)
Can you tell which is which? It's worse in the store with shelves and shelves of it all!
Christmas in the West Bank