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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: So You Think You Can Love

This is part 3 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series.  The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

This one friendship has taught me is the many ways that love can be manifested from culture to culture. A key thing to remember is that sometimes someone is trying to show me love but it may not come in a form that I recognize or am used to and to acknowledge the person's efforts to offer comfort or love. For example, Diana and Marisa both have ways of showing me support. Diana's way of showing me love is more or less in a form that I recognize and am used to.

If I need comfort, Diana's way of showing me support is by telling me a story about her life that I would be able to relate to. That is what I am used to and what I recognize. Marisa's way however took me abit longer to recognize. The nite that my flight was scheduled to leave Argentina, that very days Marisa and I were using SMS to chat abit and try and tie up loose ends. I was telling her that I was gonna miss her and that it's hard to leave her here. She text me back by telling me "Oh but you must think of all your friends and family abroad that haven't seen you". Diana would have probably said "Oh, I'm gonna miss you too, it's gonna be hard" which is more of what I would be used to.

But Marisa said the absolute sweetest thing to me that someone in my own culture and background would never have said. Her comment reflected who she is and how incredibly unselfish this woman is despite how much she was gonna miss me. She text me back and said "We all have to share this one person that everybody wants!" She was saying that Canada's got to have a turn in sharing me. I will never forget that comment as long as I live.

There were other times that I had to really research and gain an understanding of her culture to understand her mentality and point of view. One thing that I found out is that love in this culture is something that is freely given and is shared and is for everyone. But in the North American and European cultures, your love for someone is special and a little bit more exclusive for those whom you trust. Here in Argentina, friendship is friendship but in other cultures, there are many levels of friendship and connection.

So when she says stuff to me like "Angelina I don't love you more or less than any other person. My love is the same for all", it isn't intended to be an insult or offensive to tell me that I'm not special. It's just that for her, there is only one type of love and it is the same for all. But in other cultures, there is the point of view that there are many types of love that one can have. Her comment simply reflected her culture and it is the only thing that she knows so who can blame her? Nobody up til now has taught her that other cultures think that there are many types of love.

Really, between choosing to have her learn my language or my culture, I would much rather prefer for her to learn my culture. Understanding each other's cultures is a big key to success in our friendship. She is a fast learner and is growing in her understanding and has a huge appetite for learning. It is why things have worked out so well between us.

Our relationship and the way that we show love to each other manifest itself in very different ways than each of our two cultures. If you judge us by North American standards, one might think that we don't care much for the other person. We don't spend time together or text or email each other or do anything that would be evidence of the love that is in our hearts. But we do care for each other deeply! The love is definitely there. I wouldn't have written 8 blogs on cross-cultural relationships if there was no love to be found in our friendship!

As a friend I am trying to offer her comfort, love, and support in a way that she is more used to. And yes, sometimes I will throw in a North American twist into the picture. It keeps things fresh and fun! But the most amazing part about humans is that their spirit can recognize when they are being loved even if their mind doesn't know what is happening. There was a moment on my last trip that I remember showing an act of love that she wasn't used to.

At one point I realized that for many months she had been trying to make friends with me and she was showing clear indications that she wants to know me better and be a part of my world. My time in Argentina was fast coming to an end and I realized that I can either leave Argentina with no friendship or I can do something in response to the effort she had been putting in and take a step towards her.

I had some souvenirs from Canada that I brought to give away. One was a maple leaf dipped in gold and I had been intending to give that to a very special friend. One day I showed up at the cell groups on Thursday nites and gave it to her as she was on her way to prepare for her cell group as usual. She looked at me with surprise & curiosity because Argentines don't really do that kind of stuff. I explained it all to her that this was special and I wanted to have something that she could kind of hold on to and touch so she could feel close to me when I was away.

It was in that very moment that I discovered one of the most amazing things about us as human beings. Our spirits know when we are being loved and can recognize it. Though her head couldn't comprehend what was happening because this act was so out of her culture, her heart knew that I was showing her a form of love. And thus the seed of our friendship got planted....

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas