Adjusting with People From Different Backgrounds

International Student Edition
image: English in Britain

One of the things I love about being an international student is that you get the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds. It’s such an enriching experience as you get to discover and learn about so many things, thus increase your knowledge. There is a little caveat though if you’re not so familiar about dealing with people of other cultures: It requires adjustment. Let me share with you some of the lessons I’ve acquired during my post-secondary school days.

Be open:It’s quite normal that international students would be comfortable with individuals of the same background or country because they can relate. However, the drawback to sticking to this comfort zone is that you can become resistant to socialize with other people and the Holy Spirit will be limited in using you. That’s why you have to be open to welcome people who don’t look, talk, or act like you. If you have a problem in this, always take it to the Lord in prayer. Think about this, if Jesus only restricted His relations with the Jews then the Samaritan woman and her relatives would have never been saved (John 4:40-42), the Canaanite woman’s daughter would have never been healed (Matt 15:22-28), and most importantly, the world would have never heard the Good News if the disciples only ministered to the Jews.

Accept and respect everyone’s difference:Romans 14:1 says “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” When interacting with people of different backgrounds, you’ll soon realize that you won’t always have the same perspective on life or they might behave in an offensive manner; I’m sure they can probably observe the same things about you. At times, you can point out these things to them to shed light in an area that they perhaps are unfamiliar with. For instance, if your classmate never greets you in the morning, you can gently let him/her know. Nonetheless there are other things you just can’t talk about, and that’s when the above verse comes into effect. In graduate school, I had a classmate who always showed lots of cleavage when dressing up. This is something I couldn’t tell her because that she considered it normal, so I accepted that her faith was weak, respected her choice, and continued socializing with her. There was a guy in my class who wasn’t talkative, for example, no matter how much you tried to converse, he always gave a short and indifferent reply. I learnt to accept and respect his attitude by giving him space without gossiping about him. If he asked me for assistance, I gladly did it without murmuring or reproach, just like what Col 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19):Adjusting with people of other cultures requires a lot of listening; taking the time to know others: their likes/dislikes, upbringing, world perspective, and behaviors. Sometimes we’re just so preoccupied in expressing ourselves that we don’t get the chance to know others. And I can guarantee you that being slow (not absent) to speak and quick to listen is a powerful way to minister to others as they can entrust you with their problems and be more willing to take heed to your counsel because you have been a great listener in their lives. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”-Col 3:14. Above all, love! Even if you’re unable to recall the previous points, remember to love! Love the person of another culture just like yourself, treat him/her like Christ would. Who can adjust with people of different cultures? It’s those who are willing to leave their comfort zone and love. Be bold, courageous, and patient with others. Above all, love.

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