Well, obviously I don’t really hate foreign. Or I would be completely bonkers to be a Vicar’s Wife in our multi-cultural parish. I love foreign people, and I loved living and working in foreign lands (the Far East, for nearly six years). But moving somewhere new – and therefore foreign – is hard.
When the Vicar and I first moved to Malaysia (there’s foreign for you), we joined a church with links to Wycliffe Bible Translators. And one day a representative from that organisation came to teach the church about what life was like as a bible translator. The Vicar and I can now only remember one thing we learnt that day (it was a few years ago, mind). We learnt about culture shock, and adjusting to living in a new culture.
The Wycliffe chap told us that there is a common pattern to the experience of the ‘foreigner’ moving to a new culture to live and work:
- Six to twelve months of ‘honeymoon’ – everything seems new and exciting, the people exotic and the differences to home fascinating.
- After the honeymoon comes a time when the differences become annoying and hard to live with. This is the period the Vicar and I started calling ‘I Hate Foreign’.
- And after a couple of years, the differences in culture don’t seem so great and you become adjusted. Your home is no longer ‘foreign’ but home.
So we’re nearly six months into parish life and I confess that I’ve been having a few ‘I Hate Foreign’ moments lately. Our new church is lovely and friendly, but we don’t know folk all that well. The school has been helpful and welcoming, but our old friends know us better.
I know this time will pass and that soon we’ll feel completely at home here. But in the meantime it’s a good reminder to us that our real home is in heaven and that Christians are
aliens and strangers in the world (1 Peter 2v11)