Tuesday, March 08, 2005
People often ask me about the cultural and societal differences between the US and Peru. I like to think that the process of cultural acclimation is like pealing an onion. There is always another layer of cultural complexity to find and understand.
For example, Tricia was in a meeting yesterday about a fundraising campaign FH is doing in Pucallpa to raise funds for the victims of the tsunami in Asia and Tricia is on the committee to lead this effort in Pucallpa. Last week we had a meeting where many Christian organizations and church pastors attended to kick off the effort and another committee was selected to write a letter to all the churches in Pucallpa to ask them to have an offering on March 20th. So the question is what should be in the letter to all the pastors of the churches to encourage them to have an offering? What would you put in a letter like that? Think about it for a sec before continuing reading. Well if you are like Tricia (and me) you would talk about how many people died in the disaster and include a personal story of a survivor to move the recipient. Then you would talk about how the money was going to be used and how it will be audited and monitored to assuage any fears of impropriety. Here in Pucallpa, which is culturally very different then Lima, the important thing was who was calling for the offering. Instead of talking about the tsunami, you need to list out all the Churches and organizations that were calling for the offering in the letter Seeing this list of pastors and organizations, people would want to become involved. I thought that was very interesting. It is by no means better or worse, just different. But if I was in charge of writing the letter I would have written something completely inappropriate and would not have gotten nearly as good of results.
Every society has a system whether you think about it or not. There are a bazillion little rules that you have to learn in order to work effectively cross-culturally. The great thing about learning in Peru is that the people are so patient and accommodating. But you have to realize that just because something works one way in your culture and it seems logical to you, doesn't mean it is universally correct or logical.