Sometimes it’s okay not to fit into every aspect of the local culture.
In a culture so linked to religion, I would make a lot of compromises and outright denials of my faith if I were to fully acclimate. So where do I draw the line between foreigner and local? I have faced a lot of cultural quirks that have made me uncomfortable. Sometimes I bit my tongue before I blurted out my opinion. Other times I didn’t bite my tongue fast enough.
Understanding the drive behind a behavior helps me determine whether or not I want to conform. I often ask questions, especially when I’m with friends and teachers:
“Why do you act like that people group is dirty?”
“Why don’t you throw your bread in the trash?”
“Why don’t North Africans trust each other?”
“Why do men sit in coffee shops so long?”
Some things I obviously don’t want to take part in. Other things have etched question marks in my conscience. Sometimes I make a judgment and confront a North African only to discover that I have interpreted the matter through my Western worldview. I also find many cultural aspects that are a beautiful representation of God’s character.
Every culture has its ups and downs. And every foreigner should determine how to accept the good in a culture without the bad. Ideally, our right choices will set us apart from mainstream culture. That’s why I say it’s okay to be a foreigner.