Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

New Cat in Town

“It’s like bringing a new cat into the house,” I tell people when they ask about how I move so often, and how I have learned to survive, “You keep a new cat in a separate room while the other cat(s) get used to their smell, then you allow a little interaction, then a little more and it all works out. One cat may never warm up to a new cat, another cat will welcome it immediately.”

I’ve been that new cat. You walk carefully. You try to figure out how things work. You sort of walk around the edges of things. Occasionally, there will be a cat that doesn’t like me. I try to stay out of her way.

So on my way to church on Sunday, I was thinking about this move, and about how people and communities have rules they don’t even know they have. Like in Kuwait, I learned, when you make a condolence call, you are supposed to dress very simply and wear no make up. You keep your voice low, you stay only a certain amount of time. These rules aren’t written anywhere because, well, everyone who matters pretty much knows what they are . . .

You don’t think about going through cross-cultural experiences in your own country, but every community has its own uniqueness, its own differences.

I think about my home town of Edmonds, WA, where you never NEVER cross the street if the light is red, even if there are no cars visible for miles. It just isn’t done.

Even going to church can be a mine field. You would think that it would be a safe place, all these people of God, people of good will, gathered together. You would think that until you happened to sit by mistake in someone else’s place, a place they have sat every Sunday for forty years. Some people might handle it with grace, another might handle it with spite and malice.

There might be local customs I don’t know, like you don’t wear earrings during Lent (I made that up; it isn’t a rule, it is just an example of the kinds of things that can become custom) or you don’t park in this spot because Old Miss Rickety needs to park there. Every church passes the peace differently; even the liturgy, done in every church, has its quirks from congregation to congregation. Like the new cat, I kind of creep in to church quietly, look for an inconspicuous place, do my worship thing and leave quietly.

They need to get used to my smell, LLLOOLLLL. 🙂

February 23, 2010 - Posted by | Biography, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Relationships

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