When I think about the biggest learning experiences in my life, experiences that shaped me to be the way I am today, experiences that taught me about God, the Body of Christ, and myself, I think about my experiences of getting to know people from cultures different than mine.

 “One of the key things in intercultural friendship is that you have to be willing to talk, to listen, to be determined to make it work… but that is one of the beautiful things. Out of all of that, you get to taste the kingdom of God.” ~Shika Vivanca

I vividly remember meeting Annette at one of my first jobs. Annette is from the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya, one that is particularly known for hospitality. When I came to her office for my very first meeting with her in my brand new job, ready to impress her with my efficiency and ability to help get the job done, I was caught really off guard when she welcomed me with a hug, got me a comfortable seat, and offered me something to drink. I came in valuing efficiency and task. She came in valuing relationship. It was quite a clash of expectations!

And you know what? Even though I have grown up in a family and culture that values efficiency and task-orientation, I’ve since learned I work really well in environments where strong relationships are embedded in work culture; I get my job done in having good relationships with colleagues. I needed what Annette offered me that day, and we worked really well together because of this cultural value she mentored me in.

This chapel on “Engaging in Intercultural Friendships” is filled with stories like this, featuring some of our very own Global Student stories. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny, and all of them highlight the reality that as we learn to unpack the cultural value differences and assumptions we bring to relationships, intercultural friendships can be an incredible place of self-discovery, growth and relational richness. With a little curiosity, a sense of humor, and a bit of openness, wow are those relationships rewarding!

“I’m really thankful for our friendship because the way she treated me gave me a safe space to be fully who I am and provided a safe space to pour out myself in her life.” ~ Quincy Liao, China “She doesn’t hold me to a certain cultural expectation, but allows me to express myself as I am.” ~Emily Larsen, Chile, Guatemala, South Korea

Check out these stories, and let us know if you have stories of your own to share!

Lisa Igram

Photo credit: Zachary Tan, Communication Studies, May 2020. You can see more of Zach's work on Instagram @ztanable!