Thursday, 2 May 2013

X is for X-ing Cultures

Crossing Cultures.

I have lived in the US for around three years now. I had never been before, and so came with a very open mind as to how it compares to European countries. I had met many American people in Europe, and had a pretty average knowledge of American culture, so I thought I had a basic idea of what I may expect.
I wasn't far off.
Some characteristics took a little getting used to. Southern friendliness, 'everything's BIG in Texas', patriotism, the never ending roads, and the 'melting pot' (actually I think Europe is just as much a melting pot, but just with different nationalities) - these were differences, but I think I adapted quite well to them.
However, for me, the biggest, most prominent difference was probably religion. 
The role of religion in Texas (I say Texas because I can't speak for the rest of the US, as I have never lived there) is immensely different from the role of religion in Europe.
Firstly the amount of modern churches is astounding. They seem to be everywhere you turn, and they often resemble the supermarket next door. There are billboards advertising churches, a multitude of church groups for all different people, missonaries heading off everywhere to lend a hand and spread the word, bible studies all around, and church services by the bucket full.
Is it different from Europe? Very different. Most churches in Europe are centuries old, cold, echo inside, silent and half empty. Of course there are some more modernised buildings and services, but still, they are not as common, and not as prominent. And of course, they represent beautiful historical architecture, but they also represent religion as nearly just a concept from history, rather than something alive today. Religion in Europe today just doesn't hold the same value as in the US. You won't find so many packed churches, so many missionaries, so many church groups or bible studies. They are around, but you have to search for them.
Did it take a little more getting used to? Yes, it did. However, I consider myself an open minded person, and so understanding and accepting all of the differences I noticed really was not difficult at all.
Crossing cultures really does open minds even more than before. It allows you to look at things from different perspectives and analyse things in different ways. They allow us to take a step back and understand that maybe that other, different way just may be a better way.

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