The Art of Crossing Cultures

Posted on: 
November 1, 2020

"Those who like to feel they are always right and who attach a high importance to their own opinions should stay at home." –Aldous Huxley

Living in a different culture brings a myriad of challenges. It’s a whole new world. Where will you get groceries? What are the social expectations? Can you speak the language? You have no idea that much of what is normal to you is not also universal, that much of what you think of as human nature is only cultural. Figuring out what is going on in your new world can leave you drained and frustrated, but Craig Storti’s book The Art of Crossing Cultures is a good place to start in preparing to successfully navigate these challenges.

What causes an interaction with a person from another culture to end badly? You expect other people to behave like you do. When people inevitably act differently than you expect them to, a cultural misunderstanding occurs. You react with anger, worry, etc. This causes you to try to avoid the local culture. At the same time, they are also expecting you to act like they do and when you don’t they become upset and avoid you. So part of the answer is to stop expecting locals to act like you do.

You can’t very well expect to recognize when locals are behaving like locals if you have no knowledge of how the locals typically behave. You can learn about the local culture in three ways: through observing the locals in action, through asking them about specific behaviors, and through reading about or taking classes in the local culture.

To complicate matters, you can hardly learn by observation alone, because what you see does not constitute meaningful behavior in your own culture. Would you understand, watching a Hindu friend arrange his bedroll, that he was trying to position himself so as not to be pointing his feet at anyone’s head (instead of trying to get near the window or away from the door)?

Thankfully, it is possible to adjust expectations to fit the reality you now live in, but the process whereby you replace ethnocentric expectations with culturally appropriate ones tends to proceed in fits and starts. But you will eventually have a new pair of eyes with which to see the world.

The overseas experience profoundly transforms all who undergo it. You either open yourself up to the experience and are greatly enriched by it, or you turn away – and are greatly diminished.

Storti’s book is a fast read, packed with delightful quotes and many examples of typical cross cultural tension points. In today’s multicultural world, this book is a great investment for every home.

—Pauline H., an All-Nations member

Note: Although Storti is not writing to missionaries or from a Christian perspective, many people working for God's kingdom in other cultures have found his book helpful.

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10