We are making plans. As we look to closing things out here in Mozambique we are looking ahead to Portugal.
We’ve lived there before, for 9 months between 2004/2005, to learn language. But our objective during that time was to learn language, as quickly as possible. We were not there to learn or study Portuguese culture, apart from the little bit which is naturally learned as one studies a language, as our goal was to get on to Mozambique. The culture we would need to study was that of the Macua with whom we planned to work.
This time we are going to live and minister in Portugal. We plan to spend a bit of time in language study again; though we speak Portuguese we need to remove the “Mozambicanisms” we have learned and instead learn to speak Portuguese as the Portuguese speak. But beyond that, I (Dan) was struck by the thought that we need to make sure we spend time learning about Portuguese culture. Beyond our surface understanding, what values do people have? What do they consider important? What is their worldview? What are the customs/behaviors deemed important?
Along these lines we have started to read books and articles about the Portuguese people, culture, the current economic crisis and its effects on the society. We will need to go deeper than the books we have, but one thing that has stood out:
God is taking us to a place where we are going to have to learn to do things differently. Differently than we have been doing them in Mozambique and differently than we did years ago in Asia. In fact, there seem to be several aspects which are different to who we are (and how we default to things). We are embarking on another learning curve.
Two recurring themes in the reading we have been doing regard formality and dress. One article puts it as follows:
. Portuguese are traditional and conservative.
. They are a people who retain a sense of formality when dealing with each other, which is displayed in the form of extreme politeness.
. In Portuguese society appearance is very important, especially in the cities.
. People are fashion conscious and believe that clothes indicate social standing and success.
. They take great pride in wearing good fabrics and clothes of the best standard they can afford.”
Robin and I are anything but formal. Though I hope we’d be considered polite, we tend to be very laid back when interacting with people, regardless of if we know them well or not. We like people to treat us casually as well.
As far as dressing nicely goes . . . of course we can dress nicely. Date nights, special occasions and mission presentations to a church or group demand such, but those aren’t everyday events. Neither of us feel the need to “dress” to go run errands. Robin, in particular, is extremely casual. Prior to this last furlough she owned 2 pairs of sandals (flip flop style actually; one black and one brown) and a pair of running shoes. Three pair of shoes were more than enough she felt. She doesn’t wear make-up, rarely wears jewelry apart from her wedding rings, and is perfectly happy wearing the shorts and shirts she slept in for the better part of the day if not heading out of the house (well actually she even wore that to take kids to school in the States).
Something else, though we have only come across it in once source so we’re trying to verify whether it’s the case or not, has to do with humor. Sarcasm and loud laughing in public does not seem to be acceptable. Culture Shock Portugal words it this way, “The Portuguese are not a people who easily laugh about themselves or anyone else for that matter. They consider it inappropriate to make fun of one another . . . . laughing in public seems to be the prerogative of children and adolescents and seems less acceptable than hugging or kissing.” Any of you who know me know I am very sarcastic! I also am known for having a huge out loud laugh (others have heard me in a recorded sermon & other people have even joked about who can make me laugh first). If this turns out to be true, that sarcasm and loud laughter in public is not acceptable in Portuguese culture, then I am really going to have to learn new ways!!
So it seems that once again we are going to have to adapt and learn and adjust our ways. These examples may not seem like big issues but they are completely opposite of our natural tendencies.
No matter what, God is showing us, once again, that 1 Corinthian 9:19-23 is very important for us to understand, apply and live out.
vs 19, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Paul wrote this about himself but we must learn to live this way again…..