The Secret to Working Cross-Culturally

What is the secret?

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Some of the ROWAN staff were born in Uganda. Others like me were born in the USA. The differences are numerous as the stars in the sky. So how does ROWAN succeed in working effectively with such a cultural dissimilarities?


Let’s share one major difference that we all call time management.
One day in the village I asked Pastor Paul, “What time is church tomorrow?” Remember: this is the church he is going to preach in! He said, “Oh, around 9am.” So I faithfully set my alarm for 8am, got ready and prepared to take off at 8:45. I stepped outside my guest house door, and saw Pastor Paul nowhere! I asked mama, “Where is Pastor Paul?” Through hand gestures and pointing, I realized he was taking his bucket bath. Breakfast had just begun to cook, and no one seemed to mind that they were late.


“Late” is really a term used in our culture to define those who are 5 minutes late to meet you at Starbucks. But “late” in Uganda? Never. Whenever you show up, you are on time. So I tried to relax and just waited until Pastor was ready. We slowly made our way to church by 10:30, whereby people were just trickling in for worship.
The beautiful thing is Pastor Paul has a sense of humor. As we walked side by side, he asked me, “Kelsey? Do you have snacks? This is going to be a long service.” As I laughed at the thought of sitting in church for the next four hours, I said, “Well if you see the Indians closing the shops, it’s a pretty good sign that I’m baking under the tin roof.” (Pastor says that when people’s eyes begin to shut, it’s like Indians who close the shops too early in Kampala.)
Then let’s flip-flop the story and share about the time when Pastor Paul flew to USA to conduct my wedding ceremony in 2011. It took an entire day to prepare Pastor to shrink his 3 hour ceremony to 30 minutes. I said, “Pastor, people here get fidgety after 20 minutes of sitting! You have to focus on the main points and get to the ‘I do’s.” So after I walked down the aisle, I believe 1 hour went by before Pastor finally invited me to kiss my husband. Afterwards, I looked at him and we just laughed together knowing 1 hour was the middle ground between 30 minutes and 4 hours.
Laughter is the way to share life and love with someone extremely opposite from you.
Find the humor in the moments that have potential to be frustrating, and I guarantee you will have a heart-change.
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