What do cafés and elephants have in common?
Quite contrasting images indeed.
Since the only part of France I've seen is an airport, I buy into the Hollywood depiction of a nation of people sipping coffee in quaint little cafés. However, I do have first-hand knowledge of the sights and sounds of India: its noisy streets, colorful citizens, and lumbering elephants.
The two cultures are—as you'd expect—quite diverse, as is portrayed in the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey where an Indian family settles into a small French town and opens an Indian restaurant. It is a case study in culture shock and cultural adaptation worth analyzing.
There are three ways we generally adapt to living in or visiting a different culture. Some refuse to adopt any aspect of the new culture and isolate themselves by creating their own little familiar world within their home or community compound. Others may take the opposite extreme, rejecting their own culture entirely while immersing themselves into their new context. Neither extreme is healthy. We must understand where we are, but not forget where we come from.
Balance is found when we know what parts of our own culture to retain while adopting parts of the new culture. With this in mind, I encourage you to watch the movie and analyze how all three of these cultural responses are instrumental in the transformation of the protagonists and their families.
As you enter into a culturally diverse situation ask yourself:
- What aspects of the culture should be adopted?
- What aspects of your own culture should you retain?
- How does your biblical worldview impact both?
As Christians, our biblical worldview and example of God's incarnation should influence our personal cross-cultural transformation. Jesus immersed himself in the human culture without forgetting from where He came. (See Philippians 2:5-8.) Jesus adopted a human identity but rejected the parts of culture in conflict with the Kingdom of God. As we go about our days in a multi-cultural world—both at home and abroad—Jesus' example can guide our conversations and direct our steps, whether we're enjoying a cappuccino with a friend or steering clear of elephants in our path.