When you travel, you must be full of forgiveness. You have to be patient with everyone. You are the foreigner. They are doing things in a strange way that you aren’t used to, but you are in their country. They are doing what they normally do. You have to understand that you look very strange to them. People have done some pretty strange things to me around the world, but I have to learn to forgive or I couldn’t travel and see things. I have to understand that they are looking at the world differently than I am, and their way of doing things has been developed over time.
When the Koreans push me out of the way or cut me off in traffic trying to go first, I have to understand they have learned to act that way. Korea went from the poorest country in the world to one of the richest in a very short time. The Economists are in awe about what happened in Korea since the war. The Koreans stood up and said, “We don’t want to be poor anymore,” and they did something about it. Getting to the top caused many of them to develop very rude attitudes. If you want to live in Korea, you have to understand and live with it. It is not the whole culture, but just a small part. I don’t give up driving just because the other drivers are rude. I learn their ways and how not to get hit, and I drive because otherwise, I would be walking. When you jump in the water, you have to learn to swim, and you don’t get mad at the water if it is hard. It is just life.
When Romanians get jealous and mean because they think you have something they don’t, I forgive them. I understand why they are like that. The ones who do it don’t understand the Christian life, but they think they are Christians, but they haven’t had any teaching from the New Testament. The Orthodox Church, the biggest church in Romania, has 20 books besides the Bible they think are holy. The focus is not on living a life of love, peace, and patience, but it is on keeping the traditions of Orthodoxy, The ones who act rudely don’t understand the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, self control, etc. that you find in Galatians 5. They have a lack of true Christian teaching because they just have too much to study and understand, so they don’t. They don’t understand that the Bible is all you need to understand God. Life has been hard on them because of Communism, and it has made them jealous. It has become part of the culture. In order to get people to do what they wanted, the Communists screamed at people and bullied them, and people learned to act that way. I learned to cope with their attitudes. Romania is a shame culture, and if the others get out of line, they shame them to make them step back in line. I never scream back, but I have learned to shame Romanians. It goes completely against my nature, but if someone is always screaming and crying like a baby because you have something they want, you have to learn to deal with it. The Romanian way is to shame that person, so I have used shame on Romanians. They even have a sign where you put your finger on your cheek meaning that someone should be ashamed. I can swim in Romania even if it is not always easy.
When I lived in Nigeria, everyone was looking for a bribe. I always refused to give bribes, but other foreigners didn’t, and it made their lives easier. We always had a problem at the Education Ministry in Jos. We would go, and they would say, “Come back tomorrow,” and we went the next day and again, someone would say, “Come back tomorrow.” Every day, we were sent to a different office, and it took two weeks to do what it should have taken only one day. This Canadian lady I knew said she figured out how to change it all. She took bottles of wine with her to the Education Ministry. She gave a bottle of wine to every person she talked to, and they never told her to come back tomorrow. If she needed to go to another office, they sent her that day. If she needed a particular paper, they gave it to her that day. She got things done with her bottles of wine. I don’t condone bribery, but I truly understand what she was doing. She was swimming while we were barely floating because of our principle of no bribery.
When I was in Japan the second time, I stayed in a girl’s boarding house. The only toilets in that boarding house were squat toilets. I hate squat toilets! However, if that is all you have, that is what you must use. You have to learn to swim where ever you live.
When I cook, often, I can’t find the ingredients I need according to which country I am living in. I never depend on mixes like many American women in the States do because I wouldn’t know how to cook at all if I did because they are only available in America. I learn to make everything from scratch, and learn substitutions and alternative methods to make the recipes work. I learn new recipes of the countries where I live. If the only oven I can find is a toaster oven, I bake in a toaster oven, and we have wonderful pies, cakes, cookies, and breads anyway. I have had to learn how to swim, and I am a champion in the kitchen!
In some countries, they only have manual transmissions on their cars. Many Americans can only drive automatic transmissions, but most Romanians can only drive manual transmissions because the automatics haven’t been available to them. I had to learn to drive a manual transmission. You have to learn to live in other countries. In Japan, I had to learn to drive on the other side of he road and always back into my parking spots. Driving on the other side puts you off balance at first, but I learned to cope with it. In Japan, by law, you must back into the parking spot, and in some parking lots in Korea, even though it is not illegal not to do it, the people insist you do it anyway. I have become a champion at backing into parking spaces and parallel parking out of necessity. It was sink or swim, and I chose to swim. I am not afraid to drive on ice. After eight years of Romanian winters, I know all the rules of how not to slide and what to do if you get stuck.
To live in other countries, you have to understand that they will be different from where you are from. Their categories of thought, their hand gestures, their mannerisms, their way of doing things, what they expect, etc. —It is all different, and you are the foreigner. You can’t change them however much you would like. You just have to learn to deal with it all, sink or swim. Go home or cope, adapt. I learned a long time ago that if you panic, you drown. Have patience. Learn new ways. It can be fun. Initially, you may think it is fun, but after a while, you will be tired of the differences. The differences are not their fault. It is just a fact of life, and you are the fish in a new kind of water, so you have to learn to swim or sink. You have to forgive them for the differences. They didn’t create the differences, and they are in their own country, and they make the rules. You have to learn to follow their rules. You have to be patient and forgive if you want to live in other countries.