Accepting differences isn’t easy when someone thinks differently than I do. Many years ago we invited an older couple over for dinner. As we sat down to eat the husband reminded me to put the bread on the table. I didn’t know what he was talking about. What bread?
I quickly learned that sliced bread and butter was a staple item at every meal in his home. Embarrassed that I wasn’t ready for this cultural difference, I quickly hunted down some sandwich bread and butter.
I learned something, but I’m not sure our friend did as he continued to complain. He wouldn’t have done well in Finland.
There is plenty of yummy bread and butter served at Finnish meals, especially Karelian Pies (see photo at the top of this post.), but accepting other differences can be hard if you are an old goat . . . *gulp* . . . I mean . . . “someone who doesn’t adjust well to change.”
Here are some examples (and I enjoy all of them) followed by the secret to accepting differences:
This is a typical breakfast in Finland. The other is cold cereal or hot oats. No one “cooks breakfast” in Finland. (My daughter-in-law finds it interesting that parents would serve their children bacon and eggs for breakfast. “No, no, no . . . .”)
Dishes are washed and placed above the sink in a cabinet to drip dry. Note the racks for drying. The cabinet doors shut and hide the drying dishes. Many homes have dishwashers also.
You’ll find few bathtubs, but a sauna is almost always part of the bathroom/shower area. Look for the handy floor drain and the floor squeegee for cleaning up after you shower.
The clothes drying rack is in every home, but you will only have light if you bring your own light fixtures to your new apartment or home. Yes, you heard me right–every light fixture–even the ones on the ceilings. (We did find American Pringles–that’s them on the table. Some things ya just gotta have to get by.)
A soapstone fireplace circulates the heat in the fireplace and heats the home. Electrical heating also heats the house through the floors. Along with a soapstone fireplace, older homes use a large tank of oil underground to feed the burners of oil that heat the water and heat the house. A “long-distance” system heats a group of homes or apartments with hot water running through the walls and floors fed from a city factory.
The Secret to Accepting Differences
My son, Jonathan, has adjusted well to living in Finland with his wife, Sanna, and baby son, Eli. While visiting him I came up with some thoughts on accepting differences when needed:
- Embrace the differences. Let them stretch and grow you in grateful and graceful ways. After all, we can fully expect to see every culture represented before God’s throne giving worship in ways unique to their time, place, and experience in history. If God likes it, we had better adjust our opinions to match his.
- Use the opportunity to understand a different person or culture. Consider it an educational experience.
- Accepting differences doesn’t mean you always agree with what is different, and you can honor another’s right to choose differently than you. It’s one thing to express disagreement, it is another to devalue someone for her different opinion or preference. Face it, even God loves those who disagree with him. Should we do less?
- Incorporating a tradition or practice from your life into the one you are experiencing can make for a healthy compromise.
Jon does this. In California, he learned to bar-b-que regardless of the weather. His Finnish neighbors think he is nuts for bar-b-quing in the snow without a bar-b-que hut. They save it for spring and summer. Sanna, however, enjoys a good California bar-b-que any time of year.
I know that many differences are more difficult to live with than cultural ones, but the principles for accepting people remain the same. How have you learned to accept differences with your extended family and work associates?
Growing with you, Susan
“Jesus likes it when we share.” -Adelaide, age 3: Pass this along to everybody and their brother. OK, maybe not everybody’s brother, but you know . . . all of your friends would be nice.