BLOG: Are you culturally prepared? Part one

Working cross-culturally opens up amazing opportunities to expand your worldview, meet new people and to have your faith challenged and stretched. However, as we enter new cultures we soon realise we have a whole lot of learning to do, from how to greet people, to table manners, attitudes to time keeping, what to wear, and a myriad of other dos and don’ts. Few can escape the odd embarrassing moment, where eyebrows are raised and awkward glances exchanged – all whilst you hastily try and work out what you’ve done wrong.

Whilst such moments are inevitable and can usually be laughed about later, plenty can be done to prepare yourself for the culture you’ll be engaging with. Such preparation not only helps lesson culture shock, but also makes it easier to build friendships, and to share the gospel in a sensitive and effective way.

Here are 3 top tips for being cross-culturally prepared:

1) Know why culture matters

Whether heading overseas on a short-term or long-term trip, or engaging with Arab Muslims here in the UK, we need to be aware of how culture (both theirs and ours) affects our interactions with others. We think that a great place to start is The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, which is a good introduction to the power of cultural differences.

For engaging with Arab Muslims, it’s worth getting a broad overview of their worldview. Books like Engaging with Muslims give practical guidance on how to share your faith as well as cultural practices to be aware of. Also keep your eye out for our ‘Introduction to Islamics’ training events, and courses like Friendship First.


2) Get specific insights

Whilst generalisations can be made about Arab-Muslim culture, there is still huge variation across the Arab world, sometimes even amongst different generations in the same household. If you know you will be heading to a particular country, or people group, it’s worth seeking out someone who has been there before, or is currently living there, so that they can give you more specific insights into the culture and what to be aware of. There are also plenty of handy books and web articles which can give you an idea of cultural dos and don’ts. If you are planning on a short or long-term trip with us, we’ll always provide cross-cultural training, and link you with someone in country before you go.


3) Be prepared for culture shock

Engaging with any culture different to your own, especially when overseas travel is involved, has its challenges. After the initial excitement wears off, many people experience culture shock – that realisation and frustration that even mundane tasks like going to the bank, or getting phone credit, are extra effort. Without our usual social cues, we can feel absolutely lost. Do this day-after-day and we can easily get disheartened, depressed and disillusioned. Before engaging cross-culturally it can be really helpful to speak to people about their experiences of culture-shock, and to get tips on strategies to help you deal with it well. For example, having a group of people you can text with prayer requests, bringing activities with you that help you relax, and planning space for regular time out with God are all proactive steps you can take before heading out on cross-cultural mission.


When God calls us to share His Good News in a culture different to our own there will be challenges, but God gives us the strength and resources to do what He has called us to. At AWM-Pioneers we seek to resource, equip and prepare people, so that they can follow the call God has placed on their heart, and be sustainable and effective in the culture He has called them to. If you’re looking to a cross-cultural future, let us know and we’ll see how we can help.

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