BOOK REVIEW: A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing Cultures

‘Everyone has a culture but recognising the impact of culture on relationships is not always so easy.’

The global village has arrived. How can we build friendships with our new global neighbours?

In this practical book, cultural expert Patty Lane helps us to see the effect of culture as we seek to build bridges with those from other nations who have come to the west. Though it’s aimed predominately at an American audience, many of its insights will prove invaluable in ministry among diaspora groups in many different contexts, and most likely in cross-cultural ministry more broadly.

Cultural Lenses

How can we learn to understand differences between culture? One way is by intentionally viewing cultures through different “lenses”. Lane helpfully gives us six different ways to do this:

  • context
  • activity
  • authority
  • identity
  • time
  • worldviews

Each of these is given a chapter, helping us to understand cultures at a deeper level and see where miscommunications may occur.

Lane draws on her own experiences of helping others deal with cross-cultural challenges and this helpfully illustrates her explanations. Many of these are in the context of multicultural churches, showing the challenges that occur due to cultural differences, even among believers.

A Practical Handbook

A Beginner’s Guide is suitably named, as it is approachable and practical. The book is clearly designed to be applied, with questions for reflection at the end of each chapter, exercises to carry out, and a very useful series of appendices. If you are not actively involved with building cross-cultural relationships, or a multicultural church, then these questions might not be as immediately relatable, but they are well chosen to prompt your thinking around building cross-cultural friendships. If, like me, you live in the UK or are from a British cultural background, you may have to look past the presumed American context (especially since the book is a few years old) but if you can, you’ll find a wonderfully practical guide to building effective cross-cultural friendships.

In Summary

If you find it challenging to relate to people from other cultures, or simply wish to understand them better, this book is a great place to start. Invest some time in reflecting on the concepts it explains and the questions it poses, and I am sure that misunderstandings will diminish, and multicultural relationships will be strengthened.

Want to learn more about reaching your Muslim neighbour? Why not read this handy series of articles written by long-term cross-cultural workers, or invite our team to deliver some tailor-made cross-cultural training for your church or Christian group?

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