Have you ever wondered how the early European missionaries to Africa and the rest of the so called ‘Dark World’ reacted to the traditional greetings of the indigenous people? Maybe the early arrivals to Yoruba land would have been amused by the prostration of the male folks. I guess there might have been a few occasions where a very scriptural’ missionary would have told a man prostrating before him, ‘Please get up, I am not God, but a man like you.’ Does this ring a bell? See how the Apostle Paul reacted to the gesture of the guys in Iconium – Acts 14:8-18.
Do you know that in the 21st century, you can still experience culture shock when you are suddenly introduced to certain practices of cultures you have not been exposed to? I remember my encounter with a Beninoise woman in the year 2001 while pastoring the branch of TREM in Cotonou, Republic of Benin. She came to the church office to make a report about another member of the church. When I met her at the gate of the church, without warning she gave me a peck on the right then on the left cheek!
I stood there bewildered; transfixed like a statue hoping no one saw us! Unfortunately they did, but no one gave a hoot! After a few minutes my assistant who had been in the country for some years came in and I quickly recounted my experience to him. He laughed like no man’s business, but at last he explained to me that the French-speaking people greet by pecks on both cheeks. Phew! Was I relieved!
Culture shock can really be embarrassing at times. I have had other experiences with foreign cultures over the years, but today I always look forward to learning something from other cultures. God is Great! I wonder how He manages all this human confusion!
Reverend Ohio Simire writes from Lagos, Nigeria