If you’ve ever talked to someone who grew up in a different culture, you know just how fascinating it can be to learn about another country and its foods and celebrations.
But even as we celebrate each culture’s quirks, it can be easy for us to say or do something that might come across as offensive. A real-life example … when I was in college, I went to Brazil, and I kept giving everyone the “OK” hand sign. Which is odd, because I don’t do that much in real life. And extra odd, because the missionary we were working with quickly let me know it’s actually an offensive gesture!
Now, there’s no way I can come up with EVERY faux pas from every culture. But here are some things to consider when you send your next letter.
(And a side note – don’t let this be a hindrance to writing your child! We have amazing translators who know how to avoid anything that would be damaging. But it’s always good to know how to communicate in ways that are loving and respectful!)
You’ve probably received emails at some point about things like local conflicts and natural disasters in the countries where you sponsor. Asking your child how they’re doing after a hurricane is one thing. But asking them to weigh in on conflicts in their country is another.
Even if the child you sponsor is older, in many countries it is not appropriate to say anything that may seem critical of the decisions or actions of the local government. While you may acknowledge your child is facing a challenging situation, refrain from commenting on the nature and details of the conflict. And be sure not to criticize any of the parties involved in the conflict.
Try this instead: Simply let them know that you’re praying. Express to them that although you don’t exactly know what they’re going through, you’re thinking of them. Encouraging words and Bible verses remind them that they’re not alone — and that you’re thinking of and praying for them often.
Lost in Translation
Think about all the things you say every day that would get lost in translation. I’ll get you started.
“I’m so pumped.”
“Sick as a dog.”
“That’s a piece of cake.”
You may not use any American phrases like that in your letters. But make sure you’re speaking clearly and plainly — kind of like you would talk to a child in your day-to-day life!
Try this: Show, don’t tell. Describe things in your letters, and avoid clichés and American phrases. It’s good practice in clear and compelling writing!