Thursday, April 28, 2016

No, You May Not

We are right on the brink.

Furlough is mere weeks away.

It sounds easy enough, right? Buy plane tickets, pack, and head out.

I wish it were that easy. Instead we have to arrange someone to stay in our home. We have to make sure those working in the church in our absence are ready. We have to design updated prayer cards, display banners, and make a new video. We have to schedule meetings with churches. Furlough preparation is a lot of work!

And then there are the little things. Very... important... little things.

There are little things like training our children to re-enter American culture. (And reminding ourselves about American culture, too!)

It seems easy, right? After all, we are Americans.

But increasingly, I find myself saying, "Oh, we can't do that in America." Around the dinner table it seems I have noticed how much we have adapted to the culture. It's great here, but on furlough?

For three and a half years, we have lived among a people who have completely different manners and different standards of what is acceptable. So how do we train our children for furlough? How do I prepare my college-bound son to reintegrate? How do we prepare ourselves?

The conversations go a lot like this:

Son, in American you cannot wear that. It's fine here, but athletic socks with your church clothes and shoes will not work in America.

I know usually I tell you just to pick it up and eat it with your hands, but in America they rarely use their hands for things like that. So let's practice how you have to eat this in America.

It's no big deal here, but please don't ever talk with your mouth full when we are in the States.

Michaela, we are going to have to practice reaching out to shake men's hands without looking like we are touching a dead frog. It's normal for men and women to shake hands there.

Yes, you will have to wear your shoes in church there... and, no, you may not take them off when no one is looking.

Burping is rude in America. So, let's try not to do it here. It will be good practice.

Don't stare.

No, you may not wear socks with your sandals in the States.

People in the States are very sensitive about their weight. Do not call anyone fat. Yes, I know it's a common conversation here. Yes, I know people call us fat here. America is different. Let's just treat that word like a bad word while we are in the States, ok?

No, you most certainly may not walk all the way to the store in the States!

Stop staring.

Don't slurp your drink. You cannot do that in the States. If the straw makes noise, it means you are done. (And, no, it doesn't matter if our national friends think this is the stupidest rule ever.)

People in the States have an imaginary three foot bubble around them. Stay out of their bubble. No, I am not joking.

Um, if you see two men or two women holding hands in the States, it doesn't mean friendship. So, don't do that.

In the States... Always... flush... toilets.

You don't have to turn the water off in the shower while you soap up there.

I said no staring.

No, you don't have to wait for the power to come back on to do that there. The power stays on there.

Stripes and plaids do not go together there. And you can't wear the same clothes two days in a row there.

You have to get a clean plate each time you go for more food at a buffet restaurant.

You have to wear a seat belt. It's the law. Everywhere. Yes, in every State.

There is a seating capacity in the States. You can't just keep piling people in the vehicle. There has to be a seat belt for each person.

It's rude to talk in another language other than English in the presence of someone who doesn't know that language. No, I don't know why.

Are you still staring? You gotta stop that.

No, you cannot wear your tennis shoes with your nice church dress there.

Never reach across someone at the dinner table. You have to ask for what you need instead. I know they see it as laziness here. Remember the three foot imaginary bubble?

And, yes, we will sit on pews... no, you may not sit on the floor. The pews are padded. You will like it.

Stop staring...

There is no need to carry toilet paper. Every bathroom has some. Why are you looking at me funny? I am not kidding!

Stand in line, and don't jump to the front. Don't forget the three foot bubble. No, no one is going to jump in line in front of you. People in America all stand in lines, and they get crabby if someone breaks that rule.

They will not know what petrol is. You have to say "gas." And we have to pump our own "gas."

It's o.k. if you forgot the English words to the song... they will have hymnals in English there.

Just remember, America needs Christ, too, and there are brothers and sisters in Christ there who will love us no matter how quirky we have become.

Are you STILL staring?


X's and O's on Layaway said...

I can't stop laughing!!!

Jessi said...

Hilarious post and oh so true! I am sure we can all relate no matter where in the world we serve!

Cathy Womble said...

Hahaha so true. I am fond of my bubble.

Olivia said...

Oh my!! You made me laugh.

Helensue Christian said...

"No, you cannot wear your tennis shoes with your nice church dress there." Why not? But you can wear flip flops. We got in trouble several times jumping in line in front of people at the store. Enjoy your time and have a safe trip!

D.A. Brosius said...

And try not to kiss the pastors on the cheek at each church we visit, especially you, son!

Vicki Weimer said...


Anonymous said...

You can eliminate one of these if you come to NJ. We're special; we don't pump our own gas!

Patty said...

Priceless! Still laughing!

Lisa Felsman said...

Which African country have you been in? Love this! MK from Kenya, those warnings would have been helpful for us growing up, lol!

Lisa Felsman said...

Which African country have you been in? Love this! MK from Kenya, those warnings would have been helpful for us growing up, lol!

Loice Morrison said...

Ohhh this so good! "it's no big deal here, but please don't ever talk with a mouthful of food while we are in the States" living in America, but I'm still working on that one...

martha68 said...

it is pretty funny:) but a few things have changed since you were here too! there are people who take their shoes off sometimes and like walking in their homes barefoot. not all churches dress up. in some places, you can find people who speak foreign languages and your kids will probably enjoy that:) it still is rude to carry on a conversation with another person in that language w/o permission, but it can be granted...especially if that other person doesn't speak english.

the other fun thing is that not all americans know all those rules. they might find a few in their schools/college who don't:) there are some americans who don't believe in the 3 foot rule and love to hug. your kids will probably be drawn to them as well:) hope the adjustment to the US isn't too difficult.

Anonymous said...

Our daughter and family are returning to the states soon.... This was forward from her and we laughed and laughed .... Her 90 year old grandfather is still adjusting to her being in Africa but smiled at some of the No you can't statements our daughter added ... Like no you can't carry your machete where ever you go ... Even if you did get it as a gift .... He he he and and I love the one about riding on top of the truck ... It was a blast when I did it (in my 50's) while on a visit there....

RebeccaC said...

Wiping tears of mirth from my cheek! lol

Have you been eavesdropping at our house??? We've been doing the furlough/deploy/repeat cycle for over 10 years and believe it or not it does get, that's a lie...I've just let go of a lot of stuff. We just have adapted to the fact that we're a strange mix of American and Latino culture with homeschooling thrown in. :)

Last night, after my kids were chastised by a pool guard at the hotel where we're staying, my youngest daughter commented, "Why is it that no matter where we go, we're always the ones that get called on stuff? I guess it's cause we always do dangerous stuff and don't really pay much attention to rules." Yep. That pretty much nails it.

Just relax...ultimately, fitting in to American culture is overrated. ;)

Steve Spinella said...

Of course, those same kids will remind you about all the things you got wrong, mom, when you get back "home."
And I am sorry about taking my shoes off in church. The other things I'm unrepentant about, especially wearing the same pants day after day until I notice the stains...but then I'm old now and my mom is long gone :-)

Anonymous said...

No, you may not wear socks with your sandals ANYWHERE ON GOD's GREAT EARTH.

Barb said...

So, so funny! I'm an adult MK and still need to be reminded of these rules!In our MK high school in the Philippines, we could always tell the kids from Indonesia because they stared, Now I get it ... Great article!

texan2430 said...

Love these comments! I have been retired from Korea for 23 years now, and I think I have mostly settled for being considered a little odd. But I wouldn't trade for a million dollars.

Anonymous said...

I remember crossing the street when we returned to the U.S. tech it was "Jay-walking" but I was used to playing pack-man (criss-crossing cars to get to the other side) I was totally shocked as this car I walked up to (i planned to wait for the car to drive by and then continue to walk) but the car stopped right in front of me and waited for me to keep walking... making it painfully obvious to me that I was doing something wrong. lol

Rene Foran said...

Charity this was perfect. I remember folks backing away from us at church that 3 foot bubble is hard to remember. Did you also get their cousins and aunts and uncles pictures out and practice their names? (I didn't want to die of embarrassment when we met family - I wanted our kids to know their names). My Moms' home was usually our first stop before finding a home to stay in. It was good because she removed all the trash cans from the bathrooms and our kids got used to flushing TP again instead of "canning" it. I can still see my 2 year old daughter laying down on the wall to wall carpet and running her hands over it and commenting that the floor was so soft. Many memories. I love my adopted country and I love the USA. Rene

Charles Sperry said...

As an MK, I find this hilariously accurate :)

Stu Talené said...

I'm an MK too, from a very different place than the States. There are matters of etiquette in which I'm sure I still stand out from normal Americans, even after 20 years. And I'm ok with that. Your kids are MK's now. They'll never be normal Americans again. And that's going to be ok ...eventually. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! And, there are several people in my U.S. American church that don't wear shoes at all!

Clare Koens said...

Oh yes - I'm going to be telling my children nearly all these things when we go back to the UK and the US next year. (Except that in the UK we can walk to the shops :-) )

Anonymous said...

We do wear socks with sandals here in the Northwest!

Marion said...

Thank you for this! It is familiar and hilarious!

Jemima Puddleduck said...

As an ex MK I can relate to this! My kids as MK's were younger adapting to the 'home' culture but still found things hard mainly because I wasn't at home in it myself!

John Roper said...

Lol! These are so true! When our kids grow up in these other cultures it can be a challenge as a parent to get them used to the norms of their passport country. Thanks for sharing.

Robin said...

That was great! So funny and yet so true! It's so hard sometimes for our kids to readapt to the culture of our home country. But keeping a sense of humor about it all, really helps!! :)