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The Up's and Down's of Being a Missionary

September 19, 2016

Acclimatization is something that missionaries, or anyone moving to a new culture, learn about well.  Get used to, probably not; master, never.

Acclimatizing, in layman's terms (which is what I need), just means to figure out life in a new place.  Understand the new climate.  When you move, you uproot your life: leave your friends and family, church, home and house, your familiar town and roads that you know by heart, and the food you grew to love.

As we are still in the midst of this transition, it's a great time to talk about some of the ups and downs.

We went through a bit of training to help make the transition to England a little easier.  We understood that no matter how much training and preparation we received, there were still going to be plenty of hurdles and stressors to overcome.

So, for us, here are the top 4 things we have learned (or are learning) and dealing with in our new life in beautiful Yorkshire.  In no particular order:

1)    Decision fatigue

2)    The "other" side of the road

3)    Say what?

4)    Grocery shopping

 The "other" side of the road

It's no secret that Brits drive on the left side of the road.  And, as we were taught and told many times and many ways, other cultures are not wrong, just different.  But, after 24 hours of travel and a red eye flight, and 15 years of driving on the right side of the road, driving on the left side of the road sure does seem "wrong"...

Many of our friends and family have inquired about this difficulty.  Driving is just one of those things you learn to do, it's ingrained in you, like riding a bike or tying your shoes. You just do it.  How do you teach yourself to do it differently? With plenty of awareness and concentration!  Aside from being on the other side of the road, another difference with British roads are the amount of signs.  They're everywhere!  And, guess what, they're different!  Just when I was getting used to every random sign in the States, they've all changed!

How so?  Some of the quirkiest we've noticed: A roundabout within a roundabout.  Brits love, and are equally as proud of their roundabouts.  But...just why? Secondly, an "Elderly people crossing" ... Good to know, thanks! 

Say what?

How does that saying go? "We are two nations separated by a common language."  We have the added benefit of living in Yorkshire, which has it's own dialect within the English language.  "Fancy a cuppa or pud (said like put)?"  "Just going to nip to the loo."   "Smashing!"  Oh, and remember a few years ago the random phrase of "Bob's your uncle" came into the American vernacular?  Yeah, that's British.  Still no idea what is means.

Thankfully people in the office are forgiving, understanding, and are more than happy to just laugh and say "No, you can't say that because...".  We have the added benefit of being close to a few coworkers, where we can just say "Ok, why is ___ bad to say? And, what should I say instead?"  You just can't take yourself too seriously.  You have to be willing to laugh.

Decision fatigue

After making so many decisions, you begin to feel it in more than just your head, your whole body becomes exhausted.  We were warned that this would happen, and more importantly, it's normal and ok to be so tired.  In fact, another couple said they were just physically beat for at least the first month of being there.  And they weren't even really "working" yet.

Sure, there's the big decisions of "where are we going to live" and "how do I get around town".  But there are other things that you just don't realize that you take for granted when you grow up there.  Like, how do I get a bank account, when it requires a permanent residence?  Or, how do I get a permanent residence, when it requires a bank account?  Ok, now I've made it to the grocery store (a big feat in itself the first week or 2 in a new place), now where do they keep the baking soda?  Do they call it something different?" And after 10 minutes of looking, "Does this place even have baking soda?" The simple task of grocery shopping for 3 days worth of food has become a multi-hour ordeal, and why do I need a nap now?!?

We are continually blessed by those we work with.  About any and every question we have, someone in the office is able, and happy, to help answer.  Too bad we are somewhat stubborn and don't always ask...!

Grocery shopping

And speaking of grocery shopping, that is an interesting one too.  As mentioned, things are just in different places.  Sure, being England, we have many of the same things.  From Walmart's own equivalent (Asda) and an Aldi, right down to any cleaning product we may need.  But, it may have a different name, or most certainly is in a different location in the store than what makes sense to us.  For instance, when looking for baking soda, it's called bicarbonate of soda...isn't that a mouthful!  Also, dishwashing detergent: washing up liquid.  Eggs are not refrigerated, which is important to remember on hot days when you keep the windows open and don't have A/C!

Being in the Bradford area, which houses one of the largest Middle Eastern immigrant population in the UK, some of the only things you can buy in bulk are basmati rice and sunflower oil.


All that to say, it's a wonderful challenge that keeps life interesting, and we wouldn't want to change any of it.

Zach and Katie King serve as missionaries in our Europe/Eurasia region doing video and recruiting work!  Click here to know more about our ministry in Europe/Eurasia. 


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