How to Become a Natural at Crossing Cultures

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2017-08-14 cd How To Become A Natural At Crossing Cultures

Becoming A Natural…When I Wasn’t At First

Just this morning I took a moment to review my week. I gave some good thought to how I had spent my time.

I took a vigorous morning walk (a weekly appointment) with my longtime Chinese friend. A bit later that day I enjoyed tea and macaroons with my Pakistani friend. And then later that day, I connected with a new lady in my circles who hails from Syria.

No question, I learned a lot! Especially from the Syrian woman. She had quite some stories to tell about her experiences. Another blog post, for sure.

Today I will enjoy lunch with a German friend, and then tonight we will have four couples with their children over to our home. These four families hail from Lebanon, Hungary and Indonesia.

No major events or gatherings. Just a “typical” week. Lots of work done here and there. But the real work – the best work, I believe – is in relating with people.

Was I always a natural at this? Was my life always filled with interactions like this, with people from completely different backgrounds from mine?

A Sheltered Childhood

No. Growing up, my life was as “white suburbanite” as you could imagine. Most of my friends were white. I grew up in what I now believe was a bubble not wanting to be burst.

But it was at age 14, while on a cruise with my family, when my bubble popped. My first encounter with poverty and differentness in Haiti rocked my world, at least my inner world, in a massive way. That encounter left an indelible mark. I share that story here.

My curiosity about the world had been there for a long time, but this was when I understood the reality of people living very different – and often more materially disadvantaged – lives than I.

The internet was not around at the time to show me that. Even the TV I consumed as a child and teenager rarely brought the harsh realities of life in other places into our living room. It was mostly a vehicle of entertainment.

We did have some short-term exchange students, mostly from Japan, live with us while I was in high school. Getting to know some of them opened my eyes up to a larger world as well.

The World Beckons

Maybe I’m just strange. But the “world out there” has always beckoned me. National Geographic Magazines – and their TV specials – did much to whet my curiosity early on to explore more.

And it wasn’t just about experiencing it. It was about making a difference, about contributing something to make that world a better place. Somewhere along the line, that got planted in my heart as well.

Perhaps it all came to a head in college. I felt myself inextricably drawn to major in International Relations (IR). Even though I tried a few other fields, IR just “felt right.” It fit like a really good pair of pants for me.

I aspired to be an ambassador, with a capital “A.” I felt certain I would head into the Foreign Service. But a few things changed in me along the way.

Becoming A Different Type of Ambassador

For one, I made a choice to walk with Jesus during my college years. I put my future and my life into His hands. And I also met the man I would eventually marry (although I had no plans for anything like that to “get in my way” when I had entered college).

Our partnership has been an exhilarating and fulfilling one. In time, we traveled a road into Christian ministry service to international students together.

Now, some 30 years beyond my college graduation, with marriage, numerous stints abroad, several jobs, ministry service, and the raising of three children mostly under my belt, I am still doing IR. I am still the “ambassador” I had intended to be, albeit with a different title and less worldly distinction.

This Ambassadorship Can Be Yours, Too

The awesome secret about this calling, is that you can do it too. In fact, my organization relies on close to 24,000 volunteers to carry out its work. Without them, the worldwide staff of around 200–300 would barely make a dent.

Nowadays, no matter where you live, you can connect with and impact the nations. And even if you don’t see a single person from another nation around you, the incredible technology available now can allow us to build relationships and impact lives with God’s incredible love.


What are you waiting for? You can build into the lives of future leaders from around the world in impacting ways!

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Caroline DePalatis

Founder & Interculturalist at CultureWeave
Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she's still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer's awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there's dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!
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Interculturalist

Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she’s still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer’s awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there’s dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!