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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner


The tourist stage ends when we move from being outside visitors to becoming cultural insiders. This takes place when we establish our own homes, take responsibility for ourselves, and start making a contribution to the local community. It is here that frustrations and anxieties arise. We have language problems, shopping trouble, transportation woes, and laundry mix-ups. We are concerned about the cleanliness of our drinking water, food, and bedding and afraid of being cheated or robbed. We also feel left alone. Those who welcomed us so warmly have gone back to their work and now seem indifferent to our troubles.

The result is disenchantment. No longer is the strange culture exciting. Now it seems inscrutable and impossible to learn. Our normal response is hostility because the security of our lives is threatened. We find fault with the culture and compare it unfavorably with our own. We criticize the people and see each shortcoming as proof of their laziness and inferiority, developing stereotypes that caricature the host country in negative ways. We withdraw from the culture and take refuge in a small circle of foreign friends, or stay in our homes where we try to re-create the culture of our native land.

This stage marks the crisis in the disease. How we respond to it determines whether or not we stay and how we will ultimately adjust to the new culture. Most new missionaries drop below the "go home" line during this time (see Figure 12). We look for mail and talk about things we will do when we return "home." We write letters of resignation but do not mail them. After all, what would our friends or church say if we were to return?

Another process, however, is also at work during this stage, one we hardly notice. We are learning how to live in the new culture. We begin to realize that we can learn how to shop in the new language and use the local currency. As we make friends among the people, we start having good days. With a word of encouragement from older missionaries and national leaders, most of us throw away our letters of resignation and begin the long task of learning the language and adjusting to the new culture. Those who cannot make this transition may have to leave before they experience a nervous breakdown. Paul Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries

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