This week blog is from Chantal (Rwandese), an ambitious, confident, happy soul, who’s always up for a laugh. Those are the words used by my volunteer friends. I’m an ICS in country volunteer (ICV) currently in Rutsiro, a district in the western province of Rwanda.
|Me - Chantal!|
I dreamt of working alongside European people, sharing a room, spending time together, making memories and becoming real friends. My dreams came true!
What I knew about UK people:
Before meeting the UK volunteers there were some part of their culture I was aware of. For instance, they like privacy, their dress code, sarcasm, complaining easily and they are quick decision makers.
I work together with volunteers from the United Kingdom (UKV’s). Although many young Rwandans speak English, most have not worked alongside people from the UK. ICS is a new experience for Rwandans as well as for the British volunteers.
Volunteers face many challenges, the biggest of which is culture shock. And you will be forgiven if you assumed like many others that culture shock is a problem only faced by overseas volunteers. Culture shock is as big of a challenge for ICV’s as it is for UKV’s. Spending time together working, chatting and doing leisure activities, you get to know each other’s differences and similarities.
We have learnt it is not about comparing our two cultures, but celebrating the differences and seeing what we can learn from each other.
There are some aspects that surprised me about UK culture, which shows how our amazing cultures are different.
Attitudes towards drinking:
Normally, in Rwanda there are people who consume beer, but many people choose not to. I learnt that for the UK volunteers, drinking is part of their culture. In Rwanda is it not common to see a girl drinking beer, but in the UK this is very normal.
Attitudes towards sex:
Sex is not openly discussed in Rwandan culture, mainly for religious reason. The majority of Rwandans are Christians. Most Christians believe that sex should only occur within marriage. I believe the same. You can then understand why I was shocked to hear UKV’s talk about sex openly as one of their basic needs.
It was a normal working day, me and some of the UKV’s were having a normal chat until the topic of sex came up, and I heard one them saying “I miss SEX!” When I heard this, I was surprised because I can only say that I miss someone and the rest I keep it secretly.
Attitudes towards weight:
Rwandan families are happy when their children put weight on and we like people who tell us we are becoming fat. The UKV’s dislike being called fat, and prefer to be called skinny! Imagine the difference!
As I said there are positive aspects of UKV’s that make me happy and I adopted them to my culture.
I like the flexibility of UKV's - they can try new things; food they didn’t ever eat, having baths using buckets, talking slowly so we can understand. That’s good for everyone who is living in new places. I like the motto of “please try it” as long as this causes no harm.
We always like to be busy at work though we can get tired easily. I was surprised by some of the UK V's games (energizers) which boost morale and keep us effective at work.
I like how the UKV’s emphasize their ideas until they are heard by everyone. They have great confidence and stand by what they say – this is good!
Our cultural differences have helped us to get to know each other by respecting each of our cultures. Here in Rutsiro, we are a big family of Rwandans and UK volunteers. This is a result of patience, flexibility and respecting the needs of others. Nothing should be taken for granted, when we work together, we are all winners!