JCS, a Cross- Cultural Living and Learning Community
JCS is a place where languages and cultures come together. We have people from numerous countries. Many of us do not speak English as our first language. American author H. Jackson Brown, Jr. wrote, “Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.” It is true that before calling Mongolia our home, many of us have already learned one, two, or three foreign languages. Some of us have also lived and worked in other countries. Even if all of us speak English, it still does not guarantee we fully understand each other!
Cross-cultural learning is really like learning a new language. When it comes to language, it is more than just sounds and words. Often non-verbal communication makes up a lot of ground, building bridges between two cultures. Sharing a cup of tea, a gesture of appreciation, a tone of affirmation, all are tools of communication that help two strangers build friendship and trust without relying on words. And these baby steps must be repeated multiple times before we actually feel at home in JCS, embracing this cross-cultural community.
Then we have another challenge. Learning Mongolian language and culture is difficult for many of us. A senior JCS staff may tell you, “Don’t point with your finger; use your mouth.” It definitely takes some practice before you can do that! Then another JCSer may tell you, “Never return a food container empty; always put some candies inside.”“When you take off your hat, never put it upside down,” an old Mongolian may advise, because in the old belief, your spirit may fly out if your hat is upside down.
Learning a new language and culture can be challenging but also fun. For this Horizons we have invited some JCS staff to share their experiences. Whether the writers are from Switzerland, Holland, or Sweden, whether they are old or young, cultural adjustments can be difficult. But they are delightfully surprised how speaking the Mongolian language helps them build bridges to the hearts of the Mongolian people.