Outside of the Foreigner (or English-Speaking) Bubble

This is the third year that I’ve been working at this private Chinese school, and I had a moment a few weeks back that ended up like a Chuck Norris roundhouse to the face.

I was spending time with our Father above, and it struck me how I don’t personally know that many teachers and staff at our school. When it comes to meals and time outside of the office, I tend to float close to those within the Foreigner, or English-Speaking, Bubble. (Both are worth mentioning since there are many Chinese nationals at our school who can speak English, and it’s quite easy to stick with them as well to remain comfortable.) Recently, I have thought back to the beginning of the year and the first day of work when the new/returning teachers were introduced. After we were greeted and applauded for our embarrassing speeches, the head of our Foreign English Department encouraged the whole staff to sit with us foreigners, say hello, and to “not be afraid to get to know us.” This video is on repeat in my head, but it’s one that I won’t probably click the ‘Like’ button for.

I can’t help but think time and time again about how I don’t know the people in the same building that I work at. Granted, there is a lot of staff, but why am I so comfortable with just sticking with those who I know? Why am I not willing to get to know others? Chinese… oh yes, there’s the language barrier. That can be solved. Try using it, failing and improving while getting to know others. Ask questions about the language and culture, and get the personal thoughts of another (believer or not). Stick with the Chinese food, even if it is fish filled with bones. It takes a lot to do some of these things in order to speak with nationals whom I don’t know, but it’s deeply satisfying knowing that it’s the Holy Spirit’s conviction pushing me to sit with them, speak with them, build a relationship, and watch them chow down on squid. (Maybe that last part isn’t true… hmm.)

What about the other English-speaking relationships? Well, I don’t ignore them, but the time does seem to go by better with those that don’t know English at all. Yes, I maintain these relationships in various ways, and the one with my wife is going great. (Speaking of… if you haven’t read Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage,” I’d strongly suggest it. Wow, do I have so much to learn…)

I say all of this to say… if you work in China, America, or wherever, and you don’t know the people around you, have you considered getting to know those around you without seeking to be heard? Or do you think they should be the ones to ask the first question, to take the initiative, and to get to know you? Have you considered going outside of the bubble you may have around you?


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