Jared, Haven, and I were discussing the presentation we will be giving regarding religion in Brazil. An observation that was raised was that the Brazilian’s are much more open with their bodies and physical affection then American’s. Now, this is the culture in Brazil. It is what people expect and it is neither out of the ordinary nor wrong. However, we got to talking about how one would translate this behavior going back to the States and here is where we started to run into a dilemma.
The Beijo – this Brazilian way of greeting others – is a wonderful cultural way of greeting people. When we were at church and we did the passing of the peace everyone gave us hugs and it was the best passing of the peace I have experienced. A friend of mine said she was going to just keep hugging and kissing everyone when she gets back to the stated, and another friend gave her a look that said something along the lines of “really?” This furthers my dilemma: how do different cultures with different expectations of personal boundaries relate to each other?
We were at a Zouk (pronounced Zoukie) dance the other day – this is a very intimate partner dance – and again I started to wonder about how Christian culture relates to openness and personal boundaries. This is not the first time this issue has stumped me; in the States, I went to a blues dance which is, likewise, a very intimate partner dance and I struggled with the same issue.
The first thing one needs to understand when addressing an issue like this is that these dances are heavily related to, and born out of, a culture. Therefore one must be extremely cautious to constantly understand and be consciously clear that one is not degrading, defiling, or speaking prejudicially against a culture and people.
Being in a different culture, one sees similarities and differences to one’s own. In these similarities and differences one starts to think more about one’s won culture. What is good in one’s culture? What is bad? What can one learn from other cultures and adopt? What might one want to adopt, but cannot for the sake of one’s own culture?
-David T Wilkinson