Over the years I have seen general trends in short-term teams that come and visit Mexico. Obviously there are exceptions, but generally speaking, the farther north and the farther east a team is, the more industrious and hard-working they tend to desire to be. The farther west and south, the more relational and “fun-loving” a group tends to be. For a church group from PA, digging footers and pouring concrete from sun up to sun down is rewarding. Working non-stop in ministry activity is par for the course. They want to feel productive, and that they’ve “accomplished” something, and haven’t “wasted” their and other’s time and resources.
A group from the south and west is different. They are much more intrigued about family and relational elements. They have no guilt issues just hanging out for a day or two (or three). They enjoy getting to know people, and are intrigued by Mexican hospitality.
The book that visitors to the field will be reading this summer is Foreign to Familiar, by Sarah A. Lanier. In it, the author explores the general cultural distinctives, and divides up the world in “hot” and “cold” cultures.
“Hot” cultures are based on relationships, and a “feel-good” sort of atmosphere is desired. Tasks take a back seat to friendship. “Cold” cultures are based on efficiency, and feelings are not as important, just factual information. Tasks are more important than relationship.
Much of what is in Lanier’s book are principles that I’ve been teaching in orientation classes for years! It’s fun to read about it in this short book, and be reminded again how important and significant culturally appropriate interaction really is!