Just where are you at on integrating?
At a recent course on intercultural communication, the topic of integration was quickly brought up by one of the non-Norwegians in the classroom. Except that he didn’t call it that, but had just reacted to a question I’d written on the board before starting class:
What does getting to know Norwegians mean to you?
He wanted to know, what exactly did I mean by asking them that question?
Well, I answered, in the course description it says that this course will “give you certain guidelines on how to 1) connect with and 2) get to know Norwegians.
So I wondered if it might not be smart to define the phrase as part of helping you do that.
He felt that it meant making true friends. People you hang out with and who you help/help you, close relationships that go the distance.
Others shook their heads.
No, they said, getting to know just means you’re good acquaintances. Like being friendly with co-workers but not talking about anything personal.
Still others thought even good aquaintances might be aiming a bit too high. Take away ‘good’. Like saying hello to your next door neighbor when catching their eye while walking down the driveway to your car. And being okay with leaving it at that.
Is the whole thing – connect and get – a two-step process, I asked. The first step is relatively easy to do – saying hello to someone. That’s connecting, isn’t it?
But it’s the second part that can make ‘the nons’ frustrated and unhappy if they let it. Because what if you don’t have any clear idea of what getting to know means to you?
Or what if you have a very clear idea, yet those ‘natives’ in your life don’t seem willing to fit into that idea, no matter how hard you feel you try to get them to do so?
Isn’t this what integration is all about? ‘Nons’ and ‘natives’ meeting each other in a way that satisfies both their definitions of what getting to know means?
Maybe you should start by finding out what getting to know means to you. And take it from there.