Accessing a community is much like hacking into a bank’s computer system. It either takes a code, mad esoteric nerd skills, or time. When you don’t know the computer’s language, just add one power of magnitude to the difficulty of access.
As written in a previous post, I have tried to use the code of couchsurfing.org as my entrance into the system that is my new home, Montpellier, France. And if you’ve parachuted into a new country before, where you don’t speak the language, you must use whatever codes and nerd abilities as you can muster to crack into an entire culture, one unsuspecting host at a time. One of the main tools you may employ is “open-mindedness.”
Open-mindedness in action is saying yes, accepting difference even when it’s uncomfortable.
I arrived in the late afternoon into the Montpellier airport after a horribly long layover at Gatwick and an even longer period crunched into a window seat of an Airbus 319 from Toronto. I left behind a snowstorm and walked out into palm trees and Mediterranean heated breeze. Gorgeous, non?
I was picked up in Place de la Comédie and we walked to my host’s place. An interesting and spiritual soul, we talked and drank some wine for a few hours. Then the conversation moves to “naturalisme.” I’m thinking nature, non? “Oh, me too! Totally love naturalisme.” All of a sudden my host began pulling off shirts and pants. Efficient too – buck naked in just a few seconds.
Open-mindedness is tested constantly in new places with new people. So, as they say, when naked in Rome… I’ve been to Wreck Beach and feel quite comfortable in the raw. So, there I was, hours into my new community and the ice was long but broken between us. I’d hacked into the mainframe.
I’ve been in my new community for nearly five days now and everything else has seemed easy and simple compared to that first night. And the real work begins. Opening the doors of this new community will indeed take understanding those social codes, lots of smiling, and a keen eye for those who may be my new community.
But the question hangs: how far are you willing to go to be open-minded? How far is too far? Can you lose yourself by trying to fit in?