Life in the U.S can definitely condition you to interact with a certain level of caution or at the very least with a less then sociable demeanor depending on where you are from. For Nomadness Tribe member Lucas Barber he took a very guarded view of living to his recent travels to New Zealand. What he encountered in this initial engagements with the Kiwis was jarring. Take a look at Lucas' sentiments for the welcome he and his wife received.
I’d like to thank you! But, in order for you to understand my gratitude, I first need to give you some context. I grew up in the US, in a home where we never locked our door. Some, including myself, thought this was odd, but my parents didn’t think it posed any real threat so we learned to accept it. Although my family lived in a rural area, we were certainly the exception to the American rule at the time. My youth was unfortunately shaped by after-school TV specials, high-profile child abductions, high school shootings, and America’s Most Wanted – which combined would make my parents and I think that danger was lurking around every corner. At some point, I’m not sure when, trust stopped being freely given. If and when it was given, it was given from a safe distance.
If you haven’t noticed, we take our safety very seriously in America – from germs to terrorist and everything in between. It would be naïve for me to pretend that some of our fears are not justified based on the last twenty years of escalating violence and ever expanding threats, so I won’t. What I will tell you is that there has been a cultural shift in my country over the last twenty years. See, an unintended consequence of our concern for safety is that we have become jaded. The days of striking up a conversation with a stranger on public transit, letting children play with little to no supervision, or picking up hitchhikers are long gone. When you believe as we do, that every interaction you or your family have with people can cause you harm, it creates a hypervigilance where being guarded becomes your norm. “Stranger Danger” has become our mantra. Everyone and everything has become a threat, and our ability to experience meaningful human interaction has become nearly impossible. This is the great tragedy of the last few decades – we’ve lost our confidence in each other. If distrust is the material that has created our walls, fear is the foundation on which it is built. You won’t believe how deep the distrust runs so let me provide you with a few examples of things that cause me angst when I’m out; tell me if you can relate to any of them.
So what does my paranoia have to do with visiting New Zealand? Everything. When I think of culture I often think of food, fashion, music, or the arts, but by doing this I fail to recognize the values that are at the center of those outward expressions. Because I forgot this, I came to New Zealand looking forward to tasting the food, watching a haka, visiting galleries, and enjoying the famous vistas. I told myself that I came to learn and experience new things, but I did not know what that would mean for me. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable you Kiwis would make me. At first, I could not place why I repeatedly felt uncomfortable, but, after a week in the country my wife and I came to the same conclusion. During our first seven days in New Zealand, we had been recipients of so much unsolicited kindness and generosity that our human interaction paradigm was spinning. In those first few days people that hadn’t known us up until a few hours beforehand offered us rides, invited us to their homes for coffee and cake, invited us out to dinner in the city, took off work to show us around the country they were so proud of, engaged us in deep and meaningful conversation, bought us lunch and dinner, offered the use of their vehicles and homes to us, prepared us dinner, brought us home to meet their family, and even invited us to cross-fit with them. I will say it again in case you missed it – this was all in the first seven days!