Multicultural Manners: The Art of Kindness on Guam

Christian, Christian womanhood, etiquette, Guam,, island, kindness, manners

When I was a teenager, I came across a 1st edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette. Being a lover of old books, I glanced through it and was overwhelmed with all the details and rules about how to conduct oneself in society, how to set a table, how to do nearly everything, it seemed. 

Several years later my interest in the subject grew, and I was encouraged by a dear friend who is a certified Protocol and Etiquette consultant (you should visit her fabulous blog). I bought books and did research on all things “Protocol and Etiquette.” To my delight, I learned that etiquette is not merely about how to set a gorgeous table, but how to respect others and offer them kindness with everyday interactions.

On Guam there are many cultural differences, but kindness is universal. We all desire it, and we all have the potential to give it, if we make some effort. When I first came to Guam (about four years ago), I was excited to learn about new people and customs, but I was also afraid. 

It seemed so easy to offend others, if I did not know their traditions. However, since I was a teacher, I was reminded through the interaction with my students that we all desire the same thing, no matter our culture or ethnicity: we all desire kindness.

Friends need not share the same culture, as long as they share a similar kindness.

Sometimes we read the news and feel baffled by all the negative events that are taking place in the world right now. But we should not forget that we, too, influence this world. Let’s influence it for good. Whether it’s holding the door, putting down your cellphone for a conversation, or smiling at a passing stranger, we can all help our island (and our world) be a kinder, well-mannered place.

However, how can you do this is in a multicultural setting? How do you have “good manners” when different social norms dictate different practices? While it would take many years to grasp all the nuances of the various cultures on Guam, there are certain manners than can transcend cultural boundaries, and help our island be an even lovelier place than it already is. It’s a fun challenge! The love of God extends throughout culture and color. Therefore, so should our kindness and awareness.

Manners matter because people matter. Although I have made (and will continue to make) mistakes with regard to manners, the goal is to keep learning and spreading kindness along the way. Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness to the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

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The Midwest: The Old World of My Heart


“That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.”
~My Ántonia

Lately I have been reading My Ántonia by Willa Cather. It is a novel of a young Bohemian girl who spent her later growing up years as a pioneer in the Midwest. The book was perched in the “Classics” section of the bookstore, and I picked it because for one, it was not too large, and for another, I love the Midwest. There is a subtle charm and beauty that can only be found in the acres and acres of farmland and people who lead simple, yet extraordinary lives. 

Encompassing many characters and stories of their pilgrimages, My Ántoniis a story of saying goodbye to the Old World and hello to the new one. It is a story of learning to love something new, something less known. The characters that cannot do not survive. And the ground swallows them up.

Four years ago I relocated to the little island of Guam. The palm trees swayed and the ocean waves curled and foamed against the shore more beautifully than I could have imagined. The air was a thick floral. I lived in the scene of a tropical destination postcard. And yet my heart kept yearning for the Midwest, for the Old World, for leaves that changed colors and air that smelled of the blackest dirt. 

As a child I loved the stories of the early pioneers who went out west in search of a greater life. Their tenacity and bravery ignited in me a sense of excitement for travel, for seeing the world. But now, being the one who went far away, the one who has lightened the “wagon” of her possessions, and cried tearful goodbyes, I view those brave souls differently. 

Perhaps the hardest part was neither the bumpy ground nor the relentless sun. Perhaps the hardest part was letting go, at least mostly, to the Old World. There is a sense of falling when you let go, but then there is the holding, clinging to something else. There is always beauty in the New World, but it is the embracing it that proves difficult. 

Last Christmas (my first Christmas on Guam) I wanted to recreate the Christmas memories of Indiana. This was both frustrating and impossible. But then I learned that I could blend both “Old World” and “New World” elements. There was no tree farm with hot cocoa, but there were some trees at Home Depot sold by a cheerful local man. We bought him a Powerade, and he let me take some cut-off branches for a wreath project. We laughed and said, “Merry Christmas!” as we wiped sweat from our faces.

Home can be two places, perhaps even more. Now that we live in an age of commercial airplanes, moving and traveling are much easier, and we can legitimately let a few places claim our hearts. But wherever we are, we must be present. The Midwest forever has a piece of my heart, but this Pacific island has the now of my heart. May God use me here, now. And may my ultimate longing for home always rest in Him.

Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann