As you probably have seen through previous articles on this site, the Hawaiian lei is more than just something to “fling around” or put on just anyone. I understand that sometimes, especially during times of celebration, this might occur. But the significance goes much further and deeper to the native Hawaiian.
Understanding is the Key
Often, understanding is the big problem that crushes relationships, especially when it comes to cross-cultural relationships. Beliefs are paramount, and I definitely understand that if my beliefs about God, salvation and life principles differ significantly from another person’s or people group’s, I will not be able to cultivate long term and fruitful relationships with them (unless they adopt these beliefs!)
But so often, this is not the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. Often, rejection of the other’s family or friends, or problems in communication, destroy the relationship. Culture and customs have a great deal to do with it. I know in my own marriage, my wife puts great emphasis on holidays, birthdays, etc. while I do not. This creates strains in the relationship, and I have to understand and bridge the gap to her on this issue.
Culture is Often A Source of Great Misunderstanding
So if you want to build lasting relationships, you must become a learner. You must be willing to study those that you want to have closer relationships with, and meet them in the middle. Again, I am not saying that you comprise right beliefs, but on matters of culture, practice, etc. there is much opportunity for understanding and compromise.
The Hawaiian lei is one of those cultural things. Some may scoff at it, but to the Hawaiian, it is an important part of their culture. These things cannot be minimized or trivialized. Understanding and acceptance of these things will go a long, long way to building strong and lasting relationships with the Hawaiian people.
Have you seen or read any studies or books on cross cultural issues? Higher education has much to say about it. There are even dissertation coaching services out there that help doctoral candidates in these types of studies. The point is, while language is the first and most important aspect of cross cultural interaction, the culture and thought processes of the people are of extreme significance.
So use the simple example of the Hawaiian lei to help you as you interact with those of other cultures. Learn about their culture, and even if you are just staying for a short time, you never know who you might meet!