It is common upon arrival in any country feel anxious over the differences you see and feel. One way travelers deal with this emotion is to convince oneself that Rwanda is just like home. David Livermore describes this phenomenon well: Looking for common ground with our fellow citizens of the globe is a normal and healthy way of coping with the inevitable dissonance that occurs when we encounter a new culture. Traveling to a new place brings on an irresistible impulse to smooth over the strangeness. Still, we want to challenge you to embrace the differences while honoring our similarities as global citizens.

Consider the following points in order to respond to cultural differences graciously:

  • Have respect and empathy for others
  • Adopt an attitude of flexibility
  • Keep an open mind and welcome new experiences
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Have grace with yourself; no one is perfect in a completely new situation
  • Communicate often and extensively with the rest of your team
  • Come from a perspective of learning and be curious about cultural differences
  • Be realistic when setting your expectations before the trip, both positive and negative
  • Create space for tolerance and differences

As you encounter experiences that challenge you, please use the Africa New Life staff as a resource. Your team leader can also help you walk through a difficult situation.

Africa New Life recommends that you read Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot – And Cold – Climate Cultures by Sarah A. Lanier. This quick read helps one understand how deeply culture shapes our perspective of the world.


One of the best ways to prepare for culture shock is to learn about Rwanda in advance. Even basic research can help you navigate many of the cultural differences and understand how Africa New Life works in the international development field. We strongly encourage you to read and watch one item from each category below.



About the Genocide
About Rwanda
Relevant Topics
Video Series