Category Archives: Europe

The Culture of Horn Honking

This is simply meant to be a light-hearted post–nothing worthy of deep thought or reflection.  I am an American who lives in Italy and just returned from a 13 day visit to India.  I am fascinated by different cultures and how societies work.  You can often pick up on differences by how different cultures utilize similar means. For this post I will explore the use of the car horn.

In the U.S. I will argue that Americans largely use their horns to warn or complain. We honk when we want to make people aware of danger.  We honk when we feel a great wrong has been done to us on the road.  Someone has violated the law (as we see it) or someone has made us very angry with their driving methods.  But on the whole (maybe apart from New York City) we are not a culture that regularly communicates through our car horns.  That is different from Italy and India.

I have lived in Italy for the past five years.  And now we are actually in transition to return to our home culture in the U.S.  Italians love their cars and their car horns.  It was a little unsettling when we first moved here to constantly hear car horns.  My observation is that Italians use the horn as a regular means of communication-but mainly out of being annoyed.  If you wait more than two seconds after a traffic light has turned green, you will get a long blast from a car horn behind you.  Italians are a very passionate people.  Therefore their communication is passionate as well-verbally and through their car horns.  But it doesn’t mean anything negative.  They simply express their “in the moment” feelings readily.  The car horn is just an extension of their present feelings.  You have to understand this here or you will think everyone is simply rude.  But they are not-they are just temporarily annoyed with you and letting you know-you can still be best friends and enjoy a cappuccino together.

India has almost a billion people.  Apparently, every one of them owns a car.  I have never seen this kind of traffic or heard so many horns in my life.  But my observation is that the communication pattern is different.  Americans honk out of anger and “injustice.”  Italians honk out of annoyance and to simply express their temporary emotion.  Indians see driving like Americans see snow skiing.  At least this is my grid for understanding their “car honking” culture.  It is like an American snow skier simply saying “on your left” or “on your right.”  Skiing etiquette dictates that you let the skier in front of you know that you are about to pass them on the hill and to let them know which side you are on.  I think it is the same way for Indians.  They drive all over the road and use any lane available to them-no matter which way the direction of traffic is suppose to be going.  But they will clearly let you know that they are “on your left” or “on your right.”  Their facial expressions never change-for the honker or the one being honked at.  The trucks even have hand painted signs on the back that say “please honk.”  They are not angry or annoyed.  They are not informing you of some law you have broken.  They are just using skiing etiquette.  For the passive passenger-like me-the whole experience can be quite frightening and confusing.  But once you see how skilled the average Indian driver is to navigate traffic in his own context-and you see more clearly the “horn honking culture” at work-you can relax-a little!    That is just how I see it.

Here’s to life in the fast lane, going the same direction, seat belts buckled, using our horns to their greatest end!

A Gathering of Current European Leaders in Spain

I just returned from the Agape Europe Leadership Forum on the Costa Brava of Spain (this is a picture of our conference hotel). AELF is a collection of all the national teams serving Agape Europe (Campus Crusade for Christ in Western Europe). We met for five days and discussed several issues necessary to making progress in extending the gospel of Christ to Europeans in meaningful ways. We talked about fund development, staff development, and leadership development. We spent some great time each day in the book of Ephesians looking at the “fullness of His riches.” My favorite times were actually the many “off conference” conversations with old and new friends to be built up by them in the faith and learn what they are doing to communicate Christ to Europeans. I came home with several things I want to think through and apply in our ministry here in Italy. We also heard some fresh accounts of how God is at work in Western Europe to His glory. And we had some very meaningful times as the Italy national team proocessing all that we were hearing. God is at work in Western Europe–and He has His people strategically placed throughout the continent in faithful and faith filled service for Him. Maybe the greatest thing I took away was hope–in the God of the unvierse and His actions.

Europe’s Next Generation Leaders

I just finished a really significant week in Rome. Twenty emerging leaders from all over Western Europe for Campus Crusade gathered in Rome for the 2nd installment of the Next Generation Leaders initiative. This is a two and half year effort that gathers every 6 months for a week of energetic action learning towards becoming more effective Christ-centered leaders. The first gathering took place this past September in Ethiopia and the focus then was on community. The emphasis for Rome was on movements. Alan Hirsch (pictured front row far right) led four seminars on “The Forgotten Ways.” It was a very stimulating time of considering what true spiritual people movements look like–what is the core of what made the early church tick and how can we recover those essential principles today. We also spent time looking at how to develop learning teams, spiritual disciplines, and the value of feedback in personal development. The schedule was also spiced with daily prayer partners and corporate prayer. And we took advantage of some on site spiritual learning at the Colosseum, the San Calisto catacombs, and the church of Quo Vadis.

Two of our Italian leaders are participating–one of which I am personally coaching. Between the 6 month installments there are a number of reading, writing and reflection assignments that each participant must complete. Each leader must also live out a personal development plan and actively apply their overall learning to their local ministry setting.

My role during this week was primarily to observe and get a better feel for the process. I will take an active role in planning the next wave of training that will begin in the fall of 2010 with a whole new group of European leaders. I did get to serve as a mentor–meeting with two of the emerging leaders each day to discuss personal application of their assignments and current learning from the seminars. It was a rich time for me to get to know these men and women a little better and understand what they are up against in their various nations–Europe is a tough mission field–but being around these leaders gave me great hope that God has not forgotten His church and will always raise up the people necessary to extend the gospel–even here.

It Matters Who Says It

I just returned from some Western European meetings in Dublin, Ireland. This was my first time to the Emerald Isle–and I was fascinated by both the city and the coastline. We only had one sunny day–which we took advantage of by doing a little hike out of Howth and around a piece of the coast. The scenery was incredible–light houses, islands, and even a view of a peninsula supposedly where Bono lives.

Oh yea–and I attended a lot of meetings too. This was a gathering of all of the national campus leaders for Crusade in Western Europe. It was a great group of dedicated people. One evening I got into a discussion about future plans and who we might bring in from around the world to address them. One of the European men quickly brought up a very relevant point toward leadership. It matters who delivers the message. He made the point that Europeans don’t always listen well to outsiders–especially Americans. Now that may sound rather snooty–but his point was more succinct. The issue can be one of credibility, style, or even character. He was not negating my point nor the need for the content I was suggesting–just that who says it matters in how it will be received.

As leaders we should not only consider what needs to be said–but who should say it–that may make the difference in how it is really received.