Cultural Information

Perhaps the most important thing to realize as a team in El Salvador is that you are guests in a foreign country. You are the ones who do things that seem quite different. In fact, many things that are thought innocent or normal at home could be offensive here and may hinder people from hearing the message of salvation. It is critical that we be careful of the impression we create as representatives of Christ. The following suggestions are offered to help teams understand the people of El Salvador and to help teams have a positive experience. The general guidelines will assist teams in developing a mindset of cultural sensitivity, while the practical guidelines give more detailed rules to follow.

The following guidelines are for cultural sensitivity. We are not passing judgment on the following dress items, but we know that these things can be misunderstood by Salvadorians and be detrimental to the ministry. Our goal here is not to cause our brothers and sisters to stumble and hinder the long-term work of the Gospel. Attitude is the most important thing. We are already strangers here. We want to do as much as possible to keep people’s eyes off us and on Jesus.

Practical Guidelines

• Refrain from making too many comparisons between El Salvador and home.
• Be friendly and greet everyone you meet.
• Both male and female team members must not flirt with the opposite sex.
• Always ask if you can take a photograph.
• Guard your English conversation.
• Churches are fairly traditional. Refrain from singing secular songs, etc.
• Watch body language and facial expressions.
• We strongly discourage mp3 players, iPods, or other “headphone” devices. We encourage team members to talk with the locals and fellow mission team members to get to know them better.
• Refrain from expression of political opinions.
• Be prepared to alter eating habits, dress, and interactions between men and women in order to adapt to the culture of the host community.
• Maintain a positive servant’s attitude towards all nationals and team members.
• The team’s work and behavior sets the standard by which future ministry in that area will be viewed by the Salvadorian people.

General Guidelines

Look at your actions from the perspective of the people around you.

• Remember that community and relationships are some of the most important things in El Salvador.
• Be flexible concerning time
• Be a learner. It may be surprising what can be learned from the Salvadorian culture and its traditions. Remember to keep an open mind. Many aspects of the Salvadorian culture will interest, enhance and even puzzle teams: recognize these differences and respect them without passing judgment.
• Remember that each member represents a home church, us, and Christ— please seek to represent the spiritual values, moral conduct, and likeness of Christ in all that is said and done.
• Encourage an exemplary life of holiness and obedience to God’s commands.
• Respect the host culture and distinctive practices of Christianity.
• We expect that your group will focus on relationships with your team, with your host country nationals, and with God. Any project, although important, should never become the sole focus of the group.

Clothing and Appearance

Male team members:
• be well-groomed
• jewelry should be kept minimal (no earrings, nose rings…etc)
• do not wear fatigues, camouflage or anything associated with gangs or the military
Female team members:
• jewelry and makeup kept to minimal (ears only)
• please ensure modesty—be conservative. We ask ladies not to have tight-fitting clothes. Low necklines or waistlines or exposed backs of midriffs. Skirts must be below the knee.