In the summer 2009 I had a visitor, an old friend, who had helped me with my English language before my coming to Scotland. She had very good spoken English. She came to Oban to meet her boyfriend who was working in a local hotel. At the end of her visit she came to Elgin. When I asked about her impressions of Scotland she replied: ‘The country is amazingly beautiful; but damned Scots as speak English as I can’t understand them at all’. Poor lass! Her carefully learnt English seemed to be almost useless in western Scotland.
Her impression helped me to name something I’d sensed unconsciously just after I came to Moray. I realised that a language consists not only of words and grammar. That’s very important, but it’s only the first stage. A far more important part of the language is history, common and individual experiences, education and several other elements – all of them form a cultural background for the language. Usually people don’t realise that, because they use their native language naturally; their cultural background is deeply rooted in them. One particular feature of the English language is politeness. That’s a cultural, not a linguistic matter. So, when people from more direct culture background speak English they might sound rude or impolite, although they are not.
When I came to Scotland I very quickly realised the differences between my cultural background and yours. Instantly I knew that if I wanted to be useful among local people I had to improve my English and to dive into local culture as well. But I know I will never fully understand Scottish culture – that’s only possible for people who grew up here, among Scots. I know a woman who was born of Polish parents in Glasgow; she grew up and spent all her life in Scotland. Now she is a perfect cultural bridge between Scots and Poles here.
In this clever way we are reaching the mystery of the Incarnation. The only Son of God became a human being in the same way as we did and do; he was born as a human child, grew up among people; he was deeply rooted in Jewish culture. As a man he wasn’t a foreigner, but one of us. At the same time he was in perfect unity with his heavenly Father. In such a way he became a perfect mediator between us and God.
Since then God has become someone close to everyone. Through and thanks to Christ Jesus we have the certainty of faith we are not alone. We can be sure that we are understood and supported by God who loves us unconditionally. In this defenceless and weak child we can see God who wants to draw us to him not by power, authority and fear, but by gentle love and empathy.