Culture is a complex topic. It is impossible to fully understand another culture. In fact, it is difficult to understand your own, although your culture is at least comfortable to you. Our challenge in cross-cultural understanding and communication is to suspend judgment. You must start with the assumption and expectation that the way the people in another culture, think and do things has as much logic as the way you think and do things, even if it is different. If what they do doesn’t make sense to you, you can be sure that the way you do things doesn’t make sense to them.

So, for example, to say that some  predominately Islamic cultures see women as objects of sin and therefore force them to fully cover themselves is as accurate as it is to say that Westerners offer their women as unprotected sacrifices on the altar of men’s lusts. Why else would women appear mostly naked in public?

A way to understand why some cultures expect their women to be covered was explained by a young Arab woman. When questioned about having to be covered in public, she responded, “If there are two candy bars on the table, one still in its wrapper and one unwrapped, which one would you choose to eat?” When you look at it that way, covering women makes a lot of sense. Covering is a way to protect and honor women.

Culture is like an ice burg. You see the tip above the water, but most of it is hidden beneath the surface. Rather than judging an entire people because of what appears above the surface, remain inquisitive. Assume there are legitimate values, beliefs, and other worldview issues that lie below the surface. By understanding more of the reasons behind the behavior you will be inclined to be more accepting of the people who are different from you.