Kola Sås

Kola Sas

Cross-cultural mission trips can be valuable for encouraging local Christians and scattering seeds of the Good News to people who might not otherwise come into contact with local believers. But honestly, the biggest impact of a cross-cultural mission trip is often within the hearts of the missionaries. I’ve already seen it this week, with our team that’s traveled from Ohio to Sweden.

God has been taking each of us through our fears, insecurities, and assumptions about God and the world around us. And there have honestly been some really significant moments, even in our first few days. But there have been some sillier moments along these lines, too.

Yesterday, in the grocery store, our host told us that Swedish people love to eat ice cream covered in “Kola Sås.” Because it sounded so similar to English words, I got it in my head that this was “Cola Sauce” — like, sauce that tastes like Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola — so, I got very excited to buy some of this, along with ice cream, to serve as dessert for a social gathering later in the evening.

Kola Sas

Everyone else on our team from Kent understood that “Kola Sås “was “Caramel Sauce,” based on the color and the picture on the front of the container. But I didn’t know that until later in the evening. It came to light when I sat down with my bowl of Ice Cream and Kola Sås. After taking my first bite, I said something along the lines of, “It actually tastes like cola!” I thought it was a pretty cool cultural discovery.

The rest of the team was like, “What? Are you being serious?” They started laughing at my misunderstanding. And I must confess that I felt isolated and actively ridiculed (though I don’t think anyone else was taking it as seriously as I was). So anyway, I started digging my heels in — hedging enough to admit that I might be wrong, but also saying that the primary flavor profile for both cola and caramel is browned sugar. Isn’t it?

One of the other people on our team was kind enough to try another bite and say that he could maybe detect cola flavoring instead of caramel flavoring. Others were flexible enough to say that it may be as much about one’s expectation as it is about one’s actual experience. But in retrospect, I can recognize that I was operating from a place of shame and anger and insecurity in that moment. I can see that I didn’t handle myself well. So even though I held my ground and claimed “uncertainty” until all the bowls were put into the dishwasher, I quietly looked up the word “kola” on the Google Translate app on my phone and learned that the correct translation for “kola” is indeed “caramel,” not “cola.”

I apologized to the rest of the team this morning, and we were all able to laugh about it together. But I think it really is a good example of what happens in the process of crossing cultures. We make assumptions. We make mistakes. And we have the opportunity to be soft-hearted and learn or be hard-hearted and make fools of ourselves.

This entry was posted in Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, European Missions, Food, Introspection, Language, Recreation, Sweden. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *