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Personal appearance

While this may not be your personal preference or value system, be aware that heavy make-up, tattoos, jewellery, piercings, clothing that comes above the knee or shows any amount of cleavage or midriff or close-fitting clothing may be a detriment to establishing a positive working relationship with Low German individuals. Making small changes in the way one might dress when engaging with Low German Mennonite individuals can go a long way to removing these distractions and potential barriers to service. 

Meeting deadlines

For some, strict adherence to gender roles can be important. Service providers may find that Low German individuals are hesitant to meet with individuals of the opposite gender if another adult of the same gender is not present. Service providers may also notice that women will want to receive their husband’s approval before committing to plans. Service providers should take this into account when considering the deadlines we need to meet.

Distinguishing between service providers

Because most colonies in Mexico or South America are separate and self-sufficient, many families raised in these communities are accustomed to limited engagement with the mainstream culture and communities. It can be difficult to understand the differences in each of Canada’s social systems and the services they have to offer. Low German families may have heard that nurses and social workers remove children from homes and may therefore have been advised that it is best not to allow these service providers into their homes. Since they may not be able to distinguish between the different service providers, it is sometimes assumed that all home visitors may remove their children as part of the duty to report.

visitIt is helpful to provide concrete examples of the types of assistance you give to other clients in order to facilitate understanding of what is available for the Low German person.

Understanding the need for referrals

Referrals for further medical or educational testing/procedures may not be understood. You may need to take additional time to explain their importance/how the system works. Please make an effort to use simple terminology, refraining from the use of acronyms and sector jargon. 

Taking notes: If you plan to take notes, ask if this is okay. Mention that what they have to say is important and that the notes help you to remember details. It may be better not to bring paperwork or laptops into Low German homes upon the first visit.

Medical histories

When taking medical histories, you may need to explain certain illnesses and their symptoms as these illnesses may not be known or they may or may not have corresponding Low German names.

Use analogies

Using analogies and agricultural examples often aids in fostering understanding of health principles.

Sexuality is private

Sexuality is considered a private matter and, as such, discussion of sexual matters will create much embarrassment, especially if a practitioner does not have a trusting relationship established with the individual(s). When children are present, it is best to refrain from talking about reproduction or sexuality. A key religious teaching is the belief that one will be held responsible for one’s behaviour and the knowledge that one obtains. This value is the foundation of the belief that children’s innocence in matters of sexuality should be guarded and protected. Parents often believe it is morally wrong to talk with children about basic reproductive information and are often offended when their children receive information on reproduction/sexuality in school or community settings.

An orderly house

Personal cleanliness and an orderly house are highly valued. Women may spend hours cleaning the house before you visit and will be embarrassed if their children’s toys are scattered on the floor.

The presence of children

Low German children are often initially shy but still curious about strangers in their home. They then tend to stand on the periphery to observe you. At the same time, parents may assume that service providers will find children’s presence disruptive and tend to shoo their children away. It often puts the parents at ease to hear you state that it is fine to have the children around. Service providers who engage positively with children will often bolster parents’ (especially mothers’) pride in their children, especially because positive affirmation is not a strong cultural practice.