Mountain Biker, in my experience the first thing is to show respect. Ask about how they do things and why, and ask before jumping into something. Show interest but restraint. If and when you are invited to join/taste/sit with them, do so humbly. The problems seem to arise when newcomers are loud, assertive, and certain that their ways are better than the local culture. I’m sure that happens in your little hamlet when new ‘city’ folk move in. I am glad you are so well accepted and sure that you comport yourself in a way that ensures that acceptance.

e.g.: We went into a village in the Eastern Ghat Mtns of India, where my husband was to do a leadership conference with local native missionaries. As we were in the rickety taxi, still miles away, our host received a phone message that a large angry mob had gathered in the street outside the little church to prevent us from entering their village (anti-Christian). God used the heat of the day (plus some assurances from a leader that we were not coming there to convert Hindus–ourselves anyway ;) ) to disperse them by the time we arrived.

While the conference was in session, I wandered outside into the village streets with my camera. A woman was spreading cut green mangoes on a sleeping cot in the sun to dry. By sign language, we talked about what she was doing. I asked about photographing her and she was delighted. Also photographed some cute little children (after requesting permission) and endeared their grannies. Wandered down the street where a lady, obviously a local entrepreneur, was having several strapping young men sorting green mangoes in her open shop stall. I approached cautiously with a smile and watched. By the time I left, she had piled some green mangoes in my arms and made it known I was to make ‘mango pickle’ from them. No sign of the previous mob mentality or hostility. All this in an area where thousands of Christians were persecuted/beaten/driven from their homes/raped/killed a few years prior.

This behavior applied when we moved into the Blue Ridge Mountains when we were first married. Our nearest neighbor was ‘mountain folk’ without running water or plumbing. I was very interested in his chickens, broody hen setups, etc etc. Learned a great deal about traditional ways–and later he and his son came and removed a huge tree fallen across our driveway while my husband was away.

It also applied when we moved into an Alaskan village (40% Athabascan). By the time we were there a few years, I was plucking ducks along with the Native ladies in preparation for a potlatch. And picking wild berries with them, having some of the men help us skin/butcher moose, etc. Later praying with them in their homes and in our home. We also reciprocated by sharing our moose meat with the elderly Natives, the hides with a young man trying to revive traditional ways, and the bones with our neighbor’s dogteam.

Totally ‘one’? Probably not. But mutual respect and acceptance so we lived happily as neighbors–and enjoyed India as well. (BTW some high politicians and a contingent of Chatthisghar State Troopers were ambushed and murdered not far from where we were, a few weeks later…)