Merging Into Another Culture

When I decided to come to America, I had no idea what I was getting into.

I was fourteen years old, and despite the adversities I endured, naive and unsophisticated. I exceedingly underestimated the cultural difference and overestimated the quality of the social rules my no-often-around parents taught me. When someone told me I should say “can I please use the sink water” instead of “I’m gonna use the water sink”, I was enraged and ashamed.

Since then, I had always been afraid that people will find out something uncouth about me.

When I look back, it’s less about cultural difference and more about social interactions. Spending all of my childhood weekends alone and never really talked to anybody besides my one best friend in the boarding school (spoiler: we broke up), I never learned how to interact with other human beings. The misunderstandings caused by language and the cultural difference just magnified the problem. 

The fear still exists, but I’ve learned a lot about American customs.

There are millions of unspoken social rules in this country, in this area, even in our tiny high school. I observed and analyzed how others behave and imitated them. I made countless mistakes, recovered, and learned from them. I felt a secret accomplishment each time someone asked how long have I been here and dropped their jaws when they heard the answer. Your English is really good, they said, and you seem so American.

I’m proud of my adaptability, but did I lose myself?

In a casual conversation, one of my friends mentioned that they admire people who came to America but kept their own cultural identity. She wasn’t referring me, but the incident made me wonder: did I keep my cultural identity? Off the top of my head, the answer is no. I say “oh my god” and swear like any other American teenager. 

How can you still be yourself when you can’t find a hint about where you come from?

Sure, I have yellow skin and black hair. Stereotypically speaking (by the way, I hate stereotypes), I’m good at math. But I haven’t practiced my native tongue except for the occasional phone calls with my parents. I have wondered if I am cold-blooded by not feeling joy when I see someone with the same heritage. But there is nothing wrong with being indifferent with race, is it? I guess in a foreign place, people who came from the same country are supposed to help each other out. America isn’t a foreign place, it’s my second home. But I admire other transplants and use my experience to help them. 

I haven’t forgotten where I came from.

Since a young age, I was fascinated by the rich, enchanting culture of ancient Asia. How the language evolved in thousands of years, how empire raised and fell, and the food……omg. THE FOOD. It would be a lie if I say I didn’t miss Asian cuisine at least a tiny bit.

Sometimes I think that if I stayed, I’d be a completely different person. This realization terrifies and excites me. I’m content with where I am now and I will stay in America because of the culture, the possibilities, and my friends. Not gonna lie, last time I went back to my native country, I had a culture shock. I didn’t have any culture shock where I came here……

So maybe, this is the place where I’m meant to be? 

2 thoughts on “Merging Into Another Culture

  1. I remember when I first came to the states, I instantly felt home. Last time I came back, everything in my home town felt so strange, so I could not wait to go back to the states. I‘ve been there twice last year, and every time over there things felt normal. I cannot really put it in words. I once spoke to an American and he said: almost all Americans are immigrants, or their parents, grandparents. There are so many cultures living together, giving everyone a new home. Someone can feel a stranger in every country, but not in the US. I totally agree with him. I think we grow with every experience we make. It sounds you are well integrated and as long as you are happy, everything is fine. And your written English is really good. If you hadn’t said that English wasn’t your mother tongue, I would not know that. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had the exact same feelings! Thank you for sharing. It reassures me that I wasn’t ruthless. There are some unfriendly relatives back in my home country who see my decision as betrayal and I can’t ever understand them. That’s a great point! I absolutely agreed that all Americans are immigrants too. Looking back, we were all immigrants from Africa at some point. One of the great things about America is its multicultural richness. Thank you so much! Your English is really good as well and I would make the same assumption about you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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