Adapting to a New Culture
Got used to life in a new culture it is easy or simple? Most people who move to another country that has a completely different culture from their have a difficult time for a first several years. Some people adapt very easily, but some of them take much longer to do so. Definitely, everyone need for some time to go through changes and start a new life at a new place. I’m not an exception. I came to the United States three years ago to start a new life with new opportunity. I just had imagination about America from movies, not from real life.
Like many other once I crossed the threshold of another country and left everything I went to a new culture. Based on Peter Gardner’s “stages of cultural adjustment” (38) I was supposed to pass through all steps of cultural adjustment. But not all of those stages worked in my situation. The first step according to Gardner is the “honeymoon period” (38). At this stage everything are supposed to seem “intriguing” and “exciting” (38). But I must skip this period because when I arrived in the U. S. I was really disappointed. All that I had seen on TV was not true when I came in Utica.
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I saw ugly houses, broken roads and no prospects in the future. I became sick. I was shocked. I did not expect to see “such America. ” Probably my new life began with the second step. Gardner called that stage “culture shock” (38). I remember that time very well. I started to understand that I could not back home, and I should to adapt somehow to a new world. Normal at first glance, the problems haunted me every day such as language, transportation, and job. I thought that I was ready to be an ordinary American. But I realized reverse very quickly.
I didn’t have enough English even to go to the store. I realized that I am a dependent person. I had to call one of my cousins every time I needed to go somewhere. My cousin found a job for me and I started working at a construction site. The boss put me to work with Americans who have long been working in the company. They knew their responsibilities and understand anything what a supervisor said unlike me. I tried to just watch and do imitate them, but I looked strange and everything was really funny because I didn’t understand anything in English.
How people work in my country is completely different from how people work in America. For example, in my country is good to made any deal and to complete before the end if you’re instructed to do anything, in America, on the contrary, you can starting any business such as stack the bricks and suddenly somebody can say to you at any time to stop and go destroy everything that you just folded. Another example, in my country decided to work mutually and helping to each other. In America, even if you have no strength to stand all day with your hands doing ceiling work no one will replace.
My aunt burned arm at work but a supervisor seeing that but he didn’t put in its place another person thereby causing her to run until the end of shifts with burnt hand. It also was annoyed by cultural differences. On the other hand, I was just amazed by the fact that what was important in my country did not pose any importance in America. For example how they are and how you’re dressed or I didn’t see so many people walking on sidewalks. I do not see drunks on the streets in the US while in my country it is normal. One more thing, I felt uncomfortable myself because of the change in food and climate.
In America mostly prevalent a fast food that is not quite accustomed to my usual lifestyle. Climate with its rapid changes that is characteristic of Utica is also affected my health to put in frequent headaches. All of these examples are from real life in a new culture and this step which is not possible to bypass for the beginner. Sometimes I return to this step in my life when I meet something that is not compatible yet with my world view about the new culture, even though I went through “Culture shock” and went on to next one. The next stage is “initial adjustment” (38).
At this stage people feel themselves more comfortable and hopeful because they better understand cultural values and language and of course they are able to start to work and build their life whatever way they want. I experienced this stage as well. Remember I told you about my first job experience? Regardless of what happened or my reaction to stay in the previous step, it was a huge step in my life. After a while I realized how important in my life. When I started working with the Americans, I began to understand their lifestyle, language and culture.
It helped me a lot, because before this I never understood or spoke a different language. Already, I have almost everything that has simple American such as house, job, car, money. I wasn’t dependent anymore. I tried to use my language as best as I could, and I also tried to see that people around me could understand me. It encourages me very much. I began to see success in work, my annual income has increased and I realized that not all is so bad. I caught the idea that you need to grow and do not stop. Otherwise, you can get to the next stage even though it seems to me you can avoid it.
Peter Gardner calls this stage “mental isolation” (38). I never felt mental isolation because nothing binds me to my past life with and at the same time I could quickly adapt to the new situation or place. Mental isolation depends from a person. I never put myself into lonely condition or I never attempt to bore about anything. I try to make new friends adapt to a new culture through the work and communication as well as through education. Nowadays we have a lot of ways to communicate with each of our friends or families out of a country where we are living. I just skipped this step in my life. I understand that I have to go forward.
Slowly but surely I’m getting closer to the final step that Gardner named “acceptance and integration” (38). Of course, I do not want to be like everyone else and do not want to take all like the others in a new culture For example, only work for money or to live for loans. I do not want to show commitment to the “American dream” but I would find a way by which I can adapt and live in a new culture as if I were in it and grew up. I accepted that it is just another way of life. I’m getting an education at college, I met new friends, I found a good job. I already started to feel myself as if I were here all the time.
I understand that things change and time doesn’t stand still. Heavy periods are replaced by lighter as my adaptation to new culture. I’m neither the first nor I’m last. I have my own way of adapting to a new culture. I missed several “stages of cultural adjustment” but I’m still standing on the last of these stages and I hope to go through it well. I only know one thing that everyone who comes to the new culture will take steps to adapt to them. And no matter how long and how just do whatever you have to do. I just want to reassure the newcomers that everything is possible if there is a goal.
Gardner, Peter. “Stages of Cultural Adjustment.” New Directions: Reading, Writing, and Critical Thinking. Ed. Peter S. Gardner. 2 ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 38. Print