Everywhere I go, people are talking to me about culture shock. My family took me out to eat and then out shopping and made comments like, "We're giving her low doses of culture shock." In Newsweek I read a couple of articles every once in awhile about pop culture (movies, video games, technology) and how it's a shock. Even better, I hear from some people about how the US has no culture, that we are everyone else's culture and so have none of our own.
All of this is untrue. What we all see on the surface: technology, fast-paced lifestyles, movies and music, etc has little to do with actual American culture and is not why people go into culture shock.
Say you and your friend are playing a card game together, but your friend keeps making the wrong moves, assigning points in the wrong way and putting the wrong cards in the wrong stack. You get more and more frustrated and then angry at your friend because it's obvious that he's cheating terribly. At the same time, you notice that he is also getting more and more frustrated and angry at you.
But what gives him the right to be angry at you? After all, these are the rules you have played by your entire life, and it's obvious that how he is playing is not the right way. Then it dawns on you: he's thinking the exact same thing. Now you have two choices. You can either adapt to his rules, teach him about your own and accept his so that there can be mutual respect, or reject him as crazy or stupid and get the hell out of dodge.
Americans have millions of invisible rules that govern how they communicate with others, how they judge situations and in general live their lives. These rules are never noticed as rules, but they definitely exist and they are common across the board in the US. Some of them make good sense and some of them are crazy and make no sense. The part that makes foreigners and people like me (who aren't really part of just one culture) go into shock is trying to learn (or remember) the new rules and still maintain a semblance of ourselves. That part sucks.
Things I have done in America so far:
- Seen the Jersey shore
- Gotten together with my family
- Had a spat with my mom (ah, in record time!)
- Eaten a lot of food
- Tickle tortured my neice.
- Was overcome in the mall at all the consumerism and had to sit down and stare at a water fountain until my blood pressure went down
- Talked with two friends I hadn't talked to in a long time
- Tried to talk to more, but... foiled again!
It's weird being here, it's almost indescribable. I keep dazily walking around unable to comprehend all the things that have changed and why some things haven't. Applebees is still the worst restaurant on the face of the earth. Friday's (the restaurant) is second only because they have an entire low-carb menu, but only one thing that's unintentionaly vegetarian. There are skin conditioners out on the market that you put on in the shower and then wash off like you would with your hair. And don't even get me started on electronics or television. I don't even really understand what Tivo is but I'm really excited about this on demand stuff. I still have snarky thoughts about why anyone really needs 900 channels, but I keep them to my self.
As Dirty D would say, I am one po-dunk chick.