C'mon Inner Peace… I Don't Have All Damn Day
One can’t possibly know which nuances of acculturation will trigger a response, either positive or negative. Manpreet’s entry to America has become my own personal social experiment.
Anthropology was my favorite subject in college; I love immersing myself in all cultures and learning as much as possible about my host country.
I’m a passionate traveller; but Manpreet has never left India until now.
I’ve been carefully studying his every move; his mood swings, the overwhelming moments, the things that make him happy… and the situations which cause him to shut-down completely.
He has been in the United States for about two months now. He grew up watching American movies, and felt that moving to the States would be a piece of cake, but that was not the case… whatsoever.
I tried to prepare him for the “Culture Shock” he was about to encounter, but there was no way to truly make him aware of a culture he had never “lived.”
Now that we are smack-dab in the midst of it… all we can do it hunker down and study what to expect.
In anthropology, there are four stages to assimilating into a new culture; 1. the honeymoon stage, 2. the frustration stage, 3. the adjustment stage, and finally 4. the acceptance stage.
And… there are three ways people tend to lean once inside of that new culture. 1. Assimilation 2. Isolation and 3. Rejection. It’s common for people to isolate and reject their new culture, at first.
Seeing “girls in bikinis” was not as shocking to him as I thought it would be, but the way we (in America) raise our children was especially disparaging to him. It seems, having “FUN” was not his idea of positive child rearing, he thinks they should be “constantly studying,” if they have any chance at success.
In India, children are still for the most part, “seen and not heard.” An enormous amount of respect is given to elders; children need to earn their place in the social hierarchy.
Priority is not placed on “FUN,” so you can imagine his trepidation as we placed bunny ears on him, and asked the men to go hide some Easter Eggs.
Watching a pool filled with happy children jumping and playing upset him. I had expected him to feel the pride of American “freedom,” but the pastimes we hold dear, had a completely opposite effect on Manpreet.
Spending countless hours watching children play bothers him, “they have no future” he told me… as I promptly pointed to the lovely home we were visiting, and reminded him that America has some of the best Universities in the world.
They do indeed have a bright future, sir.
Everything between Manpreet and I is opposite. These subtle intricacies were never on my radar, yet somehow they blend perfectly.
My son will be given the best of both cultures; a whole lot of love, and maybe even some discipline for study he may have been lacking.
Manpreet is shocked that we as Americans need to make “appointments” to visit the homes of friends and family; he wants to have people walk in and out of our home like a revolving door.
Happiness to him, is a house filled with people chatting over his very special “Chai” tea.
Sadly, I have grown used to hiding when my doorbell rings because I don’t wish to be disturbed. We Americans are very comfortable meeting at a cafe, at a predetermined time where we can retreat to the privacy of our homes afterwards.
It’s been incredibly refreshing having LIFE welcomed back into our home once again… Manpreet invites our neighbors over for tea, most of whom I have barely spoken to.
Blending our cultures has been quite magical, so far.
We would dream about the day we could go to the beach together, but his Indian family back home quickly made note of his newly acquired “tan,” and he has since retreated away from any outdoor activities before sunset. An extremely tough task for a man who moved to “the Sunshine State,” and a wife who loves to be outdoors.
My heart breaks for him sometimes… the beautiful feeling of being outdoors is destroyed because of his own cultural idea of what skin color he should have.
In India, the streets are crowded at night, and here on the west coast of Florida we are in bed by 10pm.
He is used to the bustling markets after the sun sets, and Manpreet wants to eat dinner long after I planned on being asleep… to him our dinner-time is merely “late-lunch.”
He is used to New Delhi, a huge metropolis much like New York City. Often, he describes Florida to people back home, like living in an Indian “village,” and in many ways I guess it is.
Another interesting fact I have noticed is that he tends to cling onto ANY comforts of home. He came to America with only two suitcases and although he has an entire new “American” wardrobe… Manpreet insists on wearing the few clothes which he brought from India. He wears them over and over… with no desire to try and “fit in.” This worries me slightly but “time” will heal all these struggles.
I would say the most difficult part for him has been food… and events surrounding food.
He is a vegetarian, but… a vegetarian from INDIA.
In India, you are never left struggling for meatless choices, like we are in Western restaurants.
Manpreet has never had an actual “salad” and he has no desire to get used to the uncooked raw veggies or this stuff we call… lettuce.
I ordered him a particularly delicious salad filled with nuts, goat cheese, and tri-colored greens. His comment halfway through? “What is this I’m eating? I am not a fan.”
Years ago I tried to get him to make a salad via Skype, and he proudly displayed this plateful of cooked spinach slatehred in honey. At the time I was mystified, but now I realize, raw spinach (or lettuce) is nothing he has ever eaten before… nor does he find it appealing in ANY WAY
He has a disdain for restaurants, which is a huge part of my lifestyle… Starbucks, completely repulses him. Where I see convenient decadence, he sees commercialism and processed food.
It seems the cultural aspect of going to restaurants is going to be a difficult adjustment, for sure. Besides the lack of vegetarian choices, he sees it as wasting money, when I see it as enjoying life.
So what is an Indian vegetarian supposed to eat at American restaurants?
They don’t; they rush home to the comforts of their own food, cooked their own way, isolated from American society.
Driving, in particular, is extremely difficult for him.
Not only do Indians drive on the opposite side of the road, but traffic rules in India are merely “a suggestion.” Back home, Manpreet has very little fear of being ticketed for ANYTHING. He has even made the comment that he has NEVER once actually STOPPED at a redlight.
Meaningless things like “Stop Signs,” do not exist; compile that with rewiring your entire brain to think of driving to the right?
This alone, becomes quite overwhelming.
The written part of the drivers test took him three tries… not because he did not study, but because the wording for a foreigner (and many Americans) is incredibly difficult.
He had no idea the meaning of “sideswiped.” In his defense, I asked friends from Germany, France and even Costa Rica the meaning of that word… and none of them knew.
One of the most heartbreaking things for me to watch has been how some people have reacted to his arrival.
We are used to dealing with people questioning the validity of our relationship for years now; I have cut out negative people from our lives, and decided to keep only those who truly want our happiness.
But, even with all my careful vetting… I did not expect some of the ignorance which we have encountered.
My son came home from school in tears, one day.
The school bully had been spreading rumors that my husband only married me for a “green-card.”
Any person with half a brain knows that this comment did not come from an eleven year old boy, instead I became painfully aware of Trumps America… and the consequences of ignorance.
Manpreet and I held our head high as we walked into a school program knowing our love is real… all we can do is show them how pathetic they are to judge a loving family, who is simply trying to adjust.
But sometimes, it hits even closer to home than random mothers in the PTA.
Manny didn’t exactly have the warmest of welcomes from everyone… but some have been truly amazing and I am grateful for those with an open mind and heart to get to know him.
I keep reminding people, that English is his third language… how many do you speak?
He has to think about every single word anyone says, then translate that in his brain. He tends to shut down after a short time, because of that, conversations may not flow naturally.
He is uncomfortable often, and I can see it in his face when he wants to retreat into his comfort zone.
I get it.
Manny tends to come across very Americanized at first… and people forget that he needs just a little extra time, love and consideration.
In an article written by Global Perspectives, you can see the stages of acculturation explained.
Recently, I have noticed Manpreet sinking into isolation… while completely normal temporarily, I worry he will reject our culture and not assimilate as well as I hoped.
He assures me he is happy here with my family, but I worry nonetheless.
Global Perspectives says:
1. The Honeymoon Stage
The first stage of culture shock is often overwhelmingly positive during which travelers become infatuated with the language, people and food in their new surroundings. At this stage, the trip or move seems like the greatest decision ever made, an exciting adventure to stay on forever.
On short trips, the honeymoon phase may take over the entire experience as the later effects of culture shock don’t have time to set in. On longer trips, the honeymoon stage will usually phase out eventually.
2. The Frustration Stage
Frustration may be the most difficult stage of culture shock and is probably familiar to anyone who has lived abroad or who travels frequently. At this stage, the fatigue of not understanding gestures, signs and the language sets in and miscommunications may be happening frequently. Small things — losing keys, missing the bus or not being able easily order food in a restaurant — may trigger frustration.
And while frustration comes and goes, it’s a natural reaction for people spending extended time in new countries.
Bouts of depression or homesickness and feelings of longing to go home where things are familiar and comfortable are all common during the frustration stage.
3. The Adjustment Stage
Frustrations are often subdued as travelers begin to feel more familiar and comfortable with the cultures, people, food and languages of new environments. Navigation becomes easier, friends and communities of support are established and details of local languages may become more recognizable during the adjustment stage.
4. The Acceptance Stage
Generally — though sometimes weeks, months or years after wrestling with the emotional stages outlined above — the final stage of culture shock is acceptance.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that new cultures or environments are completely understood, rather it signifies realization that complete understanding isn’t necessary to function and thrive in the new surroundings.
During the acceptance stage, travelers have the familiarity and are able to draw together the resources they need to feel at ease.
“There was a time when I realized that constantly comparing and contrasting everything would never allow me to be really happy here.”
-Arnie Plum ………………………………………………………………………………………….
After reading many studies, I remember the feeling of moving to Florida after I left NYC.
I kid you not, my own adjustment from North to South took YEARS, and I had only moved within the United States.
I cannot even imagine what my husband is going through, or how long it may take him to adjust….
I feel like a “fish out of water” when I’m in India… he takes care of my emotions so valiantly when I have no idea how to use his shower, the “Indian toilet,” or even the way Indian families involve themselves in every tiny aspect of your lives.
Privacy and Indepence do not exist, and drama rules. I have issues I can’t even describe when I’m in India, so I can only imagine what he must be going through.
Our intercultural relationship has been the best experience of my life.
I can only hope for his transition to be smooth and filled with love.
I wish him happiness in his new life, and I want the best future for all of us, as a complete family.
Do you have stories about moving to new culture? What stood out to you? How long did it take you to adjust? I want to hear…
Follow our story in the links below:
Read about “My Indian Boyfriend “—>HERE
My Big Fat Sikh Wedding: Indian Astrology —> HERE
My Big Fat Sikh Wedding: The Dress —> HERE
Surviving Long Distance Love—> HERE
Open Letter to my Husband—> HERE
Our Honeymoon, Rishikesh India—> HERE
K1 Fiance Visa Process—> HERE
US Embassy Interview for K1—> HERE
Cr1 Spousal Visa Timeline —> HERE
Journey to New Delhi—> HERE
First Trip to Jaipur India —> HERE
Our First Diwali—> HERE
Giving Thanks, Shukryia —> HERE
Being Sikh in America—> HERE
The Indian Grocery—> HERE
A Path to Happiness—> HERE
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