Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants
Cultural assimilation is a mysterious process. You think that you know everything there is to know but now and then you still feel foreign. No matter how many books you’ve read, nothing can work better than real life experience + open-mindedness+time.
A dear friend of mine, Yulia, is a good example of successful cultural assimilation in America. Russian in origin, she’s been living in America for 2 years and she absolutely LOVES it! Yulia is that kind of person who appreciates small things and believes that people are a priori good. She is happily comfortable with American culture, has lots of close American friends and believes that this country is exactly where she belongs. No wonder, I had some questions for her!
Hey, Yulia! Let’s talk a little about culture shock and your first encounter with American culture. There considered to be 5 stages of culture shock that a person goes through in the process of cultural assimilation:
What stage do you think you are at at the moment?
Yulia: I think I started with stage 3. but my irritability wasn’t directed to American culture. I was discontent with myself, cuz surprisingly I had to overcome the language barrier, which I was pretty sure I would never have. But oh well. And now I think it’s stage 5.
Do you think it’s important to stick to your own culture?
Yulia: No. If it happens, it happens subconsciously. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s like walking around reminding yourself: Damn, it’s March 8th tomorrow! I should probably buy presents for my female friends. I know Americans don’t celebrate it, but what the hell, I’m Russian, I must!
Can you say that you have a Russian heart and an American head?
Yulia: I guess so. Judging by what my American friends say about certain things I do. Like my overwhelming hospitality, in comparison to what they’re used to.
As for the head, an American head is still a mystery to me… May be one day it will open up a little more for me.
One thing you can’t accept in Americans?
Yulia: The principle “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” is pretty widespread here. Maybe it’s just that I’m not that type of person who follows this, but somehow I’ve noticed that Americans use it a lot more often than people in Russia. I will never understand why if your friend does something for you, most likely they will expect something in return. But again, it’s only from my experience.
One thing you can’t accept in Russians?
Yulia: Impatience for everything they don’t believe in, or don’t think is right. Also, a lot more judgement is being passed.
Like when I just moved here, my friends used to tell me that sometimes I was being judgemental. But that’s what we pretty much used to do back home. Without even realizing it. WE JUDGE. Then I somehow got over it.
How would you describe an ultimate secret of painless assimilation in 3 words?
Yulia : Understand, Feel, Cohabit.
Can an immigrant create his own culture on the basis of the two he has to live with and, thus, be his own definition?
Yulia: I think that’s what all the immigrants are doing, yet again subconsciously for the most part.
So true! And my last question is as follows: You like Americans a lot, but would you like Russians to become entirely americanized? why? why not?
Yulia: No, not entirely americanized. We need to stay who we are, but still try to be more diverse and open-minded, try to pick out the best out of a different culture (here American culture), not just anything, only something we can employ in our country. And we can’t just start a revolution. This has to happen step by step.