threads of our fabric

Reflections on navigating between two cultures and understanding the self-awareness process

Welcome to America…Now What? July 31, 2011

Filed under: Education,Reflections — Sharon Asonganyi @ 9:59 pm
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I have had some interesting conversations and speechless moments this past week with friends and families about “Making it in America”. All of which have inspired me to begin a new series posting on the first experiences typically encountered by immigrants in new environments like unintentional jaywalking or attempts to bargain every price in stores.  I always laugh as I recall my early experiences of adjusting to life in America. I often wonder if such experiences are comparable to those of little children when they are exploring the world for the first time. Staring, curious, inquisitive, and experimenting…It is difficult having to fully function in a new country and making timely decisions with no frame of reference or any prior encounters with situations that would have given you wisdom for the future. Imagine moving from a rural villages in Fontem to New York City. One would have to learn all new rules of social interaction based on a different culture, which can be intimidating and scary. I hope that as you read some of my postings, that you will post your thoughts and comments, sharing your unique experience adjusting to life in a new country. Enjoy!

 

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Value of words July 25, 2011

I just got off a phone call that has me thinking how easily words are used, written, and exchanged without any concrete value or meaning or intent. Especially conversations with service providers that often feel scripted especially when I have an issue with a product.

Imagine the frustration and headache for new immigrants who must navigate the countless multi-tiered systems in America. There is no such thing as “simple”. For example, if you are a victim of fraud. Someone steals your bank card and goes on a shopping spree. Naturally, one would expect a phone call to the bank which would lead to a freeze on the account and begin an investigation. In a couple of weeks you would have your restored funds because they are FDIC insured and a new bank card… WRONG!!! After getting through navigating the 1-800 automated system, you may be fortunate to reach a life rep who will make promises only to appease you and get you off the phone. Followed by an email with forms and further instructions…and the headache continues…words…

Photo courtesy of AEGEE Alicante

Promise “make a declaration assuring that something will or will not be done” (Dictionary.com)…Words that create expectations.

My Grandparents often told me stories that demonstrated the power and value of one’s word. Land was bought and sold by verbal agreements. Even today traditional marriages reflect this custom, two families agree that two people are married.  One can imagine how coming from this way of thinking and acting, it is natural to believe and trust the words that are spoken.

My time here in America has taught me quite a number of things. I believe that one of the most important lessons has been to use my words wisely, speak up, ask questions. Silence is not golden, in America it is deadly. Sometimes you may encounter unfair situations that would make you want to …

Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson

And sometimes you have to be assertive and aggressive to get what you want…it may not be my nature, but I had to adapt to survive.

Have you encountered similar situations where you had to adapt to new ways because your beliefs and cultural expectations were a handicap for you? Please share your thoughts 🙂