Friday, April 29, 2005

Living in America

Living in America to me is a constant process of adjustment. Coming to this country meant to me that I needed to adjust to a completely new way of living. I needed to adjust to a different way of beds being made, coffee tasting different, sausages I was familiar with not being available. In the very same way it meant I needed to adjust to a new lifestyle - coming from a larger town to a smaller town in the Midwest of the United States meant being more depended on cars or people who had cars. Needing to get used for sidewalks being barely available, walking to some place making you look weird. Living in smaller town America means that going to a movie theater by public transportation can be a whole day affair, while going the same distance by car wouldn't take the long.

Living in America means adjusting to a very different sense of national pride. Coming from a nation, where saying “I am proud to be a German” still raises eyebrows in a negative way, discovering American national pride and patriotism are an adjustment. Add to this that I as an East German ain't even used to being a German, being proud of a country I barely identify with is a very hard thing to do. Living in America also means to adjust to be confronted with different ideas and mindsets. I thought everyone knew how human beings became human beings - the idea of evolution is so natural to me. Living in America, has taught me it isn't. Creationism is an idea that is still asked to be taught in school. It is also in America where I had to learn that looking at issues like homosexuality or a woman's role in the family does not necessarily mean people look at the issue the way I do. I encountered people finding it normal to say that "homosexuality is a choice, it's a sin" and that a woman's place is to serve her husband. Things I have been taught very different.

Living in America, or better, living in the US also means to adjust images of that country. For many Germans, the US is the land of dreams, the land of opportunity. Things in America are always possible and much easier to achieve. People in America are always heroes, great people, better than anything we know anyways. But America isn't that. Neither is America a country where you only have fat and stupid people that always rally around the flag, that don't know anything about other countries and cultures; that are conservative religious fanatics. The US doesn't fit that image either. The US has people I like and people I don't like. However, living in the US meant I had to adjust my personal image. Close to end of me living in the US, I'd inclined to say the US is just another country - different from what I am used to, just like any other foreign country.

Note: the idea for this entry comes from my friend and colleague Miguel. He gave the task and I will hereby pass it to my readers:
"In no more than three paragraphs (brief, please), describe "America". Be creative. A caveat, I don't mean talk about politics or foreign policy or any of that stuff. This is a specific question. Describe, essentially, what living in America is like, specifically, what living in "your" America is like (e.g. what's daily life like in your piece of America?).Of course, if you've never "lived" in America, this isn't for you."