Friday, September 6, 2019

Understanding American culture Essay Example for Free

Understanding American culture Essay I was 18 years old when my father decided to send me to America and to cover the traveling expenses, my father sold his land. At that time, my future looked so bright. Studying abroad was such a big deal to most Afghans not only on account of the cost that it entailed but also of the social prestige that went with it. My family then was living in a place called Macaroyain Community, a modern European-style, five-storey apartment complex in a three-square mile area complete with all the modern amenities. My family had high hopes for me and I felt like an adult with so many relatives sending me off the night before my departure. My brother had left for America two years earlier and even if I had never been away from my family for just a single night, I was unfazed. I had my brother to count on. I was jolted by culture shock the moment I arrived at the San Francisco airport. Nothing resembled anything that I was used to back in Kabul. The exposure I had had to American culture through the movies I watched back home and through the American friends of my uncles who came to Kabul hardly helped. Although I did well in high school in Afghanistan, I realized that the technical English I knew would not take me far. It was not even sufficient to enable me to convey my ideas correctly. To cope, I used to carry a Dari-English dictionary with me wherever I went. I must have been an unusual sight having to rehearse in my head what I wanted to say and, when at a loss for the right word, I would frantically scan my dictionary. It was so comforting for me whenever the fellow I was speaking to would be considerate enough to wait as I groped for the correct word. It felt so embarrassing to be holding up the line at the grocery store or in the convenience store. The majority would wait sympathetically while a few would show their impatience and irritation by ill-concealed gestures. Basic differences between English and Dari worsened matters. Robson and Lipson highlights the difficulties of Afghans in their observation that â€Å"Dari and Pashto both put direct objects before the verb (John Mary saw), whereas in English, we put direct objects after the verb (John saw Mary). † (Cross-cultural Adjustments and Challenges,Grammar) At the same time, I also had trouble with â€Å"th† sounds, like â€Å"th† as in thank and this, and with the distinction between w and v as in wine and vine. † (Pronunciation) My difficulties with English pronunciation and the frustration I felt when I could not be understood increased my homesickness. It also heightened my awareness of being different, my being a foreigner, my being from another culture. I truly wanted to be assimilated into American culture. Try as I did, my efforts seemed to backfire. Instead of making me blend into American culture, my persistent attempts to speak the English language like an American made me so self-conscious of my â€Å"otherness† that I often had the feeling that I was in effect isolating myself. Fortunately, most Americans I made contact with had the patience to adjust to my language difficulties. Perhaps, the fact that America is the melting pot of almost all cultures around the world made my problems very commonplace. With a lot of people of different nationalities arriving in America as tourists or immigrants, it is no longer uncommon for Americans to encounter people from different cultures. Looking back, I realize that I found strength in being with students from other countries when I started taking English as a Second Language course at Heald College. There were also Asians who, like me, were doing their best to get assimilated in the American way of life. Aside from this motley group of foreign students, the small community of Afghan students in the Bay Area offered some kind of psychological crutch. I was given a lot of advice and tips about how to go about with my new life in America. Their suggestions, though well-meant, ended up confusing me as some turned out to be contradictory. For example, a few advised that I should discreetly try to make inconspicuous my Afghan traits when I am with Americans in order to get assimilated quickly. On the other hand, others would say, it is pointless to hide my Afghan origins as it would always show up in one form or another. I attended school all day and spent the nights and week-ends working as a busboy and then as a waiter in a restaurant close to our apartment. Every Sunday afternoon, an uncle would take me to Alameda City to play volleyball with friends who are mostly Afghans themselves. After the game, we would go to a restaurant and have dinner together. This was a welcome treat for me. In their company, I was able to relax and have a good time. I didn’t have to exert extra effort to reach out to another culture. I felt at home and the feeling of belongingness was such great comfort.

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