SHOCK CULTURAL -Ana Gaby Perez

“Mama! Me quiero regresar contigo a la casa…” These are the words I said to my mom multiple times every time she dropped me off in school for the first two weeks. Being ten years old, starting over in a new country, new school, new people, different language, different cultures. I had never felt so helpless in my life. I had the amazing opportunity to move to New York because of my dad’s job when I was just a kid. However, it is necessary to admit that even though I lived there for six years, it took me a while, and still does, to get used to and accept the things that the American culture does, and not only that, it’s still hard to identify myself with my friends.

 

I moved to New York when I was only ten years old. I had to leave all my friends behind, as well as my family, and my school. My parents told me that whole summer I was getting ready for my first day of school that everything was going to be fine. That I would make friends the first day if school, that I would find my classroom without any difficulties, and that my teacher would be especially nice to me in case I needed anything. I believed them. Then the first day of school came and when it was time to get out of the car, I remember I was wishing I could go back to Mexico. I saw all the kids walking in, laughing, talking to each other. I got off the car and I recall hearing voices, quick sounds, ones which I just couldn’t understand. That was the sound of a new language. I felt scared, nervous, alone, but most of all helpless. I thought to myself how I was going to get through the day without being able to communicate with them. Surprisingly, my animal instincts kicked in, and I managed to find a way to communicate with my classmates and my teacher. Finding my classroom was a challenge. I had never been in such a large school without my teacher leading me everywhere. I remember thinking to myself how complicated it would be to get around a whole school, especially a new one, without anyone leading me around. Then in saw younger kids walking around, looking for their classroom by themselves. I had never seen such young and independent kids, it shocked me. Independency is definitely one of my biggest challenges while living in New York. Unlike us, American kids were raised to be independent in life, to move out when they turned eighteen. It surprised me how fine they were without their parents, how no obstacle would stop them, and would find. Way to solve it alone. It took me a while, but by the end of my residency in New York, I became a very independent person, and to be honest, I do notice the difference between my friends in Mexico and I. I am way more capable of doing certain things by myself that they are not. Although a shock at first, and trying to never leave my moms side, I eventually took a chance to be independent and found out it wasn’t just easy, but a lot more productive.

 

It took me a while to make friends being that I just couldn’t identify myself with them. You would think that after six years I would have a close group of friends that I would never want to leave behind. However, my culture and my friends’ cultures are so different that even today I still have a difficult time relating to them. Throughout my six years there, I switched my group of friends multiple times. At first I thought it was because they were rude, impolite, annoying, and so on. However, as time went by and I began to accept the fact that either I accepted the fact that I was different from them, or I would never make any friends. That was when I was finally able to stay with a group of friends for a while, even though I did still notice how different they were from me. For example, I hated going to their houses and not knowing whether I would find myself in a mansion or in a hut, being that social classes in America are not very noticeable. I was also always nervous of meeting the parents and knowing that I wasn’t supposed to greet them with a kiss, but I didn’t know whether a handshake or just from far away. It always shocked me how the people didn’t show any interest or kindness when meeting someone new, and it made me uncomfortable. However time went by, and I began to get used to the idea of not greeting the parents or my friends in any special way. Believe it or not, even though I got used to greeting people that way, I still feel rude when I don’t kiss them on the cheek. One other major thing that took me a while to get used to about my friends was the way they got along with boys. They would all flirt with anyone as long as they could kiss them. All they cared about was how far they got with a boy rather than having a relationship with them. As time went on, disappointedly, I began to see that as normal. I remember my cousins visited us this time and I told them about my guy friends and they couldn’t believe the relationship o had with them, even though I thought at the time that it was perfectly normal since I had learned to accept that about my friends. Then I realized, I had changed, I had become one of them, an American, a girl with the same ideas as my friends, not with the ideas that I had moved to New York with.

 

As time went on, I began to like it a lot more in New York than in Mexico. Every time my parents asked if I wanted to go back to Mexico, i remember I would always insist on living in New York forever. After learning about the Culture Shock, I realized that was exactly what had happened to me with my experience of living abroad. In the beginning, I was judging the Americans for being different from me, for being independent, having different beliefs. Then I realized I was only doing that to protect myself from changing and admitting new people into my life. However, I was fortunate enough to realize that it was necessary for me to accept the differences if I was ever going to be able to be a part of their lives and have them be a part of mine. This acceptance allowed me to create wonderful, unforgettable experiences that had a lot to teach me.

 

The six years had come by quickly, and when I least expected it, my parents gave me the news that I was moving back to Mexico. Their reason was that before it was time for me to pick a college and apply, and consequently move out, they wanted me to explore other options, and that meant moving back. At first I didn’t understand their reason and found it unreasonable. I would argue that I had already lived ten years of my life in Mexico and that I already knew enough about it. However, they insisted it would be a different Mexico now that I was older, and that there was no way I was to stay in New York. Finally about a little more than a year ago, it was finally time to live New York and to taken on a new journey. I remember leaving my friends and all of them asking if I was nervous but saying no, since I already knew what I was moving to. However, the first day of school in Mexico had taken a different turn than what I had expected the second I had to put on my uniform. I complained to my mom saying I was uncomfortable, that it was too big, and even that I looked like a nun. Then the bus came, and I felt like a little girl getting picked up and taken care of by a woman on the bus. I finally got to school and I was excited to finally see my friends. However when I got to the classroom and I saw all the girls that I once went to school with were not at all how I had expected. I suddenly found myself wishing I could go back to New York. Then I realized, wasn’t that what I had wanted the first day of school in New York? It was, and so I realized I was having a Culture Shock once again. This one was different though, because this time it was my culture, they shared my beliefs, my ideals, etc. My old friends, my old school, my old days. This time, however, it took a way shorter time to get used to things, because this culture was the one I was raised with, just one I hadn’t put to practice yet.

There is not one thing I would change about my experience with two cultures. I admit, It was hard at first, however once I had passed the barrier, I had learned to enjoy both just equally as much; and that’s exactly what a culture shock is.

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