Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Does it Mean to Be an American?

Okay, wow. The title of today's post is way too philosophical for this early in the morning. But it's one of the things that occured to me as the plane was touching down in NYC Saturday night.

I wasn't sure when I was going to be be able to blog again. Between the jet lag and the traveling from place to place, I haven't even had much time to think, nevermind come up with witty observations.

First of all, I'm writing this post without spell check which is kind of like standing on a podium with my clothes off. Most of you post early in the morning and, for that, I salute you.  Living in France, I had the advantage of taking most of the morning and early afternoon to come up with a blogpost and write it out so that it posted at 7 or 8am US time. Everything was on the fly. Not so easy now that blogtime is six hours earlier. I tried writing something out last night but I couldn't come up with a damn thing. I guess I've become too dependant on improv, if that's even possible.

In any case, we're all doing well. In vacation's past, whenever I came home to the US, I almost felt like I had split personality disorder. One half of me was French. When I'm in France, I speak a different language, have different mannerisms and a different humor. The French Katie would be sitting in a chair, pouting out her bottom lip and wondering why these silly Americans eat standing up so much.  The American in me would tell French Katie to 'shut up and go grab a hot dog off the grill'.

Now, the two of us seem to have settled down into one person. Maybe it's age, or time but I find I can understand, identify, and accept the good and the bad both countries and cultures have to offer and it's definitlely made our arrival back in the family fold that much more peaceful.

I hope you all are having a fantastic week! Have you ever had a cultural clash moment while traveling or meeting people from a different country (or a different region of the US, even!)?

35 comments:

Meredith said...

So glad you made it to NYC smoothly! So funny about the cultural differences--it has to be so strange to become an observer of American culture after having grown up in it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Welcome to my world. Now try doing that when you're only 11. I struggled moving from England to Houston. It took me forever to get over culture shock (and the icky cockroaches didn't help either).

elizabeth seckman said...

Nope. I don't even have a passport. And I didn't realize eating standing up was odd. ;)

Julie Dao said...

I've only been to England and Paris, and so many Americans were there that I didn't feel all that different or culturally shocked or anything :D People were very friendly and welcoming. I'd love to go back one day. Sigh!

jaybird said...

I'm glad you and the kids all made it over safe.

I think there are cultural differences wherever you go. Like even here in NJ. The differences between, North Jersey (where everyone dresses up and looks and acts more like New Yorkers) and South Jersey, (where you're lucky if people put on shoes and a shirt, going into church) LOL

Talli Roland said...

Glad you had a safe journey back to the US! I face a similar identity crisis when I'm back in Canada. On the face of things, the differences don't seem that big, but they really are.

mshatch said...

To be honest, I am often ashamed of being an American, especially in the last 10 years due to the nastiness of our politics, the way we think we know better, and our amazing misuse of power. On the other hand, I also know that I have benefited greatly from being born in this country and not in one where I might never have had the opportunities I did. For example, where else could someone who is supposedly low-income be able to have a computer and internet and her very own house? I think sometimes Americans don't know how fortunate they are and I think those in powerful places don't realize how ignorant and stupid they appear. I do however keep hoping we'll grow up.

D.G. Hudson said...

Glad you made it back to the US of A, safely.

Cultural differences are very noticeable in British Columbia, Canada. We somehow blend most of the time. (I'm a transplant myself) I felt the cultural differences more in certain areas of the US. Some areas don't like 'strangers'. . .

I had a hard time not saying bonjour and au revoir going in and out of businesses, after a few weeks in Paris.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I have a BIL who does a study abroad program once a year in Germany and he always comes home with an attitude of *these Americans* generally followed by how loud we are. I think the transition is one we experience without a continent shift though, because of the different crowds. I can hang out with guys watching football, discuss literature with some nerds, attend a symphony and talk about the great movements of music. Being American is all that, which makes it flat out awesome :)

prerna pickett said...

I think it's good to have a bit of cultural diversity in your life. See how others live and appreciate them both for different reasons. Hope your trip is awesome!

Carrie-Anne said...

I've just started avoiding my so-called fiancé's clueless Russian parents, esp. his shrill, hen-pecking, Harpy mother, because the culture clashes were so severe. These people genuinely think they know more than native-born Americans about how Americans REALLY talk, think, and act, and no matter how many times he's tried to tell them that I'm acting like a normal American who values privacy and independence, they're convinced I'm some rude American who doesn't like them. Whatever, I'm not the one who's lived in another country for 20+ years and still merrily carried on like I'm in some far-flung Russian colony! "What-what? You mean people do things *differently* in America? HUUUUHHHH?" Cue grotesque, idiotic, frog-faced, blank stare.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I've definitely had culture shock, having lived in two Asian countries and one in Europe. Traveling is really good for us because it forces us to look outside of our very narrow viewpoints. That's so much more to the world than we realize.

Heather said...

Welcome home! I've never had that split personality feel but traveling to other countries certainly makes me introspective. After having been to Jamaica, St. Lucia, Japan, and Canada, I love experiencing other cultures but I'm glad I was born in America.

TC Avey said...

I can't imagine. When I was a little I dreamed of living in France.

Have a great week!

Matthew MacNish said...

Glad to hear you landed safe! I've never lived anywhere else, but I think it makes sense to absorb some of the culture, especially if you've live there as long as you have.

Kelly Polark said...

Have a blast in the USA, Katie!!
Ha ha, I never realized that Americans do eat standing up sometimes! I eat most breakfasts standing up! (well, it's usually a Pop Tart or cereal bar!)

Miranda Hardy said...

I hope you have a good time here, Katie. I'd be a fish out of water in France, that's for sure. Lol

Johanna Garth said...

My theory is that re-entry into your own culture is always harder than assimilating into a different one.

Have a wonderful vacation.

DL Hammons said...

I guess I'm one who bristles at being categorized, and I have less respect for those who over-simplify things by applying common characteristics of a group to everyone in that group. Not everyone who lives below the Mason-Dixon line is a redneck and not all of the French are rude (but there a lot of both).

Glad you made it over here safely!

Old Kitty said...

Yay that you're over there safe and sound!! Awwww I think it's great you're embracing the two Katies and are now as one!!! Enjoy your hot dogs with joie de vivre! Take care
x

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Glad to know that French Katie and American Katie have learned to get along! Enjoy your time with your family!

Laura Marcella said...

Hope you're having fun in the good 'ol USA!!

nutschell said...

Glad you made it home safely:) You must be relieved to have your two halves settle down now:)
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Connie Keller said...

Having a mom who's an immigrant, I've always felt a bit like "no place is home" because you're always standing a bit outside each culture. On the other hand, it's a blessing to be able to see beyond culture.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Katie, glad you are here safe! No way I could compose a post in the morning. I prepare all of mine the night before - and just before my brain ceases to function.
I was a military brat so I've lived in and visited many foreign countries. I always came away with a new understanding.

Bob Milne said...

We live right on the border, so we make the drive across from Canada into the USA on a regular basis. Plus, being a tourist town, we get more than our fair share of Americans coming up.

I find it's the small, insignificant things that strike me the most. I remember stopping for dinner at a restaurant in Pennsylvania, where the waitress being completely dumbfounded that my son wanted plum sauce for his chicken fingers. On the flip side, I still get a chuckle every time I recall the kid behind the counter at Dairy Queen being so flustered over the American customer who couldn't grasp that 'pop' and 'soda' were the same thing. LOL

Lorelei said...

Welcome home...
Actually, it happened while vacationing in (of all places) Utah. My husband and I were camping in Bryce, and it was early morning. He went to the men's room, and here was a German guy parading around in a shirt and shoes and THAT WAS ALL!!!

Kittie Howard said...

Welcome home! Your post also hit home. I've lived abroad more than a few times and always think re-entry is more challenging than going, with, like you said, one-half here and one-half there.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Glad you're enjoying your visit. Yes, I've experienced the shock when visiting India for 6 weeks and China for 2 weeks when we went to adopt our daughter. Totally different worlds from here.

Botanist said...

I read an article last week on bilingual people, which showed evidence that your personality really does change depending on which language you speak and think in.

As for cultural clashes, I traveled back to the UK from Canada a few years ago, and my first thought in the airport at Gatwick was to wonder why everyone was wearing their smiles upside-down.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Welcome home, to the land of eating standing up, on the fly, or in your car. Our favorite foods are just made that way.

LTM said...

Nothing's really springing to mind for ME as far as culture clashes go... Well, that's sort of not true, I guess. I have moved back and forth from the Midwest to the South and back, and I DO see big differences there. Midwesterners are so reserved. Southerners talk a lot and on top of each other. :D

I DO like the way the French value things like slowing down, enjoying things, savoring. We should do that more. It is a more Southern habit as well. Or maybe just so-La. ;p Welcome home!

Jay Noel said...

My parents were immigrants from the Philippines. I LIVED within one big cultural clash. All the time.

But I think I ended up a better person for it. I can take the best of East and West.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I can totally relate to this. Not to the sitting down and eating thing, but there is a Chinese version of me residing in my body. Totally.

4utea said...

I am currently in Mass. On vacation..just got back from breakfast with my sis and brother..enjoying myself.
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