I’ve been here for a week now. It’s been incredibly exciting and stressful. I was concerned that I wasn’t doing enough each day. Now that I think about it I’ve actually achieved a lot. I’ve sent out numerous job applications and even had an interview. I’ve been searching for cars to buy, and been driving around town. I’ve been socializing and hanging out with my cousins. I did some exercise, and found a sweet walking trail to run on. So taking stock of it all, I can say I’ve been productive.
I have a list of things I look at everyday. It’s keeping my life in order at the moment. Otherwise I can see how easily I would slip into routines and habits which don’t suit me. This is a time when everything is changing and nothing changes all at once. I’m living in a different country, but I’m still me. I’m working on becoming an American, and I can decide what that means for me.
When people are in foreign cultures they can act differently. They sometimes go along with things they aren’t normally comfortable with. The saying ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ is an example. It’s about fitting in, rather than doing what suits you. So when visiting another country, we sometimes choose to act like locals. It mainly applies to visible, public customs. Which side of the road to drive on, which side of the escalator to walk or stand on, and so on. Those are harmless and practical examples. So what happens when it concerns something you care deeply about? What if driving on the left was a critical part of your identity?
Right now, I’m still shaking hands with America. We’re exchanging pleasantries. I’ve already noticed some things are culturally prominent here that I’m not going to participate in. I’m referring to the consumption of marijuana, which is semi-legal in this part of the US. I live a clean lifestyle, and that’s not going to change. What’s great about America is that not one of the people I’ve met has encouraged me to try it. They are all incredibly welcoming. So this important part of my identity doesn’t have to change to fit in. I have the ability to decide what being American means for me, and that decision is socially respected.
I realised all this when I was watching my cousin and his friends playing poker one night. A player walked in, wearing San Francisco 49ers gear. His hat, jersey, undershirt, pants, shoes (and probably socks) were exactly the same shade of bright red and gold. Everything matched, and most items had the 49er’s logo on them. He stood out, and for a team that is deeply unfavorable in the greater Seattle area right now. The Seattle Seahawks are set to play the 49ers this weekend for a shot at the Super Bowl. So for this guy to be wearing the outfit of the opposition in a city which has the loudest fan base in the NFL? It’s bold, daring, courageous, hilarious, and it’s what makes America a great country. It’s divisions and differences lend it strength. It might be unpopular, but he’s welcome to wear it.