The hardest part about moving to a new country or to any place, no matter how close or far, is adjusting to the rhythm of your new life. When the place you are moving to is totally different in most aspects of life, adjusting becomes a lot more challenging.
Starting from a common ground.
One of the first things I did when I got to the new country was to try and find a common ground between what I knew to be “normal” and what I was discovering about the new place. This gave my new life some sense of familiarity which became a building block to my settling in. One example that I can use to explain this process is food, unless you have found another way to sustain life in a human being, which everyone will be glad to learn about, no matter where you come from, every human being eats, that is the law of nature. So I started there and introduced myself to the american “cuisine”. I had never had a hamburger before coming to America and I kept hearing it was a signature food in the American culture, of course I eat bread and I eat meat but to that moment I had not combined them so my first order from the famous McDonald was a cheeseburger with no cheese (yes I said that to the clerk in my broken English and I still remember the look), no mayonnaise and no vegetable of any kind, basically a meat patty on a bread. That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, so the next time I gradually added the another ingredients, and one by one until I am now able to down a jawbreaker triple cheeseburger with everything. This may seem like a silly example but I applied this technique to other aspects of my life.
Building new relationships.
As I came here alone leaving all my relationships across the ocean, it was without a doubt that in order to rebuild a life in this country I had to make friends somehow. I worked hard both at school and at work to make sure that I was able to build new and enriching relationships. I will not say that every one of my attempts went well, I did meet the occasional “so do you see lion and tigers walking down the street in Africa?” and “do you guys wear clothes in Africa?” questions from a few new encounters, which were sometimes out of ignorance and certainly out of arrogance from their part. This used to drive me crazy at the beginning, how can someone ask such a dumbfounded question in a world where they would pride themselves to have the knowledge at the palm of their hands, a little Google research could have answered those questions and prevented them from offending a new stranger. Gradually I learned to stand up to those “bullies” who believed that belittling my home of Africa would have an effect on my daily happiness, and I started to politely answer with a blank “no we do not have tigers in the streets where I come from, there are some places called parks where those animals live when they are not in the wild” LOL. I have had conversations with some of my immigrant friends from different parts of the world who get comments like these from the hosts and it ends up causing them to withdraw from meeting new people which can affect their lives in a negative during their stay here. One way that I started to deal with these incidents that offended me, was to use this opportunity to be an ambassador and an advocate of Africa, if I was willing to learn from my new country so I was going to tell them about my mine. I wasn’t going to change who I was or deny where I come from but rather grow and flourish in this new home, while maintaining what makes me a great African and learning to incorporate what will make me a great American in my new life.
Getting involved and adopting a team spirit attitude.
The third thing I did is try to contribute to the American society that had welcomed me as much as I could. With the little time that I had, I tried to volunteer, join some form of community whether it be a church, a book club, a library… anything that will encourage me get out and make some ties in the new home. Lastly, I tried to avoid anything that could create a “me versus them” mentality. Instead of focusing on what I found odd or challenging to what I knew to be “normal” about the new culture, or anything I didn’t understand at the time, I tried to focus on what we had in common and on what was going to fit and benefit my new life as a potential American. Just like hearing some of my encounters belittle me or talk ill about my culture would make me cringe on the inside I tried to empathize in my actions. I have always found beauty in diversity; from diversity of people, to food, to ways of life, cultures, life choices and everything in between., diversity brings strength. This what I still focus on while settling into the new country that has been my home for the last ten years and it has enriched most aspects of my life in a very big way.