Adapting to life in the USA: how to get rid of the fears and habits of the homeland and open up to new things
For many coming to the United States, immigration seemed like a dream come true. However, there are often cases when bright expectations and first enthusiasm give way to disappointment, nostalgia for an abandoned homeland torments more and more, and some immigrants even begin to regret their decision to leave. If over time negative sensations do not disappear or even intensify, life itself in a foreign land turns into a daily test for a person and eventually ends with either a return back or "internal emigration" without any desire to integrate into the local environment.
Olga Podolskaya, a well-known Russian clinical psychologist who has been working as a life coach in the United States for several years, told ForumDaily that she could contribute to the rejection of a new country and how to try to get rid of negative feelings.
Fighting the "inner monkey"
According to Olga, the difference in mentality and, therefore, in the behavior of people of different cultures in any case creates a “break in the template” that causes some discomfort in people from different countries.
“However, the response to this gap is up to the individual. There are people who are more open to new things than others. The task of an immigrant is precisely to increase his openness to new things and perceive it not as a negative, but as a kind of challenge, with curiosity, interest and a desire to understand the deep reasons for the behavior we do not understand, ”the psychologist notes. At the same time, according to Olga Podolskaya, cultural closeness is directly related to the animal nature of man.
Dmitry at the forum People and Countries noted that adaptation was not very easy for him, but it was openness that helped to overcome the situation.
“The first 2 months I was ready to give up everything and go home, it seemed to me that the Americans did not understand me, I think it was also because there was a language barrier. Everything became easier when I met Russian guys, communication with them for me became like an island of my homeland in a foreign land, - Dmitry writes. “After 4 months, the language barrier was gone, I could freely communicate with the Americans, and communicating with them for any reason brought me pleasure.”
Dmitry spent 2 years in the United States on a work visa and has to leave, but now he wants to move to the United States forever, “because once having fallen in love with this country, it cannot be forgotten.”
But according to Olga Podolskaya, openness to new things is extremely difficult for many immigrants.
“We can say that the conventional“ monkey ”inside us is very closed. She follows the rules of behavior adopted in her flock, and perceives anyone who is different from them hostile. She lives by instincts, and therefore perceives the usual template for separating "us" from "strangers." Our task is not to follow the lead of this animal principle, but to become more human, ”explains the psychologist.
For example, an immigrant from Ukraine says that on the very first day she faced a cultural difference. Standing at the traffic light, an American spoke to her, who decided to share that the day was wonderful and wish her a good day. The Ukrainian woman was very impressed by this, but at the same time it pushed her to immerse herself even more in American culture, writes Emigrant.
It was also hard for her to get used to the fact that Americans are ready to sit on the floor, eat and chat about anything, while not hesitating to discuss intimate moments. The Ukrainian woman notes that “you very quickly get used to the pace of New York, and when you get to a small town everyone seems to be“ sleepy flies ”.
Rђ RІRѕS, Alina toldthat she was never used to small talk, and she did not like the American friendship style. She thought more than once about returning to her homeland, but in the end, she and her husband managed to find Russian friends in the United States and became a little more comfortable.
“But the American mentality will probably never be mine because of a different way of thinking. For example, small talk is the habit of talking to the first person you meet. I move from point a to point b, my head is busy with this. And then in the middle of the road with a stranger to start talking? My system is breaking down. Why, about what? I have no time. I am not saying that this is bad. It's just unusual for a Russian person. Whereas for an American, this behavior is absorbed with the mother's milk, ”notes Alina.
Lana's story turned out to be even more complicated. She shared it on the forum People and Countries. Our immigrants became the reason for the negative experience. Her classmate living in America, having learned that the girl was moving to the United States, as she won the green card, offered her help. As a result, Lana became the personal “slave” of her classmate and her husband, she cooked for a month and a half, cleaned and washed their things. There was a time when she was not even allowed to walk out of the apartment. But, fortunately for the girl, in the end everything was decided and now she advises all those who have moved not to give up.
As for cultural predispositions to openness or, conversely, closeness of perception of the new, Olga Podolskaya notes that cultures are really divided into high-context and low-context ones. However, she stresses that this distinction is not fatal to immigrants.
“A highly contextual culture is one in which a lot is implied, but not said in a straightforward text. This is a culture of innuendo and innuendo. The most highly contextual are oriental cultures, for example, Japanese or Chinese, where the word “no” is not even pronounced, and the refusal is expressed through the wording “yes, but,” - the psychologist gives an example.
By the way, American culture, for all its politeness, is classified as low-contextual, since it is customary to discuss a lot in it in words, even if it is done very delicately.
“But Russian culture is highly contextual, since we have a taboo on discussing certain topics, for example, money, sex or food. In our country, for example, it is understood that you cannot refuse food or refuse food, it is not customary to ask the owner of the house to take food with you, although such a request is perceived in the order of things on American potlaks, ”Olga says.
Raising the cultural level
Accordingly, a representative of a highly contextual culture may be shocked by the very fact with which easily foreigners discuss “forbidden” topics and violate unwritten taboos. On the other hand, for a representative of a low-context culture, it seems strange that something cannot be discussed in words at all. However, the psychologist emphasizes: the possibility of understanding depends for the most part not so much on the culture of a particular country as on the cultural level of the person himself.
You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.
“The higher the intellectual and cultural level of a person, in principle, the lower his contextuality and, accordingly, the higher his openness. That is, the more educated and versatile an immigrant is, the more other cultures he knows, which means he is able to understand their context. In this case, contextuality even benefits him - in the same way that a well-developed trauma adds resources to a person in comparison with those whose life was going well. But the high contextuality of the national culture with a low cultural level of the person himself is an ideal ground for the emergence of barriers and the emergence of negativity in communication with foreigners, ”warns Olga Podolskaya.
There are also psychological techniques that increase openness to new things.
“In fact, any novelty enhances this openness. You can drive to work on a new road or buy groceries from the store that you have not taken before. Even in your own apartment, you can, for example, go to the bathroom backwards. For all the fun it gives new impressions and sensations. This also includes meeting new people, ”the psychologist enumerates.
Of course, there are also quite real cases of disappointment from immigration, but Olga Podolskaya notes that most often they are associated with distorted expectations from the new country.
“Let's say you want apples, but you have not planted an apple tree, but blueberries. Agree, it is rather silly to complain that, when she grows up, she does not bring apples. Its fruits are also tasty and useful in their own way, but they are not able to turn into apples. The same goes for another country. She is who she is, with her merits and demerits. If you can discern its merits and learn how to minimize disadvantages, you can live happily. If you wait all your life for apples to appear on the blueberry bush, you will always feel negativity and a feeling of broken hopes. Each country has its own disadvantages, but it is important to try to concentrate on the advantages, ”the psychologist concluded.
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