Ci­ti­zen wants to be more ‘Amer­i­can’

Times Standard (Eureka) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - You can contact Amy Dick­in­son via email: askamy@amy­dick­in­son. com and fol­low her on Twit­ter @ask­ingamy. Amy Dick­in­son

DEAR AMY » My fam­ily and I came to Amer­ica from the Soviet Union when I was a teenager. We be­came cit­i­zens. I got ed­u­cated here and own a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. I write well and speak cor­rectly, with al­most no ac­cent. I feel like I am an Amer­i­can.

I love Amer­ica, and try to learn new things ev­ery day, but I feel like some­thing is miss­ing in me.

Since I was born and spent my for­ma­tive years in a com­mu­nist coun­try (truly like an­other planet, com­pared to the USA), my “au­topi­lot” re­ac­tions are not like those of typ­i­cal Amer­i­can­born peo­ple. For in­stance, my man­ners, top­ics of con­ver­sa­tion, hu­mor, dress, at­ti­tude to­ward money, and even body lan­guage some­time seem “for­eign.”

I feel like it is hurt­ing me to be “cul­tur­ally dif­fer­ent.” I don’t think I say or do any­thing straightup of­fen­sive — it’s more like a lot of sub­tle lit­tle things.

How can I fix this “hand­i­cap?”

I would love to know how to be more Amer­i­can, but I can’t find any books or cour­ses on the sub­ject. — NOT Born in the USA

DEAR NOT » As we ap­proach the cel­e­bra­tion of an­other In­de­pen­dence Day, I ap­pre­ci­ate this un­usual and provoca­tive ques­tion, which, hon­estly — has no “cor­rect” answer.

First, I urge you not to see your own cul­tural back­ground and habits as a “hand­i­cap,” but as an as­set.

Yes, Amer­ica is a coun­try. But Amer­ica is also re­ally a se­ries of con­cepts, ex­per­i­ments, and ex­pe­ri­ences. It is no one thing.

But here is a beau­ti­ful “Amer­i­can” ideal (so dif­fer­ent from the cul­ture you were raised in): All Amer­i­cans have the right to be uniquely them­selves, and that def­i­nitely in­cludes you.

How­ever, rein­ven­tion is baked into the Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence, and so if you want to af­fect “Amer­i­can” man­ner­isms, I sug­gest you be­come a stu­dent of Amer­i­can cul­ture. Take a his­tory course at your lo­cal com­mu­nity col­lege. Fol­low up with a class on cin­ema and pop­u­lar cul­ture. Read Mark Twain, Edith Whar­ton, Sher­man Alexie, Gary Shteyn­gart, and Jeri­cho Brown. Lis­ten to Dolly Par­ton. Watch “Singing in the Rain,” “Good­fel­las,” “Bar­ber­shop,” “The 13th,” and “Ramy.”

Be­come a vol­un­teer fire­fighter. Teach English as a sec­ond lan­guage to other newer cit­i­zens (teach­ing Amer­i­can con­cepts to oth­ers will show you how much you ac­tu­ally know). Work at your lo­cal polling sta­tion dur­ing the next elec­tion.

When you say or do some­thing you be­lieve is “off,” ask a friend to break it down for you. They might choose to tell you what I’m try­ing to tell you now — which is that your ef­fort makes you the most “Amer­i­can” per­son they know.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.