It was in the summer of 2014 that we first decided to move abroad from India. I know it was going to be a tough yet interesting journey. The real challenge is not just surviving but adjusting to the lifestyle and cultural differences. I was fighting the stereotype that was embedded in my mind about me and the American people. But nothing stopped me and I was ready enough to step on the grounds of another culture.
My First Out-Of-Country Flight Experience
The flight was long and most importantly I had to travel alone. It was a different experience and I was quickly distracted from homesickness, thanks to the little TV screen with all recent movies. It was a 30-hour journey, (From India to Kuwait, Kuwait to London and London to Chicago) yet I survived with a smile on my face. Actually, it was a moment of surprise that I managed out- of- my- country journey without showing any fear in my eyes. I was silently applauding myself. The pleasantries while greeting and all the “hello ” with the flight attendants and the immigrant officer made me feel that I have already developed the worldliness within me.
Trying To Connect With New Place And People
When I reached my apartment I had no connection with it. The scenery outside my window has changed, the 365 days warmth are no longer in place. The impact was huge but I didn’t give up. I began my search seeking ways to blend in the multicultural society striking a conversation with anyone I see, at least a “Hello”.
In a week I realized Americans are great greeters and they are just being polite. Unlike us Indians who mostly take time to start a conversation with strangers. It shattered my hope of being accepted into their tribe. It was hard to interpret another culture’s friendliness.
Thanks To the Open minded People:
But in a month I had American neighbors who loved my exotic spicy Indian food. From that moment onward my experience was totally different. I realized American are open-minded, they love and respect other cultures, heritage, and even fashion. I can still see American people complimenting me when I wear a Saree.
Being an expat, building the social circle among the locals was bit scary. But the native people made it so easy for me. Thanks to their welcoming nature. Realizing that some people just do things differently in name of culture or practice I started to love these differences. If we were all the same, life would be boring for sure.
Living abroad was one of the most profound undertakings I made for myself. Not just a job or a house I moved, it was more than that. Not to mention the parenting struggles I had to go through alone with no elders’ support. Still, I believed there are many expats who could help me go through this journey. But I was surprisingly wrong. Of course, everyone’s experience is different and unique and mine was little bitter when I had to move to a different state.
Multicultural Vs Melting Pot Lifestyle:
I had this illusion that my expat living was under control as I had some American neighbors and strangers who could help me in a grocery store when my kid throws a tantrum. I realized it was an illusion when I actually met some expatriate from India who had already been living here and mostly settled. Yes, blending inside their tribe was a real challenge.
The group was huge and they already had their own ideologies and melting pot lifestyle. A melting pot is a society where all of the people blend together to form one basic cultural norm based on the dominant culture(American culture). Living a melting pot lifestyle is a sole decision of any expatriate. But expecting the same from every expat is not acceptable.
I don’t want to offend anyone, I just want to voice my opinion. Yeah, I had some great Indian friends who accepted me as I am and respected my values when I first landed. But the next move to a different state taught me a different lesson. I am not a melting pot lifestyle person and I believe in multiculturalism. I love to meet new people and respect their lifestyle but still, carry on with my own family traditions.
But, when I realized Indian expatriates don’t see me one among them, I felt very bad. I was judged for following rituals like fasting, for wearing salwar and saree instead of western costumes, for staying vegetarian on Saturdays, etc..,. Most importantly my confidence was shattered. But nevertheless, for me, with my years of experience in dealing with and being able to read Indians, it was hard to interpret the Indian expatriates. For the sake of having friends in this expat world, I was ready to give up my values and beliefs and get on with their melting pot lifestyle. I know it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. But when I thought through the whole idea I felt like losing my originality.
Made My Decision Of Not Giving Up My Values:
I believe in traditions and that’s what makes us whom we are. I love wearing both traditional and western costumes but what is most important is my comfort. The decision of what I am wearing for a particular place or event is solely mine. You don’t have a say in it unless or until its awkward.
I don’t want my kid to be a pushover who could give up her cultural values but embrace it. I want her to respect other cultural values but not judge them based on a tradition or practice they follow. When I constantly strive to raise my daughter encouraging her to hold on to her own values, dreams and her inner beauty no matter what, how could I possibly give up my own values?
I honestly believe not all expats from India are judgemental over the newcomers. There are many people who are welcoming and helpful enough to hold the hand in the initial days of settling. And I really appreciate them. My thoughts are with the ones who are not.
Dear expatriates, you are not making it easy for people who want to live in a multicultural society.
We all stay here in the search for the sense of belonging but you make it harder by judging us. Melting pot lifestyle is not bad but at the same time, you should respect other people’s decision on how they want their lifestyle to be and yet consider them as your friends. We all live in one world with different cultures around. Let’s Embrace it.
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