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Monday, October 20, 2014

Welcome to America!

No matter where you land in America for the first time, it will strike you as part MainStreet and part Frontierland. Old buildings will remind you of the old  European capitals and new buildings/bungalows will remind you of those cowboy movies you watched as a child. Clothes, food, mannerisms, expressions will remind you of all the Clint Eastwood's movies you saw at the local cinema.

People all over the world know a lot about America because products like Coca Cola and Malboro cigarettes have introduced the world to Americans and American tastes.

I liked Elvis, The Platters, poodle skirts and rock-n-roll. I knew about hamburgers and drive-ins where teenagers hung out. I had studied English at my high school and earned A+ on every test. I knew enough vocabulary to offer my opinion on everything. I loved everything American.

"How did you like the trip?" my Uncle asked after I landed in Los Angeles. I had slept most of the time, and had no opinion. He was  smiling  and nodding in a self-congratulatory way when he spoke to me in English. I smiled back and responded in Italian that it was very long. "No! You are in America now and must speak only English."  I nodded again, and within minutes, I knew that I had underestimated the whole language thing. I didn't understand, though I did sense the enormous difficulties I would encounter.

That night, I dreamt I was deaf and dumb. 

15 comments:

#1Nana said...

I came to America as a child, but my family carried the custom, tradition, and knowledge of another culture with us. Even though I was young, I have strong memories of times when we didn't get American culture.

Marty Damon said...

On my first trip to a portion of Europe where finding English speakers wasn't a given I realized that I had suddenly become handicapped. I was no longer ME if I couldn't express myself in the way that I was used to, with shades of meaning or humor.
That dream of yours sounds like a nightmare.

Helen said...

I am enjoying this 'coming to America' story .. More, please.

Brian Miller said...

interesting closure on this...it is interesting to see the impressions of someone that has only known america through movies, products and maybe news...i wonder if it is same as mine in going other places...

Hilary said...

That's a perspective I guess I'll never know firsthand though so many know it so intimately.. no matter which country became their new home. It seems to me that you eventually coped rather well. Thanks for sharing this.

Retired English Teacher said...

This is a great story of your first days in America. I know that we always teach teachers that students will have culture shock and will go into the silent period until they are ready to speak in English when they first arrive here. I can only imagine how one would dream that they were deaf and dumb. How overwhelming it all must be.

Vagabonde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed reading your impressions of the US.

yaya said...

My Mother never taught us Greek because she married my Dad who wasn't. I wasn't interested in Greek school as a child and now I sure wish I had that second language. I admire those that came to this country..like my Grandparents and you, who made a life when they spoke no English, read no English, and had nothing. But they didn't take handouts..they worked and saved and raised kids who went to college and were awesome people. There are some in this country..born and raised here, who don't work and feel they are owed a living and the government should take care of them. I'll probably not win any popularity contests with this comment! I wish we could instill the pride and hard work ethic back in some of our citizens. Big hugs to you today for reminding me of my wonderful heritage!

ladyfi said...

Oh, the difficulties of arriving to a new country - I can relate!

She Writes said...

I love it when you write about this. It's a dream for me to travel to another country and assimilate. (Unlikely, but a dream.) You've done it beautifully and I am fascinated.

The dream part at the end is a perfect conclusion for this. I wish you'd say more! More details, Rosaria :). What did you like? Hate? Miss? Culture shock about? Doubt? Dream of? Confront? What did you expect and what was real and not real?
(Sorry, comp teacher in me is coming out :).)

Linda Myers said...

We will be travelling to eastern Europe next spring. I expect to have a similar venturing out where no one greets me in English. But I go home after two weeks. You didn't.

The Broad said...

When I first came to England I realized I didn't really speak English either!

the walking man said...

I have landed in many places in America and usually I was run off Main Street and preferred the wilderness anyway. I don't know why America is so anal about language, if you have an accent that is not formed on the shores your patriotism and affiliations come under fire, I swear like a seaman and all is fine.

Now though we don't care so much how well you can use language but rather are you right or left, love or hate the black president, carrying a gun or not and on and on. We don't talk anymore, we shout.

I wish I were deaf, dumb, and blind at times.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rosaria .. I'd have loved to be able to speak another language properly - sadly being purely English and lazy (or knowing it'd be difficult and I probably wouldn't be much good at it - left the thought well alone), til really it was too late) ...

Moving to another country is challenging to put it mildly .. cheers Hilary