And Then Comes The Culture Shock

Leaving a very sheltered life where I was surrounded by family and friends to come to America, ALONE was like uprooting a giant oak from its roots and leaving it to flounder at the mercy of the elements.

There was tremendous culture shock with regards to the weather – when I saw the sunshine, I assumed it would be warm only to realize that in that I was no longer in a tropical country. In America, during the winter time, it can be extremely cold even though the sun is shining.

As any immigrant I am sure that it is scary, but as a FEMALE immigrant, it is way more than scary. It is intimidating and downright horrifying. Not only do you have to worry about finding a job and sustaining yourself, you also have to worry about SAFETY… as a single female, who had never lived alone or even been away from home for more than a weekend in the hospital, it was OVERWHELMING.

Below you will find a small excerpt from “The Green Grass” which goes into detail about my first experience with a new culture upon arriving to the USA. 

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I was leaving everything that was familiar and safe; and venturing into a great vastness of uncertainties. I felt like a huge oak that was being uprooted and thrown out into a turbulent sea to go as it would wherever the waters took it. This was my mindset as we touched down at JFK International Airport.

There was no more time for moroseness of self-pity. It was time for action! I had to be alert and ready to answer questions from the Immigration Officer. Was I anxious? You bet. I retrieved my suitcase and stood in line to face the man or woman who determine my fate.

My officer was a middle aged, short, semi balding guy who seemed kind enough. He was actually smiling as I approached. He asked me some routine questions as to where I was going and to stay and so on. Did I have anything in my suitcase that I should not have?

“How long do you plan to stay?” He continued.

“One month,” I replied.

“Would you be able to stay away from your family for that long?

“That I am sure about, I may want to run back after a few days.”

I think these were tricky parts in the questioning process and I tried to answer as best as I could. I really felt like I wanted to turn around right there and run back home. Lo and behold, he stamped my passport– he had given me six months to stay in the USA.

I now had to be checked by the customs officer who opened up my suitcase and took away some of the fruit that I had brought. My brother had gone through a whole of trouble to get these special delicacies for his son, unfortunately it was not meant to be.

I was very happy to see my nephew waiting for me beyond the ropes for visitors and as I was walking towards him, I heard someone saying,

“Miss, Miss, wait!”

I looked around and stopped dead in my tracks. The officer who just interviewed me was running after me. Oh my God, what was going to happen now? Was he going to take back the Visa? Was I going to have to go back home and hang my head in shame? He caught up to me and said,

“Oh Miss, you left your $40.00 on my desk.”

You were allowed to bring $40.00 Guyana dollars with you. Phew!! What a relief! But, what a way to enter America. This was the first of many kindnesses that were bestowed on me in this great land of America. There were so many rumors of people being very unkind and rude; that was dispelled in my first day there. This officer was just coming off duty and he realized that I had left my money there. He did not have to, but he took the time and effort to return it to me.

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Have you ever experienced Culture Shock? What was it like for you?

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