…like breaking up, is hard to do. And for a “normally-connected-social-networker”, I’m strangely silent about it!

I am an immigrant. It is deceptive to expect that because Ireland and America share a common language, English, that cultural transition will be negligible. Foolishly, that is exactly what I believed! :HA: Differences such as how one waits in line (queues), the turn of a phrase, how to post a letter, or what is expected at the grocery store check-out, have been unexpected adjustments and are just a tiny sampling of instances where I had to engage my neural pathways to figure out something NEW. No longer able to go into auto-pilot everyday, I find the forays into my new life exhausting. With my natural propensity to hermitism, you can imagine how difficult it is for me to leave the safety of our “nest”.

Far more impactful;however, than my external experiences, are those in my own mind. I am acutely aware of my difference. My manner of dress (and let me tell you….Irish women enjoy their fashion!!!), my use of the language, my dialect, what I don’t know, and what I don’t know that I don’t know. ๐Ÿ˜€ It took me at least two months to get over feeling self-conscious at the grocery store.

I could chalk this up to my travel methodology. When visiting foreign countries I attempt to take on a sensitive role and observe the culture around me. I use my skill, as an actor and energy worker, to blend in. Not because I value a cultural homogeny, but because I want to minimize my own impact on local culture. The less I stand out, the more I can experience the essence of a place and its people. Traveling like this does make one aware of their difference, but as a tourist, one expects and is prepared for that difference.

Coming from a white middle-class existence in the States, where I was surrounded, for the most part, by people who sounded like me, looked like me, knew most of the same things I did, engaged in the world in ways I was familiar with, to a country where I am in the minority, is destabilizing. It forces me to grapple with my difference, to find the strength to stand-out.

Perhaps this, more than anything, is the reason the transition has been so challenging for me. I am inherently shy, and have always felt myself to be marginalized; either due to upbringing, religion, gender, or natural temperament. As an immigrant, I stand out. I draw attention. The moment I open my mouth people know an American is in the room and eyes turn. Any latent feelings of doubt or inferiority are highlighted by my lack of understanding of day-to-day operations! LOL

It seems my move to another country has induced a sort of identity-crisis. I think this is good. My original pull to move here was the sense of social and community cohesion I witnessed during my travels. The deciding event occurred at Shanon airport. As I stood quietly with other passengers after a long-haul flight from New York, I observed something I had never seen. Everyone stood easily behind the designated yellow line. People were still and serene. No checking of watches or shifting their weight anxiously from foot to foot. As the minutes ticked by, and we all waited for the baggage carousal, there was a calm silence. The patience and resignation was palpable. When the luggage finally came, there was no rush. People stayed behind the yellow line until they gently moved forward to collect their bag. If the person next to them found their bag first, they cheerfully reached out to help. I think my mouth must have been open, jaw on the ground! I knew then and there I wanted to learn this before I died. This connection and sense of societal obligation, which was more important than the individual, was lacking in my own life education.

The current shock and unsettling of my systems is necessary I think. After all, the soil must be broken and tilled before new seeds can be planted.

Oh….and my Visa approval came just before Christmas. I can now remain in the country, seek employment without special requirements, and conduct business. So, my New Year’s resolutions are to find a job and update my blog more frequently! Happy New Year! Slรกn agaibh

Advertisements