When I first landed in the United States I was over the moon, like swimming in a warm lagoon, with expectations that could fill a room! A rhyme was necessary to proper show my excitement. Here I was, for one, I assumed I would easily assimilate with America because I had consumed American culture for, what seems like my entire life, through television, music and movies so I anticipated very few surprises; but as I have learned assumptions are not truth. I had created an amazing, grand image of the USA encouraged by movies and other mass media, then when this image and expectations were not met… it was a shock to the system.
One of the difficult shocks I dealt with is the way Americans communicate, particularly greeting. Where I come from, South Africa, acknowledging another person is important through verbal greeting or any type of salute, what I found here is that this verbal acknowledgment is replaced by some gesture, like a quick-to-fade smile or a head nod and that is only when they even decide to acknowledge you at all.
Now, it has been difficult for me not to attribute this to some sort of moral degeneration in the USA or how very wrong it is not to acknowledge others properly instead I have been forced to recognise that it is just a difference in communication, a stark one though.
I had been bouncing in and out of this American form of communication for the past three months, where I would acknowledge and greet people, get so frustrated when this is not reciprocated that I’d stop trying. Then of course I would feel like a terrible person, return to my South African way of greeting, get very little back… and so it goes. But I made a decision to stay true to myself, and fortunately more and more people are catching on and saying Hello.
Post written by Lerato Mahloko CCI participant at NOVA, South Africa