“Could you help me read this” This is something I didn’t expect I’d ever have to say again. Perhaps this speaks to how American I am. I thought of learning to read English as learning to read instead of learning to read one out of hundreds of languages. Now nearly everyday I have to ask for help doing things that I learned how to do as a young child. Things like going to the grocery store, proper manners, reading, and communicating.
It’s a strange feeling and I think a pretty universal one. When each person experiences it is different but I’d bet most of us experience this at some point.
I don’t usually think of myself as an ego driven person. I think having some level of ego is important, it helps to have a positive opinion of myself, but I’m not able to stay within the experiences I’m confident or even competent in. I can’t read Danish, or Norwegian. In my two months in Scandinavia I’ve had to say that many times. “I can’t read” aren’t the easiest words for me to say. I associate them with being a child and since I’m not the right age to be considered a child I feel my ego pulling away from admitting my limitations.
It’s a strange kind of game. I’m playing like I enjoy new experiences but when I find experiences that are truly new I start to shrink from them.
Sure we all have to find our zone. We have to get a skillset and put some time into creating our self concept so we can create our lives based on that. Still it’s uncomfortable learning about the borders of my knowledge and understanding. I didn’t expect to feel so uncomfortable.When I was traveling it was easier. I think passing through was somehow different but I’ve been living here. I’m surrounded by people who look just like me and can speak at the very least two languages fluently. I only speak English. For some reason I feel like I should be able to understand more than I do because of all the similarities.
In the US we have this mentality that if you live in the US you better speak English. It’s not a very helpful mentality at times and I don’t even agree with it. Or at least I didn’t think I did but now I can see that I’m using that same ideology from the other direction. I’m telling myself I should communicate in Danish when I’m in Denmark. No one else here seems to think that. Most people are happy to switch to English. Still I have been beginning to think less of myself for not being able to operate like someone from here.
I never realized or even had a reason to think about what it means to immigrate. What it means to go from the society of my childhood into a whole new country. The amount of cultural differences is shown a little more every day for me even in another Western culture. I would never fit in here, I could learn to function but to actually appear as if I am from Denmark or Norway is much harder than learning a language.
The US acts in such a naive way in so many world issues. We tend to act as if we are the victims of immigrants or that we belong more than newer immigrants. The depth of our strange beliefs go deeper than consciousness. I didn’t realize how much it means if I leave my home country. I didn’t realize when so many people said they’d move to Canada if Trump was elected that it showed a real lack of understanding. If I were to lose or give up citizenship to my home country it would be like a forced exclusion from my family.
I actually never felt like I had a cultural heritage, and I definitely never felt like I could lose it. Lucky me.
It seems like a strange thing but I’m going to read some of my beginner (children’s) Norwegian book and think a little bit more about what it means to lose access to your own cultural heritage.
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