Adjusting to the new life in the United States and a change from a familiar environment and familiar culture is often challenging for most African expatriates. People usually immigrate to find happiness in the West. However, when adapting to the new environment becomes difficult, one may start feeling homesick and disillusioned. On the other hand, immigrant populations in the United States represent a tremendous diversity of cultures and contribute to diverse life experience among Americans. Starting out as an immigrant is an enormous challenge especially for families and their children. Since many are escaping atrocities like war and persecution, they also have to face language and cultural barriers as well as overcome discrimination.
It is vital that fresh immigrants seek assistance when adjusting to new life in the United States and make a smooth transition into their new home. Despite the many challenges of adjusting to their new lives, most immigrants usually adapt well to their new environment. The most common challenge is acculturative stress resulting from the complexities of navigating between two cultures and trying to find a balance and how best to live within each one. This article outlines ways in which African immigrants assimilate and cope with challenges they face when adjusting to their new life in the United States.
Firstly, you must get used to American culture and take active cultural participation for your social life to get easier. Living in America for every new immigrant from all over the world is a unique cultural experience and a wholesome learning experience. The culture of any community is multifaceted and entails numerous aspects from food, language to traditions.
As an expatriate, indulge in the local food even though it may be very different from what you were used to in your homeland. You may be misled that American food is all burgers and fries – far from it. Due to the diversity and size of the US population, the country offers broad cuisine options to choose from. Every region has its unique foods and any immigrant will always find a favourite dish they can enjoy in their locality they have resettled in. In New England for instance, you may fancy sea food like some lobster while in the South, you may relish some soul food. Take time to sample the different flavours and you will soon be on your way adapting to your new life as an expatriate in the United States.
Use American media
By tuning into local media like Television, Radio and reading the local newspaper, an expatriate will get a get to learn how America works and get to know happenings in their locality. Moreover, the media will give you a hint of what kind of music your American friends listen to. Get to know popular TV shows in your area since the media is a window that gives you a glimpse of your immediate society. Through the media, you will learn slang and better your understanding of how to converse in American English. The tips you will get from TV and radio will help you when making small talk, when looking for a job and being handy at interacting among your social circles.
Be social and make small talk
Force yourself out of your comfort zone and learn to strike up random conversations with strangers. Americans are very cordial and friendly and interacting with strangers is perfectly normal. Casually ask a cashier or an attendant how they are doing and will positively aid you in adjusting to your new surrounding. Talking to strangers and asking polite questions will also help you learn more American cultural practices and you gain useful knowledge about American people.
Furthermore, be more open-minded and share your experiences with close American friends. Sharing your life experience will give you a broader picture of the American culture and make your adjustment easier. However, avoid emphasizing the differences between your background and the American scenario but rather gain appreciation and understanding of how American culture works. Take them as potential learning opportunities for adjusting to your new home. Do not get worked up if people say culturally insensitive things about your background. Many times people are just curious and are eager to learn more from you about your culture.
Explore and try new things
Whether you are mingling among New York’s skyscrapers or swaddled by miles of cornfields in the American Midwest, tap into your adventurous spirit and explore your surrounding area. In case of festivals and games, attend them by yourself and immerse yourself in the experience. As an immigrant, American football, Baseball and Thanksgiving may all seem weird and complicated. However, to adjust better and faster, visit matches in your locality, participate in cultural festivals and figure out whether they are really weird. Take a bus or the subway and visit various tourist attractions in your city. The United States is a huge country and there is so much to see and learn. Give it a chance and you will find that adjusting to the new environment is easier and enjoyable.
Adjusting to a new culture and environment may seem daunting at first for a new immigrant but it is a small phase at the beginning of your expatriate experience that you will circumvent in no time. Exercise these tips and be open minded and you will soon find comfort and happiness during this transition period as a new immigrant.
Mikhail is a content creator, a digital marketer, and an entrepreneur. He studied Political Science at the University of Ilorin Nigeria.