America To A Foreigner — How I perceived America from Mexico

Robinson, Michael — The Washington Post

I still recollect my insomnia-driven nights in the weeks following my settling in America — thoughts of uncertainty on what American culture truly was flooded my mind and deprived me of dreaming on what lay ahead. Now, as I grow ever-more cognizant of American life and values, I am steadily learning how to suitably function and present myself when in America. My previously held “foreigner outlook” on the U.S. came under scrutiny as I received constant teasing remarks about my exchanges with fellow peers, leading to my questioning of preconceived notions.

Acclimatization to the American lifestyle is by no means straightforward — the whole nation and its people an alien civilization of constant unfamiliarity and readjustment. As my time in the states flies by, I’ve gotten, as my dear friends claim, “cultured” into such a new society. My then Mexican theories on how the American species acts were debunked as I now uncover the truth behind the American flag. I am making gradual progress in my efforts to understand what to, and not to do, when interacting with Americans, thus enabling me to form unparalleled relationships.

Throughout my early childhood in Mexico, I admired the United States, holding envy against anyone who lived in such an esteemed land; nevertheless, a number of my beliefs apropos American culture, life, and people have been modified since migrating to such adulated land.

For one, the media formulated this idea within me that the general American population, specifically the wealthier citizens, embraced a position of abhorrence and racism concerning Mexican immigration, as if Americans detested anyone born outside their own land. I recall the words of my cousins, staunch and proud Mexicans, who claimed that “Americans are just… so selfish, my god — they never shut up, and god don’t let me start on their treatment of Mexicans.” At 10 years of age, I looked up to my first cousins as if they were gods among me, accepting their position on Americans with no second thought. On the other hand, I also repeatedly heard and witnessed a secluded habitat of American teenagers, not admitting anyone to their affluent groups unless pertaining to it “by blood.” There was no in-between — either one belonged or not. On an organized school trip to Houston, my friends and I were verbally abused by a group of preteens who asked if we rode donkeys to school — since then, I believed American culture to be isolationist, leaving no room for any newcomers or for those who do not model the ideal American. In the U.S., too, as a tourist, I recall believing that life was simply painful. As I witnessed my American relatives in Cypress, Texas, repeat their same routine day after day, I couldn’t bear the thought of living in the states. I believed America to be a land of opportunity, but a land enveloped in the depressing, mournful tears of its citizens, yearning to have something more.

When a foreigner sees America, they refer back to cinematic productions which involve vivacity and liveliness. For instance, movies such as Ocean’s 11, Fast and Furious, Friday Night Lights, among others which form an exhilarating idea of everyday American life. Likewise, I then perceived American life to be an authentic representation of what viewers see behind their movie screens — a fervent lifestyle abundant in chaos and disarray. I also regarded American society to be ample in the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs, apprehensively awaiting the days I would be offered such substances or instead coerced to them. The international spotlight never stops shining on America, the world analyzing its every move. Global live television is often plagued with videos of oblivious American teens claiming the most absurd politically-social statements, stringing together radicalized facts and crafting their child-like arguments. Near-sighted from observing what I saw, I held the belief for years that the American kind was uninformed and ignorant when it came to world affairs.

When in Mexico, I fell for the propaganda brought forth by my friends and family that Americans are uncanny in a negative way; I fell for the notion that Americans themselves are impolite, discourteous and impudent, believing that they are the sole protagonists in existence; I fell for the idea that American society and culture is deranged, with its citizens utterly divided due to their political positions, ushering violence and hate without any pacific discussion; and I fell for the erroneous conclusion that American society is complex, an enigma, when in reality, it is a simple truth.

In Mexico, I felt condemned, as if I had been stabbed in the core of my heart with a knife coated in drops of racism instead of blood, even though I had done no harm. In the land of the free, I “woke up” from such a torturous nightmare to benevolent and understanding American citizens who have affectionately adopted me into their congenial coterie. Similarly, my presence in the home of the brave enlightened me to learn how Americans are the antithesis of secluded, and instead are embracing, nurturing, and blessing of diverse cultures; curious to continue learning and eager to assist. By the dawn’s early light, in America, I became conscious of the thrilling and vibrant everyday mood; exhilarating sports, riveting music genres, and wide-ranging jubilation in the countenance of American citizens over any previously believed sense of sorrow. The mournful tears that once overflowed America’s Great Lakes converted into beaming grins of exultation as I was awakened to American culture.

As the term “home” became a symbol of America, I came to realize that American culture is unexpectedly normal. Every single street is not holding street races, Texas isn’t burning, and the cops are not showing up at everyone’s doorstep. The movies are simply movies. Although Mexico holds the shameful fame of drug exportation, on repeated occasions I was reminded of the dangers that America posed with drug and alcohol presence — one was made to believe that living in America meant being addicted to those substances. I retaliated to my brother’s claims that “America is horrible, they have drugs everywhere.” Little did I know how wrong he was. The world’s interpretation of America was yet again proven false by my real-life experience of living in the U.S., where I have witnessed that claims regarding alcohol and drugs in America have been massively inflated worldwide. Like any other major superpower in history, America is always playing under-the-lights. Repeatedly, Mexican news outlets, hubs for corrupt government propaganda, focus American news on the negative aspects of their society. From reporting on government failures to ridiculous public comments, news outlets always seem to catch hold of America’s missteps while failing to include the milestones American society strives for and achieves on a yearly basis. As I adapt to American society, it becomes ever-more evident that the “major” missteps depicted on news frontlines are far outweighed by the historic developments American citizens make.

The average American teen, to say the least, is peculiar. The way Americans interact with one another, their language, physical movements, and style of living are unlike any other civilization across the globe. When announcing to loved friends back home that I would depart towards San Antonio, I received criticism that “[I] would be changed, for bad, forever.” They were partially right. I have changed. Nevertheless, by no means has such change been in a negative direction. On the contrary, America has forever revolutionized me as an individual, for good. America has brought me joy, love, and a new sense of life. At first, I believed such a change would be unfeasible in a society abundant in rich ungenerous children. I was radically proven wrong. As an immigrant, the stereotypical American teenagers have gotten out the best of me, both academically and socially. Politically, further, I saw a divided America, fueled by rage towards their own brothers and sisters. However, through tragedy and triumph, I have come to realize that Americans are one united family when all is said and done. Seeing America from afar is like seeing shoes being tied as a kid — so complex, yet so simple. But I simply shut my foreign eyes and looked at America like I would anywhere else.

21st-century society, for far too long, has reached conclusions without proper justification. The world prejudges individuals, societies, and events. We are all victims of doing so as well. The stark reality, nonetheless, is that hundreds of aspects in life will not always be as they seem. Clichéd but true, one shall never judge a book by its cover. Our prejudiced perception may very well be untrue, as is my case with American society. One does not know the truth of something until he truly experiences and understands it. We presume without knowing, talk without knowing, blame without knowing, criticize without knowing, until we ultimately “know” and are refuted. It is imperative that we must uncover that truth prior to claiming that a matter is fact, for the greater good of society and our future.

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