My dear friend and colleague, Ank Stuyfzand, came to the US (Southern California to be exact) 14 years ago from The Netherlands, for work and the adventure of living abroad. Four years ago, she and her family moved from SoCal to Massachusetts, which she says was “like moving to another country all over again!”
What Ank loves most about being in the U.S. is “the diversity of people and cultures from all over the world, which really has enriched my worldview. I think moving abroad, and really building my life in a different country, has helped me grow in a tremendous way and helped me to become more open minded and well rounded”.
She explains how moving to the U.S. made her feel even more Dutch than before she left her home country. “The concept of being Dutch never occurred to me, ‘til I moved to the U.S. where I discovered how different the people and culture are here… Every culture has its own set of values, beliefs and assumptions that inform behavior, day-to-day life, organizations and institutions. And because I have been here for so long, I think I understand American culture much better by now and I have adjusted my own behavior. At the same time though, I still experience and feel how different the culture is, maybe even more so, or on a deeper level than when I just arrived here. I guess… you can take the girl out of the Netherlands, but you cannot take the Netherlands out of the girl!”
“Living in the U.S. is not the same as in the movies. And there’s not one singular U.S.” She warns of the culture shock that can happen, suggesting that folks learn to recognize when it’s happening and how it affects you. Although she remembers feeling “really lonely, hopeless and homesick”, she knew she’d be fine eventually. With that in mind, she advocates for joining some sort of community, to become part of something. “Try different groups or communities, ‘til you find one you like.” (I couldn’t agree more!)
Something for those new to the country to keep in mind? “Be curious and fascinated and catch yourself when you’re judgmental about the American culture… ‘they’ are not weird, ‘they’ are just different.”