Culture Shock MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   "Hey, y'all!" I said, flashing my brightestsmile. My only response from the sea of unfamiliar faces was a few suppressedsnickers.

"Are you from 'The Beverly Hillbillies'?" inquired onekid sarcastically.

"No," I replied calmly. "I just movedhere from Savannah, Georgia."

"As a newcomer to this area,"began our teacher, "is there anything you'd like to ask theclass?"

"Yeah," I said. "Why do y'all cuss so much uphere?"

My new classmates, unsuccessful in holding back theirlaughter, were in hysterics.

"You mean curse, don't you?" askedone kid. "What are you, some kinda goody-two-shoes hick?"

It wasmy first day in New York; my family had just moved the day before school started.Needless to say, I felt totally out of place. I was the only kid who didn't knowanyone. I was the only kid who didn't have a clue where to go. I was the only onewho wore straight-legged blue jeans. And, worst of all, I was the only kid whohad a Southern accent. It was like I was speaking a different language. I wasexperiencing culture shock.

Life was hard in those days. We lived in ahotel since we had not yet closed on our new house. We ate the hotel's freecontinental breakfast every morning and fast food for dinner. The seagulls thatcircled McDonald's in search of a stray French fry were the only things thatreminded me the least bit of the marshes and beaches of Savannah.

Everytime we left the hotel we had to take our guinea pig, Silver Charm, with us sothe room cleaners wouldn't find him. We would cover his cage with a blanket andmake a mad dash for the door. Then we would have to smuggle him back in, makingsure our precious pig came to no harm.

But worse than the technicalaspects, everything was different. The clothes, the everyday talk, even the food.Grits and biscuits were replaced by bagels with lox and cream cheese. What waslox, anyway? I thought it was some type of sushi for a while after being told itwas raw smoked salmon. Everyone wore flare-legged jeans, tight T-shirts withstrange screen prints, glitter around their eyes, large

ball chainnecklaces and strange-colored mascara. I had never seen anything like it. And youcould no longer buy a "Co-cola for 50 cent," it was a "Soda for 75cents." Everything was more expensive. My mom complained about that all thetime.

Consequently, I did not get much money from her to buy the newstyles of clothes that were in fashion. After four months I finally got my firstpair of flare-legged jeans. Until then, I felt so out of place in straight legsthat I would try to hide my feet every time I spoke to someone.

I met myfirst friends one day at lunch. I was sitting at an empty table, trying to be asinconspicuous as possible, when a few girls approached me.

"Why areyou sitting at our table?" asked one.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Isaid, standing up. "I was just looking for a place to sit. I'll leave if youwant."

"Oh, that's okay," said another girl. "You canstay."

I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back down. I listened tothem with wonderment. It was an intimate conversation full of fashion, boys andcurse words - things I knew nothing about. I almost felt like I waseavesdropping.

I tried to enter the conversation, but was unsuccessful.All I could think of to talk about was boring old school. No one but uncool nerdslike me wanted to talk about school in their free time. I remembered how much Imissed my friends and how much I longed to make new ones, but didn't think Icould make it with this fast, hip crowd of girls.

I surprised myself,however. I gradually lost my accent and altered my wardrobe. The change wasn'tentirely external; I also became more outgoing and uninhibited. My views on lifechanged. I had always been very conservative, and isolated myself from anythingthat was the least bit unusual. Now I started to discover myself.

I wasattracted to things off the beaten path. I no longer tried to hide my quirks, butrather embraced them. Instead of shying away from boys, some of my new bestfriends were of the opposite sex.

While I did find acceptance and madeacquaintances with the girls from that first lunch, my most intimate friends arefrom the theater. I met my best friend from the first play I did in New York.Together we started a band and wrote our own music. I met another group offriends during a summer theater program, and we are like a family.

As Istarted to hang out with an older crowd and use a few "cuss" words, mymother expressed a wish that we had never moved to New York. I had officiallybecome a chameleon, able to adjust to the changing world around me. I was not thesame girl who lived in Georgia, on the outside or the inside. And, surprisingly,I loved my new self. A little culture shock is good every once in a while.

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