How do you help your foreign friend who’s never been to the USA get accustomed to American culture and get over jet lag?
Take him to the local arcade bar, play Street Fighter II, eat street meat and drink lots of PBR. Or at least that’s what I did.
I met my friend Shawn while traveling. I’m not going to use his real name because he’s probably going to own a giant company someday, and knowing me will probably lower his stock prices. Shawn defies immigrant stereotypes. He’s friends with plenty of Americans, speaks better English than most of us do, plays guitar like Hendrix, and loves our music as well as some of our food.
Shawn is from another continent but decided to come to the U.S. for grad school. Since I live close to his new uni, his first stop on the American Tour was my house.
As we walked around my hood, I tried to give him the lay of the land.
KC: There’re some homeless people here, but they’re mostly harmless.
SHAWN: I know, dipshit. I’m from New Delhi. Nothing I haven’t seen before.
KC: OK, well, we’re going to this Mexican place. It’s pretty spicy.
SHAWN: I’m from India, where the world used to fight wars over spices.
KC: Well, maybe I’ll just push your smartass under a bus.
SHAWN: I’ve been nearly hit by cars since I could barely walk.
After he was acclimated, we did touristy things, catching up and drinking enough to forget worthless memories.
A month later, for the next part of the tour, I visited Shawn at his uni (it’s not CU). In his few weeks in grad school, he’d become more American than the average American.
Shawn debates whether to buy the big or small box of Corn Flakes. He can’t figure out what to do with all of the plastic bags from the grocery store because he keeps forgetting to use the reusable ones. He Dumpster dives for furniture. Uber drivers recognize him because he misses the bus so often. If there’s a bar special, he knows it. It’s $2 Tuesdays at this place, and Wing Night Wednesday at this other joint.
He’s been to a tailgate party and knows all his school’s cheers, even though he has no clue about football’s rules. I’ve never been to a tailgate party. And I’m going to sound like a prude, but I think some of CU’s cheers are incredibly foul.
There are things about our country that I don’t think he’ll ever accept. “Bud Light is seriously the worst beer I’ve ever had,” he told me as we sipped microbrews.
That didn’t break my heart, but I had to ask Shawn a tough question about the U.S.
“So, I know you live in the middle of nowhere. And you’re brown skinned and all. Maybe some people don’t know the different between India, Palestine or Cuba.” He nodded. I really didn’t want to pop the question, but I had to. “Have people been nice to you?”
“People have been great. Everybody’s been fantastic. They’re interested in my culture and me. The ask me about myself, family and country all the time. No complaints here.”
That’s a bald eagle feather in our Yankee doodle baseball cap. With all the weirdness going on in, around and because of our country, we can still be nice and accepting to outsiders. That makes us American.