Travelling to America, Rich Paschall

You might think that anyone who moves to a new country might be in for a bit of culture shock.  If the person is coming to America from a wealthy Western European nation, Norway let’s say, you may not expect the shock to be too great.  After all, aren’t we as advanced as any of the other leading nations of the world?  Would we not seem as modern and progressive as anywhere else?  If we leave the political situations out of the equation, you might think those from the most prosperous of countries would feel at home here.  Of course, if their nations are modern, prosperous and progressive, you might wonder if there is much interest in emigrating here.  I have not met any new Norwegians in the neighborhood.

Arriving at Chicago O’Hare

What of those coming from South or Central America, for example? Would the architecture astound? Would the museums and parks enthrall?  Would the restaurants, night clubs and bars amaze? Would the typical tourists spots excite?  Let’s say you are coming to Chicago. Would you be blown away by the skyline? Would the Planetarium be out of this world? Perhaps the things that we would think provide culture shock are not those things at all. So we have a giant bean in the park (Cloud gate, actually), will this surprise a new resident?

In a world where the internet is just about everywhere, a new resident, no matter what part of the planet he or she comes from, would likely have researched the new destination. The immigrant would have seen the famous locales, and then it is only a matter of visiting in person what has been seen online. The tourists spots and infamous towers were already known. They may provide some momentary amazement but no surprise and certainly no culture shock. No, it is other things that brought shock to my new South American roommate. Surprisingly, they were in my home.

Adler Planetarium

For a couple of months I saw my roommate peel potatoes with a large knife. I never thought much of it until one day I realized he should be using the potato peeler. So I got it out of the drawer and took a potato from him and showed him how I do it. Yes, this was one of the many culture shock moments. My kitchen was filled with little gadgets that were not common to a poor household in South America. Imagine what you have in your kitchen that would be a surprise, even a shock to others.

“Rich!” my mate called out one day.  I came running, so to speak, (OK, I wasn’t actually running) as if something was wrong in the kitchen. We had recently been to the supermarket, another culture shock, where roomie had picked out some cans of tuna in oil. He showed me the can and his face told me the problem. They just did not buy canned goods in his area. Getting into a can was a mystery. I handed him a can opener but he returned it with the best “What the hell do I do with this?” look. This gave me the opportunity to demonstrate the fine art of the can opener. While we now know how to open cans, we also had to learn that we do not drain off the oil into the sink. This is why I save certain jars.

While the kitchen is filled with unique gadgets, I did not expect that the coffee maker was one of them. I guess what I have is non-traditional. It is a Hamilton Beach that has a reservoir on top and you dispense the coffee like a pop machine by depressing the lever. Roomie told a neighbor I did not have a coffee maker with a coffee pot. The nice neighbor gave him one for Christmas.  Now we have two perfectly fine coffee makers. I was shocked to find a guy from Colombia who does not know how to make good coffee. Fortunately he does not read me so I can continue to insist his weak efforts at coffee-making are just fine. I have tried to buy coffee that mentions “Colombia” on the package as one of us thinks it is the only good coffee in the world. I do not wish to shock him with coffee from other lands.

He has, of course, seen microwaves, but never actually had one. He had a television with a remote, but not multiple remotes for multiple devices. I am still trying to get him to use the on and off buttons for the satellite remote. The “on” button will turn on the satellite box and TV and when you hit it again it will turn off the television. I frequently find the box is still on while the TV is off. Getting television from other countries was no surprise, but I guess the amount of them is a bit of a shock.

The stove is rather interesting, I guess. It is not two burners hooked to a giant propane tank. It is five gas burners  I have been unsuccessful in explaining that the flame is not just on or off, but you can control the level. Everything is cooked with a high flame which usually means we have another in-home annoyance. The smoke detector is shocking every time it goes off, which is just about every time roomie cooks.

The biggest shock to date is the weather and the temperature indoors and out. The house is not a comfortable 85 degrees during the day as it is in his homeland. Now that my warm weather room-mate has figured out what the up and down arrows on the thermostat are for, I am usually in for a shock when I come in the house from outside. Thankfully it is a programmable thermostat and resets periodically. Wait until he finds out how 85 feels in Chicago in July or August when the humidity is high. Yes, the culture shock will keep coming.


Author: Rich Paschall

When the Windows Live Spaces were closed and our sites were sent to Word Press, I thought I might actually write a regular column. A couple years ago I finally decided to try out a weekly entry for a year and published something every Sunday as well as a few other dates. I reached that goal and continued on. I hope you find them interesting. They are my Sunday Night Blog. Thanks to the support of Marilyn Armstrong you may find me from time to time on her blog space, SERENDIPITY. Rich Paschall Education: DePaul University, Northeastern Illinois University Employment: Air freight professional


      1. I remember coming back here after 9 years in Israel. The thing that REALLY shocked me most were TV commercials. We didn’t have commercials and having the news interrupted by constant advertisements was a shock. Also — wood. Israel is very short of wood, so everything is made of stone. Marble is used for floors, walls. Everything is made of some kind of rock. And the colors are different. It is so GREEN here –and so desert-brown there. The technology was different, but only because we used different stuff to do things. We used European models for most kitchen tools. European coffee pots and of course, all the sizes were metric. I had to reorient my thinking back to American measurement, but when i came back, I estimated entirely in metrics. And I could convert any currency to American currency in my head.

        No one in the U.S. even knows the rates between currencies, but EVERYONE in Israel know the rates of whatever money you name to the dollar. No one bothers to figure it out in shekels.

        A lot of people cook at high temperatures because that’s just the way they cook. It’s a style, but it requires total full attention all the time.

        He may LOVE your summer. Until relatively recently, Garry really loved hot weather and the humidity didn’t bother him. Air conditioning bothered him. THAT has changed with age.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Colombian television is loaded with commercials, just like here. With a vast amount of American shows dubbed in Spanish, they have plenty of places for commercials.
          For some reason, John still seems lost with conversion of currency. He now has a feel for the temperature in Fahrenheit compared to Celsius.
          John’s attention to smoking pots was not too good. It was alright for me to cook breakfast, but he really wanted to cook everything else. We had to move one smoke detector.
          My friend did not like air conditioning, but I must say 85 in Medellin was comfortable, but often it is humid and uncomfortable here.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I had culture shock moving from New Jersey to Florida. Who knew?! They drove slow, they talked slower and with their crazy ‘accent’ I had a hard time understanding what they were saying: “You want a pin?” Yes, a pin. An ink pin.” “Oh, you mean a pen”….and so it goes. I have been down here in FL long enough to ‘get’ everything but every so often I have to ask: “You want a pin?”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Most Americans would surrender all handguns to the police if there was a ban on hand guns and rifle owners having to register and take arms safety training?

        I’m wondering if “gun control” in the US would have a different interpretation than here in Canada? One time, back when we lived in Ontario, there was a convention of American Baptist church pastors in Port Huron, and a number of those pastors came across the border into Canada for the day. Most if not all of them were carrying handguns and were quite miffed to have them confiscated at Canada Customs.

        Liked by 1 person

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