This post first appeared as a guest post on www.ktravula.com. Check it out and pay special attention to the nice things the author of the blog, my kind colleague Kola, says about me. :-)
When I was 22, I emigrated from Ukraine to Canada. I was fully prepared to experience a massive culture shock but none came. Sure, it took some time to get used to the idea of a credit card and a check-book, realize that a bus driver doesn’t give out change and there is no need to negotiate the price of a ride with the cab-driver before getting into the cab, and figure out why maple syrup can be poured on bacon and eggs. The process of learning these small things was really fun and caused me no shock whatsoever.
Five years later I decided to go to graduate school in the United States. Having lived in North America for a while, watching American TV and reading American books and newspapers, I expected even less of a culture shock on this change of residence. I was only moving to Connecticut, where the climate and the way of life were supposed to be pretty similar to what I had gotten used to in Canada.
Boy, was I ever wrong. A massive culture shock hit me immediately after crossing the US border and remained with me for years to come. It took time and effort to understand this new reality, learn to like, and eventually even love it.
I the US I discovered a deeply divided society. Glaring class inequalities, the likes of which I never saw back in Canada, racism, religious fanaticism, gender inequalities, economically devastated areas with the kind of poverty I never saw even back in Ukraine, crime, violence, inept governmental structures. All this was very different from the US I had seen in movies and TV shows.
But soon I also discovered that yet another US exists. The country of intellectuals, thinkers, artists. The country of hard-working, kind, generous people, who have not abandoned the struggle for the perfect society they inherited from their founders. The country of intellectually curious people. The country of people who hate injustice and inequality. The country that deserves better than the corrupt structures governing them.
When people read the very critical things I write about the US on my blog, they sometimes ask me, “Why do you live in this country if you dislike it so much?” But I ask, does hating injustice and inequality mean hating America? Or is it just the opposite?