I spent over half my life growing up outside of the United States (Latin America and Spain) and was first introduced to Spanish at age 2. I returned back to the U.S. a week before I was to start college at the University of North Carolina. I sometimes struggled even with Spanish, but overall was pretty adaptable (even leaving Spain speaking fluently and then arriving into Miami - the all too well-known different nuances in accent and words from one country to the next). I never had a problem with the various cultural environments (at least that I can remember). Everywhere I lived, our environment was rich and stimulating. The culture shock for me upon returning back to the U.S., was indeed how isolated the U.S. was and quite frankly close-minded. Things that stuck out to me was racism, instant gratification, commercialism and an incredible inability to look at things through other people's eyes, much less to also be critical of the status quo and seek other sources of information. Of course I am generalizing, but it was and still is today apparent and I know you can find the same thing in plenty of other places. This is not to say that there aren't positive things about our country/culture as well. I'm very happy that we are able to give our children an opportunity to be exposed to the life we have here in Belgium. My husband first had the opportunity to live abroad in Japan as an adult before we were married. He was unsure about whether he should go. For my part, I strongly encouraged him to go - an opportunity to seize. Needless to say, he had no regrets!
15 July 2003
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