America Through Norwegian Eyes

Marthe

This piece was written by junior Marthe Staerkebye. 

Sometimes I forget that I am not American. I am acclimated to more than just the temperature; the American way of doing things is officially circulating in my blood. I guess this all makes sense when you think about it; I have lived in Indiana for more than 7 months. I have grown used to how flat the landscape is. People who wear sweats and slippers while doing their grocery shopping doesn’t surprise me anymore (I have actually done this too… twice) and I can eat a family size bag of Cheetos in one sitting. Despite all of this, my accent is still there and there are some things I still don’t quite understand about Americans and their culture.

Culture is created and shaped by the people living in it. It can be difficult for an outsider to understand the values, norms, behavior, and expressions used in a culture because he or she didn’t grow up in it. That’s how I felt in the beginning. I felt like an outsider because I wasn’t like everyone else. I had other values and norms than my friends and host family, which often caused confrontations. Some of them were more serious than others of course, but they always left me with a guilty feeling, that maybe I was doing something wrong. The truth was, I was just doing things differently.

Different is sometimes good and sometimes bad, and I learned when to ask questions and when to just “go with the flow.” The purpose of my exchange program isn’t to live in America as a Norwegian, but to live here as an American. I have therefore learned to let go of the Norwegian inside of me, at least as much as possible. For example, I used to eat pizza, hamburgers and bacon with a knife and a fork. Now, after all of my friends laughed at me, I eat everything with my hands. My mom near slapped me when she saw me pick up the bacon with my hand while she was here. I should probably do something about that before I go home…

Despite learning how to eat delicious food with my hands, this exchange year has taught me a lot about America and its culture. I’ve so far travelled to 16 different states, celebrated seven different holidays (and yes, Pi Day is included of course!) and tried so many different junk food chains I’ve lost count. I definitely feel educated enough to tell my friends back home that America is so much more than Hollywood, obesity, and Obama, which frankly are the top three things we associate with the states. I still have around two more months left and I want to make the most of the remaining time. If I can get on that airplane on June 19th and feel like I did everything in my power to live as an American for 10 months, maybe I can finally call myself one.