Urban Relocation: How to Get Along in a Multicultural Environment
Perhaps you’ve always lived in the country or, even, the suburbs. Maybe you’ve visited a big city like New York City or Los Angeles, but visiting one is entirely different than living there. For some, it can be quite a culture shock. In the United States, immigrants from all over the world flock to such cities for employment and other such opportunities.
Because of this, cities tend to be culturally diverse. If you’re moving to the big city, here is what you can do to make the most of the multicultural experience that you’re bound to have.
Try Authentic Foreign Food
In the US, you’re probably used to the typical American cuisine: fried chicken, hamburgers, and the like. As with many things, we’ve Americanized many foreign foods. Yet, what we consider to be foreign food is often nothing like the traditional foods of its origins. For example, consider Panda Express. Adding a lot of sugar in sauces or, for that matter, using a lot of sauce is a very American thing to do and isn’t a fair representative of authentic Chinese cuisine.
In a big city with lots of diversity, however, you’ll be able to step away from such misrepresentations. If you know that the city you’re going to has a strong Indian community, you’ll most likely be able to find a good restaurant with flavors that mimic that of India without being tainted by non-traditional culinary techniques or ingredients.
To find a good place to go in any city and for any type of ethnic food, you should always ask someone who is of the culture that you’re looking to experience their food traditions. They’ll most likely be able to direct you to a place that will give you the most authentic experience possible.
Learn All That You Can!
New York City is the epitome of the American “melting pot”. It has always been a refuge for immigrants and natural-born citizens alike. In fact, the seven largest countries of origin represented by the people who live there are the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Russia, Italy, Poland and India. To help you better understand the people that you’re around, it might be useful to learn more about where they come from.
This is where research comes into play. However, learning doesn’t have to come entirely from books. You can do research by engaging with people and asking them about their homeland. You can even take steps to learn about their religious beliefs by going to a Polish Roman Catholic church or a Hindu temple.
You can learn their history as well. This may require some reading, but you can also learn about history by asking questions about people’s experiences. For example, you could ask an immigrant from Iran about their personal experiences during the Islamic Revolution. You could also take the initiative to find a local professor or historian who has their masters in history and knows a thing or two about the cultures that you’re interested in learning about.
Take Language Lessons
What better opportunity could you have than learning a foreign language in a place that could possibly give you the chance to practice it? In San Francisco, for example, you would be able to practice Mandarin if you were to visit Chinatown there.
You could even find opportunities to practice less common foreign languages. In Glendale, which is only a few miles away from Los Angeles, a good portion (about a quarter or more) are Armenian and being around such a community could help you strengthen your skills in that language as well.
For whatever language you want to learn, there’s a good chance that in a big city you’ll be able to practice it and find a native speaker to help you learn it. By learning foreign languages, your mind will be open and you’ll start the path of becoming a global citizen. It will also help you to build relationships and, possibly, gain career opportunities.
If you’re moving to a new city, this encounter with the unfamiliar may seem daunting. However, the old adage of “getting outside your comfort zone” rings true. Learning to adjust to a rich blend of perspectives and backgrounds will only make you a better person.
Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She graduated from the University of California-Sacramento with a degree in Journalism.