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Friday, June 8, 2012

Emigration Part 3 - Learning to be American!

Once here in America we had a lot to figure out. You would think that moving from England to America would be an easy move after all there is no new language to learn and Americans like English people.  However it was not so easy, leaving one culture for another is a huge transition.
We moved to the US in 1978, I was fourteen, a difficult age for most of us as we are in the process of leaving childhood behind and figuring out how we fit into the adult world.  We had lived in America for two weeks when I started ninth grade, high school was culture shock.  Everything was different, in England we always wore school uniform, every school child in the country wore school uniform. School uniform consisted of the following for girls, black or brown shoes, white knee high socks, gray knee length skirt, white blouse, gray cardigan or v-neck pullover, and school tie. Blazers were expensive and usually optional, and in grade school all girls had to wear navy blue underwear (available from Marks and Spencers). Colors of uniforms varied from  school to school perhaps dark green, or navy blue, or burgundy, rather than gray, but the components were the same. My first day at Homestead High School was eye opening, no school uniform, although most students wore jeans and t-shirts, some looked like they were ready to go out for a night of clubbing.
The very first class I attended was homeroom to start off the new school year, I had absolutely no idea what the term homeroom meant, it turns out the students in my home room had last names beginning with G -K, and occasionally through the year all students had to report to homeroom, I still have very little idea what the purpose of home room is.  I sat by a girl called Brenda, she had color tinted glasses on and was rather strange looking, she asked me if I wanted to see a picture of her boyfriend, I said yes, well imagine my embarrassment when she whipped out a picture of some guy lying naked on a bed!  Welcome to High School.
Being the only English girl in school was a mixed blessing, if anything needed to be read out aloud in class guess who they picked to do it?  As I am a rather shy person by nature the attention my accent brought to me was horrifying, my younger sister Michelle was in seventh grade and although not as shy, she too tired of the constant attention the accent created. We both lost our accents very quickly, I still pronounce some words differently, I say been like bean, not bin, roof for me rhymes with tooth, not ruf, my kids tease me about the way I say orange, apparently I say it differently, people often ask me if I am from the east coast.
My Mom had heard horror stories about drugs in American high schools, she had told us to be very careful and  if anyone ever shoved us up against a locker and tried to force us to take drugs we were to say NO!  For the first few weeks of school I was constantly worried that someone would actually do this, as time wore on I realized that this was not going happen. Sure there were kids who smoked pot, but they didn't push it on people, they were kind of a secretive group.
Gym class was bizarre, the girls had to wear a dreadful light blue and white gym suit, it was a one piece shorts/shirt creation with a zipper up the front and an elastic waistband, it was made to be voluminous if you stretched it out the shorts would come down to your ankles.  We played sports games that I had never heard of, softball, in England we played a game called rounders, dodge ball, never heard of it, jumping jacks I had never heard the expression, basketball, in England girls only played a came called netball, and football looked to me a lot like rugby, and no one played soccer what I would call football.
High school life, I had never been to a pep rally and found the first few I attended to be rather overwhelming, I had no idea what they were for.  I went to Friday night football games with other kids, I did not have a clue what was going on, and again initially found it overwhelming, but quickly started to look forward to the big game.  Basketball season started, again I had no clue what was going on, but it was fun to go to the game, eat popcorn, drink pop, and hang out with friends.
Lunch time at school was an adventure for the first few weeks, there were foods I had never heard of, tater tots, brownies, cinnamon rolls, sloppy joe, it did not take long to realize these things were pretty tasty.
After several months of attending high school I began to relax and as it started to feel familiar I settled into the routine. There were so many choices of classes to take, so many students, and so many activities to participate in that it still felt overwhelming at times but all in all it was okay and I did survive my four years attending and received my diploma, and have no desire to repeat the experience :)


Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Isn't it odd how different two english speaking countries can be? I can only imagine how different it was for you.

Bean said...

Hi Michelle,

Yes it is odd. We went through quite a period of adjustment.

Did you get the package?



LondonEye said...

That is so funny! Especially the bit about drug pushing !! LOL

Tater Tots, not to be taken lightly, what about Ice Cream sandwiches, school pizza (one of my favorites- yum.

Mum would be horrified but I spent most of my lunch money in high-school on m&ms from the vending machine - clearly my tastes had become accustomed to American Chocolate - I have since reverted back :)

Sadly, I must admit that I missed wearing a school uniform - I liked the smartness, ease, and order of it.

What about all the furniture shopping on the weekends and being sent to the car to behave, roasting in the sun, and listening to 'I want to kiss you all over' ad nauseum!!! :(


Bean said...

Have to agree, "I want to kiss you over" and "Hot Blooded" were played almost constantly on every radio station in August of 1978, at least Grease came out and for variety they played "Summer Lovin" a lot too :)

Rome_is_Home said...

Your High school life comes to life in your post thanks so much for sharing! High school was such a nightmare for me I was so shy and what you would call a "nerd" I suppose but met my husband in High School he was a "bad boy" who smoked and loved to party and cursed a lot we were like night and day. I have been a good influence on him years later he finally quit smoking and is a quiet homebody now :) My fav was school pizza at lunch I still love my pizza. Keep writing I love your stories :)