Seeing Ourselves Through Others’ Eyes: Alexis Chateau

 

Finding exotic new lands and people is one of the highlights of travel. And for many, cultural difference means simply seeing how the other folks dance, eating their strange food, appreciating their architecture, and thinking how great it would be if only we would [fill in the blank] here in America.

For those of you who’ve read my book (At Home on the Kazakh Steppe), you’ll know that it’s those cultural differences that make me gasp or even holler, “OMG,” that are more likely to capture my attention and interest.

And, to my glee, our lead off guest, Alexis Chateau, identifies just those sorts of differences.  Well, no “OMGs,” perhaps, but her post may make you catch your breath a bit. In an eye opening way. I hope so.

Beyond the clash of behaviors and traditions, cultural difference can also mean a clash of values.  And Alexis tackles just that in  Living with Jamaican Values in America.  Welcome, Alexis. (For a fuller bio, see last week’s post here.)

Alexis Chateau

Living with Jamaican Values in America

In 2015, I did the unthinkable. I quit my corporate job in Jamaica, took a freelance PR gig, re-homed my pets, gave up my apartment, and packed my life into three suitcases. After a month of taking trips around the island, I then traveled to the U.S. to take my routine summer vacation. Almost two years later, and I’m still here.

Despite visiting the country once or twice per year for 18 years prior to moving, adjusting has not been easy. There’s been many a-time when I left Americans scratching their heads, and just as many times when I observed Americans with a cocked eyebrow.

Jamaica home

Why? Well… here are four ways my Jamaican values differ from those I’ve run into in America. For added perspective, I live in Atlanta, Georgia; and have travelled from the southern tip, to up north, and into the Midwest.

  1. Communication

I never noticed how blunt Jamaicans were until I settled in America, and became a full-time resident. But, I give myself too much credit. I should say I never realized how blunt Jamaicans were until my Dad, who is American-born, pointed it out.

“This isn’t Jamaica,” he would warn me. “You can’t be that honest. Honesty isn’t appreciated here. I’m not saying you should lie, but… bend the truth a little. Spare their feelings.”

At first, I thought he must be wrong. In Jamaica, lying is cowardice and considered a precursor to worse things. I grew up hearing the mantra every thief is a liar, and every liar is a thief. Who wants to be a thief?

But sure enough, I began to see the signs for myself. Americans seem far more likely to play a game of cloak and dagger with tact, facts, and the truth. From my experience, it’s considered “better” and “respectful” to be polite and politically correct, than admit to a truth that could hurt feelings or bruise egos.

  1. Social Status

Color rather than race plays a role in social status in Jamaica, but only because our former plantation economy means color and class usually coincide. Most Jamaicans will tell you, we are a “classist” and not a racist society.

Though this comes with its own unique problems, it does mean you can earn your place. Social class is decided by your appearance, the way you speak, your level of education, your occupation, your level of income, who you know, how well-travelled you are, and where you live.

In America, social status seems to be decided the second you enter the world -– or cross the border. Minorities and immigrants seem to take up permanent residence at the bottom of the barrel, and have a much harder time “proving” our equality to gatekeepers, as there are far more barriers erected  to our success. Many of us scramble over the barriers soon enough, but most of us do not.

Just take a look at many upper class neighborhoods. Most are populated by Whites and citizens; sometimes by Asians. Blacks do not make up the ratio in these neighborhoods that they do in regular society. In Jamaica, the exact opposite of that is true.

Hiking in Jamaica
  1. Treatment of Women

In Jamaica, there are few laws in place to protect women. For instance, sexual assault or sexual harassment doesn’t technically exist. There is only rape, which requires penetration. (There I go again, forgetting to be politically correct, and finding the right euphemisms).

But the truth is, in Jamaica, women are revered, even if there is something ridiculously sexist about it. Funny enough, one of the things I hated most about living in Jamaica was how women were treated.

Boy did I laugh at myself when I realized that America, for all its laws, was far worse. In Jamaica, even teenagers can walk into a pharmacy and purchase birth control. In fact, clinics give them away for free. No questions asked. Try that in America.

I have also noticed the vilification of career women in America, whereas in Jamaica, women are expected to have 9-5 jobs — not that this always equals a career in the true sense. Men are usually busy “hustling” and trying out different entrepreneurship ventures. We like our steady paychecks, and they respect that.

And finally, there was breastfeeding. I couldn’t believe how many mothers had to take to the streets to fight for the right to breastfeed their babies in public spaces. Something so natural was turned into something taboo.

  1. Global Warming

In Jamaica, global warming and climate change is an accepted fact. It’s not something we debate or argue about. I have never in my life heard a Jamaican deny the existence of climate change, and our contribution to its worsening, as humans.

Yet, only about 64 percent of Americans believe in global warming. I remember the first time I saw that number. I was writing an article for a client, on how scientists can better teach climate change to the public. I remember staring at it for a moment, and then Googling the heck out of the number because… there was no way.  [From Pew Internet.org  and from The Guardian]

Now we have a President who doesn’t believe in climate change, either. Well, that certainly cleared up any disbelief for me that the statistic wasn’t true. I’ve learned not to discuss environmentalism and sustainability here, or take it for  granted that this is a common concern we all share.

Alexis in US

Jamaica has its fair share of problems for sure: from poverty to high crime rates to homophobia. And America definitely has its sway for several reasons. Who doesn’t want to realize the American dream?!

But there are times when I question if this is the America I’ve known for eighteen years of traveling to, and now living here? The truth is, I don’t know. I would like to think not.

What I do know is that this is home, now; even if I often feel as though many Americans don’t want me here.

###

Alexis, thank you for sharing your observations and experiences here.  You’ve touched on some very important, critical really, aspects of mainstream American culture — or is it regional? — and I am eager to see where the conversation takes us. I’m saddened by your perception that “many Americans don’t want me here” and hope we might explore that a bit more. This is such a strange time in our country.

Here are Alexis’ links:

How about you?  Did you catch your breath? Gasp? Furrow your brow? Nod your head in recognition? Who’s going to go first? 

46 Responses

  1. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    So sad looking at America thru your eyes.

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Thanks for reading, Susan, and for taking a glimpse through my immigrant-filter.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’ll reply individually a bit later tonight, but for now I wanted to add here that Alexis’ comments on the bluntness of Jamaicans, (what her father called) to “admit to a truth that could hurt feelings or bruise egos,” is exactly what I experienced in Kazakhstan. For those who haven’t read it, my second summer, while I was back staying for a few weeks with our first host family, Hadija said, “this is Janet’s lazy summer” and I immediately took it personally and was hurt. Then, as I was writing about it actually, I worked out the cultural aspect of it and all was well again. We Americans pride ourselves on our tactfulness and diplomacy. I’d never quite thought of that before.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Susan. Thanks for starting us off.

  2. Isabelle
    | Reply

    Hi Alexis, I relate to this, especially: “I never noticed how blunt Jamaicans were until I settled in America, and became a full-time resident.”

    I had similar experiences with Americans abroad (and other cultures (Hello Brits!)) were my German reactions were seen as harsh and brutal. Whereas to me, they were simply opinions uttered without intend to hurt or shock. Then, I lived in Finnland, and suddenly I was the polite one. Suddenly, I had to create a filter that allowed me to understand the sometimes cruel replies and questions of my company into my own set of values, add the “thank you” and the “please” that I felt the question deserved.

    How do Americans react to your Jamaican bluntness? Do they know about it, expect it? Or are you reprimanded for it (or are Americans to polite for that, too? Do they maybe just let the conversation fade out or are they intrigued?)

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Hello Isabelle!

      I smiled when I read your comment, because I have a German friend here who complains about the same thing. Unfortunately, he encounters this problem at work, so he has to be twice as careful! I grew up in German Town in Jamaica, so perhaps I am twice as “harsh” and twice as “blunt” haha.

      Americans don’t like my bluntness. They usually bristle, or their eyes pop wide open. Some have actually stopped speaking to me. And I’m sure I lost one client for it.

      I own a PR firm, and I realise that even in business, people are paying you to be the expert that agrees, not the expert that gives expert advice. Thus, it’s not just the bluntness; it’s simply disagreeing.

      I once had an American family member tell me his friends were very offended by the fact that I said the word “No”, so often, and that I didn’t just agree with them. He asked me to say “No” less often, and to just not say anything if I disagree with them. Through my Jamaican filter, I was half-laughing, and half in disbelief that anyone could say that – as in my culture, that is pure cowardice.

      It also questions a woman’s right to consent, even outside of a sexual context. How can you tell me when to say “no”?? I would later learn that men here feel VERY entitled to women, more so than I experienced on my island. At least, in my eyes.

      Thanks for dropping by, and taking the time to comment!

      • Janet Givens
        | Reply

        Hi Alexis. I hope you’re enjoying your first day here. I know I’m thrilled that your post has brought out some very important cultural norms that (it sounds like) we Americans haven’t really looked at. I know I haven’t. Staying on this topic of Conversations, I’m reminded of being taught about making a s**t sandwich when needing to give “bad news.” You sandwich the bad news (the s**t) in between two pieces of good news. But I never thought it was a cowardly thing; on the contrary, I believed it worked because it helped the listener actually hear the news. I wonder if something like that might have helped you keep that one client you lost. Have you ever heard of this particular gastronomic creation? Would it feel disingenuous to try it?

        • Alexis Chateau
          | Reply

          Hi Janet – I don’t believe the sandwiching counts as cowardice. That does make sense.

          As for the client, I was actually the one to drop them. But the underlying reason was their refusal to take “no” for an answer. I felt like I was hired to stroke the ego, instead of actually make a difference. There was no point staying in that scenario.

      • Isabelle Winkler
        | Reply

        Wow, those are some harsh realities. Your US has little to do with the one represented to us (foreigners) in TV-Shows and podcasts, has it? Or is it there, and I just don’t see it? (Very much possible…) I can’t wait to experience this diversity in person. The sheer depth…

        Also, in business, this must be so much harder. I find it difficult in my mother tongue but in a different culture? Wow. (Tipping my imaginary hat.)

        And thank you for the reply! (FYI: Also something that feels superflous to say. Isn’t it implied? As a German, me taking the time to reply and you responding, is a way of showing respect. This way of expressly thanking someone for sth. that is otherwise considered regular human behaviour isn’t my norm. I love how that happens. You talk about one thing and it pops up everywhere else.)

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Isabelle. Great questions for Alexis. Thanks. I love how your examples highlight what we sometimes call “cultural relativity” — that what might stand out as a cultural oddity is indeed relative to what one is used to.

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Alexis — Such a pleasure learning more about you. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  4. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    I’ll reply individually a bit later tonight, but for now I wanted to add here that Alexis’ comments on the bluntness of Jamaicans, (what her father called) to “admit to a truth that could hurt feelings or bruise egos,” is exactly what I experienced in Kazakhstan. For those who haven’t read it, my second summer, while I was back staying for a few weeks with our first host family, Hadija said, “this is Janet’s lazy summer” and I immediately took it personally and was hurt. Then, as I was writing about it actually, I worked out the cultural aspect of it and all was well again. We Americans pride ourselves on our tactfulness and diplomacy. I’d never quite thought of that before.

  5. Woody Starkweather
    | Reply

    I think people misunderstand the original meaning of the term “political correctness.” It had nothing to do with politics. The term relates to the word “politic,” that is, simply not being offensive.

    The far right has used it in a different way, maintaining that it requires a stifling of speech. They talk about freedom of speech, but it seems to me that they want the freedom to be offensive to others, to use racial and sexist epithets. Of course, they are and always have been free to offend people, and indeed there are times when anyone might want to be offensive. I’m not sure what you, Alexis, mean by the term. I take it as given that you think don’t think it is bad to refrain from insulting people, and I don’t think your comment about the relative bluntness of expression in Jamaica even touches on that issue. I found that interesting, by the way, and take your word for it, although I have not encountered anything like it in several trips to Jamaica. But thanks for an unusually interesting comment on US mores.

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      I use the term “political correctness” as it was taught to me in school. I equate it with tact and euphemism, but also with American values.

      Even all the way back in the earlier 2000s, political correctness was taught to us through American lenses. Thus, we learned the correct American alternatives to use for words & phrases that were not considered offensive or impolite in our own culture.

      In Jamaica, it’s not considered impolite to disagree, or to be honest. Because of this, politics, race, and religion, are generally not considered inappropriate topics at dinner, at work, or between strangers. In America, they are.

      That you didn’t encounter much of our bluntness during your visit it easily explained. As I said in the article, I visited America for 18 years and never saw this side of it until I lived here. You have likely visited Jamaica less often, and have never lived there.

      As we say in Jamaica, “See me and live with me – two different things”.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Woody. Thanks for adding your thoughts. Always welcome. 🙂

      Alexis, meet Woody, my husband.

  6. Anna
    | Reply

    One additional nuance to take into account when different cultures meet is language itself, and the way we use it.
    As a not native English speaker I have noticed that my English comes out more blunt and aggressive sounding as indented to due to lack of knowledge. I have noticed even deeper changes for myself, almost two different personalities, according to which language I use – my native or one of foreign languages.
    And it works both ways. When an American learns a foreign language (it sometimes happens), to the native speakers they too sound blunt and even rude (at least that’ s my experience with few bilingual Americans I had met).
    And then there is perception of language skills as personal skills. I started to think about it when I overheard the comment of a native English speaker who was listening to a foreigner speaking. “What value his knowledge can have if he can’t even speak proper English!’ So a foreigner may sound not only blunt and rude, due to the lack of nuanced language skills, the person may seem also stupid.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Anna, hello. I realize in reading your comment, that I have never been fluent enough in any foreign language to get beyond the “no small talk” phase. Whether Spanish, Russian, or (a very long time ago) French, I could cobble together only enough to get my point across. No nuances, no sublety, and certainly no sophistication. A very interesting take. Thank you. But I would like to bop that “native English speaker” up the side of the head. How (ironically) ignorant of him or her.

      • Anna
        | Reply

        No need bopping that person – as a monolingual in a monolingual environment people simply have no personal experience. If you never tried to use your well forgotten school French, Spanish or German in the real life situation, never struggled with that “OMG, it’ s so stupid, what was that word…. emm-emm…” mumble that cames out of you, you never understand sturggles of foreigners in your language environment .

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          No. I’d feel better if I could go ahead and bop him (or her; but I’d prefer it be a him).

          The myopia that Americans have to foreign ways and languages has long irritated me. Actually, I know it’s got something to do with how big, geographically, our country is. Russia struggles with the same thing (I’ve been told). I don’t know if Canada does too. Or Australia. I should look into that. But I do know that in Europe, where foreign lands and languages are right next door practically, they appreciate and make sure they can speak multiple languages. I recall the man at the train station in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, selling me my ticket, spoke at least five different languages fluently (to me, listening to him) as the line filled with folks from all over the world came to his window. I tried to imagine a ticket seller in this country in that scenario and just laughed. Growing up in Latvia, did you need learn many languages or were you all just speaking Russian then?

          But I thank you for trying to make me behave.

          • Anna
            |

            I agree. Being monolingual is a privilege and damnation of largest nations as there is no need to learn other languages. For small nations, like mine, it’ s different. Being monolingual is not an option. Non-Russians under Soviet rule were at least bilingual – their own native language and Russian as an official language. School offered the third language of choice – English, German or French. So in theory you were supposed to end up trilingual. But we tried to open windows a bit wider. My father spoke 14 languages.

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Anna, what you say makes perfect sense.

      A lot of my friends are from non-English speaking countries, so this was something I encountered often. I once had a boyfriend from Spain, and whenever he wanted me to step aside, he would just say “move”, and he didn’t understand why if he wanted me to move he couldn’t just say move.

      That said, English is a second-language for many Jamaicans. Our official language is English, but many Jamaicans learn our Creole at home first, and then learn English.

      This might actually contribute to why we use English the way we do, though I don’t think we are less blunt in Creole. I think in Creole, our version of tact is sarcasm.

      I didn’t notice how witty and sarcastic we are culturally until my expatriate friends on the island pointed it out. According to them, we put Spanish people to shame, as they also consider themselves witty and sarcastic – but we are so much worse!

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Anna
        | Reply

        Alexis, sorry that I picked out only one aspect of this discussion – the language. I simply do not qualify to discuss, for example, colour as I came from a completely white country with about 5 mix race people (and we knew them all by name LOL Now it’ s slowly changing).
        Being sarcastic and witty, I think, in large emerges as a trait in nations oppressed as a mental resistence when the only way to cope with reality is to laugh.
        Back to language – our bluntness in foreign languages, I suspect, is at large rooted in biology of the brain. We learn our native, first language at a very early stages of our mental development , while foreign languages we learn later in life, and new obtained languages settle in a different region of our brain. Our first language is tied with our emotions, primary social skills, with everything which makes us us. Foreign language is part of learned skills, like math or chemistry – we use these as we go only and (and that’ s the main thing) use them as skills. I reccomend to look at Wittgenstein’s on the limits of language – it might seem outdated but I really enjoyed his works.

        • Alexis Chateau
          | Reply

          Haha – I don’t believe limited exposure to “colour” negates your opinion. There are multiple sides to any situation, and all are relevant. You’re on the side that knows what the masses actually thinks about the mixed/coloured people in your area. We usually just get the poker face or the polite smiles; never knowing for sure what they mean.

          As far as language, I agree on all you’ve said. I especially like your remark about sarcasm developing from oppression. You’re probably right about this. We do have a history of slavery, followed by harsh British rule, after all.

          But then I wonder what made the Spanish so witty. I don’t believe they suffered any true oppression. They were the oppressors, the conquistadores… the people who wiped out native populations in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in some cases, the slave owners.

          But then, I suppose the northerners are sometimes not very kind to the southerners in Europe. That has been my observation, being friends with and having dated, both sides of that fence…

  7. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    I think Anna makes some great points about language and non-native speakers in any country. (And I know it is not only speech, but also gestures, as Janet has talked about.)

    I think what we see and how we interpret what people say and what is meant in particular situations is filtered through our own emotions and experiences. I have not traveled as Alexis or Janet have. My one experience in Jamaica was many years ago on my honeymoon, so as a rather naive tourist, I certainly would not judge all Jamaican behavior–mostly very pleasant, but also evasive, rather than blunt–by that experience.

    The US definitely has a color problem. The legacy of slavery still looms over our society, even though some will deny it.

    The US is filled with many ignorant people, our president being one of them. However, despite what he says, most people did not vote for him. The US is a big country with many different cultures and populations within it with many different values and beliefs. It is troubling though that so many choose to think of science as a belief system, and that climate change has become a partisan political issue.

    I am working on two reference books on rape right now. Both have the word rape in the title. I believe you when you say women are revered in Jamaica, though perhaps from what I’ve read, not LBGTQ women so much.

    Thank you, Alexis and Janet, for the thought-provoking post.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Merril. I’m glad you mentioned the multi-cultural aspect of the US. We are so very diverse — historically, geographically, politically — I’m at a loss to describe a single US cultural norm. With the possible exception of individualism. And the idea that scientific findings are now considered a matter of opinion is also troubling. (Of course, I go back to the various scares of my own lifetime: sugar in the 50s, cholesterol in the 60s, fat in the 70s. I myself have come to take any new federal proclamations on diet with the proverbial grain of salt.)

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Hi Merril,

      You are correct that LGBTQ women don’t join the rest of us in being revered. Women are revered on the standard of bringing life into the world. Lesbian women in Jamaica, rarely do. I’m not sure I even know any who adopt.

      I also laughed a little when you said we were evasive. This is very true. My Dad complains about that a lot. Evasion is another substitute for tact. We don’t want to lie to you, so sometimes we just dance around the issue. Men especially are guilty of this, and we do it most with non-natives.

      We definitely cannot judge everyone in any culture, since people are individuals at the end of the day. There are Jamaicans who are less direct, and I’ve also met some pretty direct Americans who throw it right back at me. Those are the Americans I keep as friends.

      They say they run into the same problems here, that I do. These Americans are usually liberal, well-traveled, and/or highly educated. New Yorkers also seem to be more direct than other Americans, in my opinion. This doesn’t surprise me considering how large a role West Indians (people from the Caribbean) play in New York culture.

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Cathy Monaghan
    | Reply

    Great post, Alexis! Thank you for taking the time to write this. I agree with everything you have written. I have to admit, my eye-brows went up a bit when you said you settled in the state of Georgia. (You be brave, sistah!) You have my total respect and admiration! Best of luck to you!!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You are too funny, Cathy. I too wondered if Alexis’ experiences would be qualitatively different had she settled in Ann Arbor rather than Atlanta. But you made it amusing. Thanks much for stopping by.

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Hi Cathy – thank you!

      My family has lived in Atlanta for a very long time (about 14 years). Atlanta is a blue city, and so are most of the counties in and around it. Because of this, we mostly fall outside the Georgia stereotypes. In the specific area I live in, 88% voted liberal.

      Best of luck to you as well!

  9. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Thanks, Alexis (and thanks, too, Janet) :). I found each of your points interesting and enlightening. I was particularly interested in the latter two — the treatment of women and global warming. My immediate inclination regarding the former was to attribute this to religious differences, although I note that Jamaica is also predominantly protestant. Would it be fair to say that Protestant teachings in Jamaica, particularly those involving the so-called “role” of women, are viewed more liberally than here in the States? Or perhaps Jamaica’s is a brand of protestantism that is less fundamentalist than here in the U.S.? I’m curious as to how religion might play a role in these differences. Thanks! – T

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Hi Tim, and thank you. I know Alexis’ point about global warming: 64% believe. That’s good, I once thought. It’s the majority! But the very fact that it’s still even debated is despicable. And I fell for the sound bite, “the majority believe!”

      I look forward to hearing Alexis’ response on the influence of religion

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Hi Tim. I’ve never really considered the impact of religion in Jamaica in this sense, but this is a good question.

      I do believe that America is philosophically more liberal than Jamaica in a lot of ways, but that Jamaica is more actually liberal. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but basically America is better at the talking, and we’re better at the walking.

      However, it’s history that plays a big role in what is considered liberal, especially for us. Some “liberal” things develop out of necessity, and not really because anyone came up with grand and altruistic ideas. To better understand what I mean, try a recent blog post of mine about feminism in Jamaica versus the US: https://alexischateau.com/2017/05/26/6-ways-jamaican-culture-is-secretly-feminist/

      I believe religion actually stifles women more than anything back home. In Jamaica, most of the congregation is made up of women, but women do not hold the leadership roles in church. I don’t believe I have ever seen a female pastor, female deacon, or female church leader.

      Rastafarianism (which originated in Jamaica) also subjugates women. I wrote my thesis paper on them for sociology in college, and while interviewing one Rasta, he told me that women can only get salvation through their men. The supreme being is present in men, but not in women.

      That all said, I don’t believe religion really helps the more liberal outcome of our society. It’s the our history, our economy, and how we developed as a nation.

      Thanks for this thought-provoking question, Tim!

      • Tim Fearnside
        | Reply

        Alexis – thanks for your thoughtful reply, and also the link to your blog (now following), which I found enlightening. It sounds as if religion isn’t much different in Jamaica than here in the U.S. in regard to its view of women, although it’s interesting how history and circumstances have empowered women there in ways we have yet to achieve, despite our more liberal rhetoric. It’s also frankly disappointing to me, as an American, to note that a relatively small and impoverished nation such as Jamaica could be so much more enlightened than us, with our liberal philosophies, ample resources, and advances in science, etc., when it comes to such things as embracing climate change and electing women to positions of power. (That’s not meant as a knock on Jamaica, but on the U.S.). If anything, it often seems as if our country has been moving backward, rather than forward, in recent times. Thanks again and best regards! – Tim

  10. Ella
    | Reply

    Dear Alexa,

    What a coincidence! I just now arrived in Atlanta for a wedding the first time in my life.

    Tomorrow, when I take my long walk I will be thinking about you.

    Thank you for your bravery and directness (something I too was criticized for as being from Eastern Europe.)

    I am also very curious if you have experienced anything here that has helped you to learn something new and valuable?

    Warmly,
    Ella

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Ella

      Thanks so much for joining in. I hope you enjoyed the wedding. I don’t know much about Atlanta except for two things. Elton John owns a penthouse somewhere down there. And in 1962, the entire arts leadership of the city was killed in a plane crash. Imagine rebuilding from something like that. Twenty years later, theirs was one of the more vibrant arts scenes in the country. Anyway, that’s what I think of when I hear Atlanta. Thanks for adding to our conversation. I believe Alexis will return soon.

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Hi Ella!

      I love meeting people from Eastern Europe. I haven’t met one who wasn’t multilingual and highly educated. That’s a wonderful stereotype to have about your region, I must say! The rest of us should be jealous.

      I hope you enjoy[ed] the wedding. Atlanta is a beautiful place, and I hope you take the time to try a few city trails. I suggest the Beltline if you find the time.

      I’ve learned some unpleasant things here, is my unfortunate response to your question. The biggest was the downside of individualism. I’ve always been a bit of a loner, and was the black sheep who was always off on my own, while my family lived in a more extended family setting.

      Being in America has taught me that prioritising individualism over community values can pose a serious risk to how children are raised, the adults they become, and the ethical values espoused. It’s made me think twice about my voluntary isolation. My parents are now my neighbours. This is the closest I have lived to family since 2006.

      I do still believe it’s important to be an individual, to think for ourselves, and live for the purpose we believe most true. But in excess, it can lead to selfishness, entitlement, greed, and a hindrance to true bonding in relationships.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  11. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    So sorry I’m late commenting here. This is a wonderful piece, Alexis. Thanks to Janet for having you. All that you say is very enlightening and sad, as well. We truly are “Ugly Americans,” and it seems to be getting more so.

    Thank you for your blunt honesty. We need more of it.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Joan. I used to have a sign that sat on my bookshelf. “If you’re there before it’s over you’re not late.” So, welcome, my friend.

    • Alexis Chateau
      | Reply

      Thank you, Joan. I think all cultures/countries have their ugly side. For some reason, that’s the side being glorified more than anything else right now, and people are adopting it. At least, that’s my theory.

  12. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Thank you very much, Alexis, for starting off our series “Seeing Ourselves Through Someone Else’s Eyes.” You certainly got us thinking and talking and sharing. You’ve raised issues I’d not thought of and, in so doing, you were responsible for the second highest number of comments of any post so far this year. Congratulations on that. I’ve followed your various blog posts for awhile now and I hope our paths continue to cross. Again, my thanks.

    And a hearty thank you to all those who read and share and particularly those who chose to “join the conversation” with their Comment. I think what keeps me blogging week after week is seeing how the ideas that I (or my guest) put out evolve as each of you take a whack (crack?) at them. This is, I like to believe, a most democratic forum. We all have a voice and everyone’s voice is equally valuable.

    On Wednesday our series will continue. See you then.

  13. Pamela
    | Reply

    I find this post fascinating, and thank you Janet for giving these women an opportunity to talk about their experiences living in America. Alexis, I LIKE your bluntness and up-front talk. I find your observations fascinating and ones that we all should take to heart. Lying should never be ‘okay,’ but sparing feelings is okay in my mind. Global warming – I don’t know why so many in this country want to deny it. No answer to that one. And placing women on a pedestal is never a good idea, even though it feels good to us sometimes. :-0
    Pamela recently posted…THE SWITCHMy Profile

    • Pamela
      | Reply

      P.S. I can’t read your blog because the subscription box keeps popping up, and even after I fill it, it keeps me from reading your posts… just FYI.
      Pamela recently posted…THE SWITCHMy Profile

      • Janet Givens
        | Reply

        Oh dear. I had that pop up taken down months ago.

        I’m not sure how to proceed. But proceed I shall. Thanks for letting me know. Anyone else get a pop up screen?

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Pamela, welcome back. I’ve just clicked on your recent short story, The Switch, and then HAD TO read the installments that came before. You write so smoothly. I was going to say effortlessly, but know better. Thank you for joining us in the series.

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