About five years ago I packed up all my things, kissed my mom goodbye and headed on a plane across the Caribbean Sea to my love in the small town of Garden City, Kansas. That day I had an interesting interaction with an immigration officer. When I gave my boarding pass to the officer, he paused, double checked my flight info and inquisitively asked “Oh my, Kansas from Jamaica? How does a young woman like you end up going to live there?”
That was the beginning of a lifelong question I would have to learn to answer in short for the rest of my time in Kansas. Of course I gave the long version of the story to the officer. But since then, I have come up with the short version that goes “for love”. Which 9 times out of 10 people ask me in return, “so why didn’t he move to Jamaica instead” LOL! I can’t win! But that’s the nature of Kansas it is VERY DIFFERENT culturally and I have had to learn to adapt in many ways while still remaining myself.
It is this that I want to explore with you…
How to make a culturally different place your home?
It takes time, practice and determination. Here’s how…
- Figure Out What’s Important to You
When I moved I had no idea what made me ‘Jamaican’ until everything that was Jamaica was no longer present. Was it the people? The claat dem? The herbs? The party dem? Mi no know (IDK)! Initially I had immersed myself into my new culture, which I think is important and discuss later on in the post. Garden City is predominantly Hispanic, namely Mexicans. PS: My husband and in-laws are all Mexican too. Viva Mexico Cabrones!!!
So not to be funny, but salsa became my new table pepper. LOOL! I love that damn thing!! I love the quinzcenieras and fiestas, the food, the spanish (which I’m learning), their love for family and their vibes! But you know what? They aren’t Jamaican, the food isn’t Jamaican food and their vibes isn’t Jamaican. Eventually, I started to get home sick.
A year later, we ended up moving to the city, Kansas City, for better job opportunities and my relearning process of the culture restarted. Kansas City is a much more diverse place; however I live in the suburbs that’s predominantly Caucasian. Hispanic and Caucasian culture are VERY DIFFERENT and it’s then I decided to learn what I needed to feel at home regardless of where I lived.
I realized music and dancing, food and keeping in touch with my friends are the most important things for me to feel at home.
- Create Time for Each Need
Music and Dancing;
So I realized early on there would be no opportunity for me to truly dash out mi ole (dance). I may be able to go to a bar, which I’m not a big drinker without dancing, so I won’t go. Or I may be able to go to the club and pray for a Sean Paul song to drop, ugh! So, what is even remotely close to being able to dance and hear the occasional wine up music? ZUMBBBAAAAA!!!!! Looks! I thank the heavens Zumba found me it saved my soul! I go once or twice a week and shake my ass harder than the instructor Hahaha!
Now stfu but, before I moved to Kansas I really couldn’t throw down in the kitchen. Yeah, whadever. lol! I never had a need to really make great family meals until I started my family. Don’t ask my husband, but he suffered for the first year haha! He’s a sweetie though, he ate everything I gave him for lunch and didn’t tell me I was horrible until I got better. Thanks babe <3 I learned to make Jamaica’s most loved dishes, stew peas, curry chicken, run dung, banana bread, carrot cake, juice from scratch, rice and peas and mooooreee! I am currently a chef and my husband is winning!!
Keeping in touch with friends:
Let me say this, I don’t know which crawsis breeze blow on me when I left yaad but I lost many friends when I decided to migrate. It must have been divine intervention because I didn’t know I needed to shed many of them, we just kind of fell apart either amicably or with blows. Non the less, the few good ones I have left I love. It’s not so much about keeping an old friend around but there is something magical when you and your Jamaican friend from way back when get on the phone and have a convo. Who feels it knows it and let me tell youuu!! When I call my sistaz and we start chat out rass and leggo some claat and chat bout d dutty ppl dem, my life in Kansas is balanced.
- Understand and Accept You’re in a Different Place
It may sound easy but it took me years. We complain so much about where we are sometimes we don’t get to see the beauty until we are no longer there. ‘Oh laaawd Jamaica hot’, well welcome to 6 months winter in Kansas. ‘This beach no nice’, well welcome to Kansas where there are no beaches.
This is honestly the first step to living in a culturally different place. Why isn’t it at the top then? Because if you remember only one thing from this post, this is what I would like it to be…
When we step outside our comfort zone everything becomes a challenge; and moving to a new country that is culturally different is definitely that, a challenge. Feeling afraid, unsure and incapable are normal. Getting comfortable with the difference is the first step to truly understanding your new home and yourself.
Nowhere is like where you are from and no person is like that person you grew up with. When traveling or moving to a new place understand firstly, nothing is the same and be okay with it. Immerse yourself in the culture so you can understand the way your new environment and the people work. Then, pull back and figure out what you need to make a new place feel like home. GO FIND IT! And make it your reality.Be flexible, open and self-preserving. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
About the Author
Kerriann Skorner is a wife, mom and an all around bad ass! Crushing her goals and still finding time to maintain
an amazing blog of a plethora of how-to's in self care and family life