Dear Intelligent Advice: Coming to America

Dear Adviser,

This time next week I will be moving to America. I have spent the past 5 years of my life in a refugee camp. I was finally selected for resettlement in the United States and am equal parts excited and terrified. On the one hand I feel like I can finally hit the “unpause” button on my life and start living again, secure in the fact I have a home. On the other hand I hear all of the accounts of xenophobia and immigrant scapegoating happening in America right now and feel that I will not be welcomed there and may eventually face some of the dangers I did back home. What can I do to fit into American culture?

Sincerely,

Future American

Response: [Adviser logged on chasingbutterflies]

Dear Future American,

I have been exactly in your shoes before. I remember that coming-to-America restlessness so well. In my case I had been living as a Russian emigre in various European cities for years before I finally got to America. My fellow emigres were often miserable and bitter for the life they had lost back home as aristocrats. For some reason I was never stricken with this obvious bitterness and I quickly accepted my fate as living forever as a man without a country. I felt like an outsider, a fly on the wall, someone on a never ending adventure whether for better or worse. When I came to America it felt like I had a country again.

America is a lot of things and very difficult to understand. Harsh, loud, consumeristic, brash, beautiful, playful, innocent and new in a way that isn’t easily understood by those of us from the old world. My advice to you is simple: the easiest way to tackle the country is through the language itself. Learn it better than them. Learn to manipulate it, to make it sing. To speak and write in perfect command of it. Then how can they look at you like a foreigner, like you don’t belong in their land? In my experience, all it takes is a few books on the Bestseller list.

Best wishes,

Humbert Humbert

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