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Ways I am like a european model working in the US.

I was trying to remember where I learned things like “Not to sit on a cold step in winter with wet hair.” or “When getting water for boiling, fill the kettle from the cold water tap, not the hot water tap.”

A few cycles ago of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), I saw part of an episode featuring 2 of  the european model hopefuls. This was a new twist for the normally all american cast.  Apparently earlier in the show a few of the Americans made an incredibly hurtful and cruel comment, like “You wouldn’t understand, you weren’t born here.” And the two european waifen were incredibly hurt and upset by this comment. It cut to their core. “You don’t know what it’s like.” “We have to model in a different language,”  “It’s really hard…” While these aren’t actual quotes from the show, it’s not far off. Now the show is edited and filmed to be dramatic, but even without that direction, it seems a bit dramatic. What is the big damn deal? I know ANTM is like Model High School, what with everyone being high school aged,  or just past. Girls are girls. They can be bitchy in every culture. And maybe these european girls were really irritating  or the american girls were incredibly mean, I didn’t see the whole show.

But it left me wondering if there was any truth to it. And what about for kids who were first generation born American. Do they have any trouble culturally? I mean everyone’s family has its quirks right? I was born in the US to a German-born mother and a Serbian-born father. They both came to the US in their early 20s. Growing up, my sisters and I were surrounded by mostly other Germans, Serbians and every other nationality that came encased with thick accents: Korean, Indian, Filipino, Armenian, etc…If there was a party at our house, the other people were 90% non-americans. They just both seemed to befriend more immigrants like themselves than Americans whose families have been here longer.Which, I realize now, has had a major impact on what I considered normal. Certain things that are universal, would always have a funny twist on it. For example, Dressing for the school bus stop in winter. Every winter morning, on my way out the door to the stop, one house a way, my father would ask, “Where’s your muffler?” He didn’t mean where was my fancy puff of fur little women in books like Little Women would stuff their hands into while ice skating in long skirts. He wasn’t asking about the car, he wanted to know why my face, neck and ears weren’t completely covered with a scarf. And why wasn’t I wearing a hat.

What you eat for breakfast. How you wash the dishes and wipe the counter. What you eat at lunch. For instance, raw pumpernickel bread and store brand cream cheese is NOT par for the course in most american children’s lunch sacks. Offering your friends when they come over after school salted meat that you have get from the garage because that’s where it’s hanging, is not par for the course. Every part of life was influenced by the mainly European way of how to do things. But this leaves me straddling 2 worlds. One world is natural to me, but weird to everyone else. The “Right” way of doing something, means the average way an american would do it or experience it. How is everyone else, who is non-american, doing this activity. Not that it matters, do what works for you. But I think I felt it more strongly than my sisters. I think they had a much stronger sense of self at a much earlier age than I did. I only just learned that a breakfast of toast, jam cottage cheese, tomatoes and a runny egg is wierd.

I didn’t grow up with expressions like, “That’s rad” for the hippie parents, or I’d gamble a wager, for the college educated, {Insert a couple other examples}…, (or I’d gamble a wage on? -that’s probably what it used to be.) This is my point. The american expressions my dad picked up were, “What is this Micky Mouse? or No Monkey business.” Which now writing it out, sounds totally normal and American. But my dad was a 6’3″ stern looking man with a thick, or rather “tick” Serbian accent. So hearing “what is dis mickey mouse?” come out of his mouth was always a little disjointing. Let alone because he used it in slightly the wrong contexts. He would say it to a construction worker who wasn’t doing a good job. Or about a neighbor who was having trouble. “I don’t know it’s some Micky Mouse with Nestor.” Nestor was a Serbian neighbor who had come to the US much earlier. He went to High School here in the US and represented to my sisters and myself the “normalized” serbian. He was rational and spoke clear english and understood how things worked in the corporate ladder. He was probably on the Project Manager side of life. My dad was an engineer and was on the creative side of life. I am a lot like him. Which leaves me wondering, is it genetic or environment.


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