I used to think that I wanted to adopt another culture because I admired it so much. Why not become French, English, or Italian? In reality, however, I think itís almost impossible to completely lose my own culture to fully immerse myself in another one. I certainly consider myself American, but with touches of other cultures. Itís almost as if I have become a collage where each place Iíve lived in has added something, offering more depth, color, and meaning.
Culture is a living entity that isnít something you acquire like a skill or possession. It is in communicating with the locals, speaking the language, understanding the placeís history as well as the general attitudes and mentalities of the place I live in. I am constantly being influenced by the culture that surrounds me no matter where I am.
The culture that has influenced me the most, of course, is my American one. I was born and raised in California and at the age of 22 I moved to Paris. After living over five years there, I moved to England for two years. Then, one month before my 30th birthday, I moved to Florence. Initially I only stayed two years, but returned after a five-year hiatus and have been living in Florence for the last seven years.
Now that Iím coming to Paris often, I have been able to see the affects of each culture with great appreciation. Each city has deeply influenced me, and itís hard to imagine who I could possibly be if I hadnít lived in each one.
In Paris, I learned what it means to be independent, to accept my short comings, and to enjoy the pleasures of life. England taught me about respecting traditions, becoming more hospitable and cordial, and appreciating gardens, parks, and green spaces. In Florence, I have learned about sincerity, following my heart, and living life to its fullest. I have learned not to live for tomorrow, but to rather enjoy and relish today.
All three of these cultures have added to my life, but I am still not French, English, or Italian. I am American, but even my American culture has changed too. I feel a little less American mostly when I return to the U.S. I know that my American culture is strong within me because of my ďI can do itĒ attitude that keeps me constantly forging ahead. More than any other place Iíve lived in, I have acquired my ďanything is possibleĒ attitude from the U.S., and I am grateful for that.
I feel so fortunate to be as open as I am, to accept who I am, to desire to improve myself, and to enjoy each day as it comes. My living outside of the U.S. has allowed me to open up, question myself, be honest about who I am, and let go of what needs improving. For me, living abroad, even though it has its challenges, has enriched my life in more ways than I could ever quantify.
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