I stood at the entrance of my local Walmart, the automatic door still swishing behind me. I faintly heard the friendly greeter welcome me to Walmart behind me, but I was too preoccupied to properly register it.
I never thought it would be possible for me to stare at the inside of a Walmart in pure shock and awe, but there I was.
From my vantage point, I could see endless rows of hundreds of products. There seemed to be everything; from colorful accent pillows to flat-screen TVs showcasing crisp, HD images.
The store was filled, not only with a myriad of products but so many customers; their blue grocery carts synchronizing with them like a loyal pet.
Where to begin? My senses were instantly overwhelmed as I was so unsure of where to begin in this unfamiliar ecosystem. Was Walmart always this… intense?
Perhaps my reaction can be justified by context.
I’ve grown up with Walmart. I have lived in America my whole life and had become desensitized to the largeness of American grocery stores. Growing up, the bright blue grocery carts and the colorful aisles were second nature to me. However, because I have spent over 2 years in France and spent many summers there prior, I ending up losing touch with American culture.
And now, as I stood before the aisles of my local Walmart supercenter, I might as well have been standing before America itself; an immigrant not quite sure what the country would hold for them. I was dazed and speechless. Where to begin, I thought to myself incredulously.
As I forged ahead, I found myself experiencing culture shock everywhere; beyond just the physical differences between France and America.
I found myself dumbfounded when the cashier brightly greeted me and made small talk. In my time in France, I had forgotten the language of American small talk, a language I was once fluent in.
I was also surprised by the overall fastness of American life, the seemingly urgent need for haste at all times. Whereas the French move at leisurely paces, walking leisurely on sidewalks and taking ample lunch time off from work, I was surprised to see the quickness with which Americans moved. Cars are everywhere, with sidewalks barely able to fit a walking person.
These culture shocks, among others, interfered greatly with my cultural identity; it was hard for me to relate with American culture and identity. America seemed to be so much more different than I had left it. Was I previously numb and desensitized to American culture?
Who changed? Me or America?
As my time back in the States grows closer to a year, I wrestle with this question often. Cultural identity is something I have grown keen to research as it is something that we all experience in different ways; whether we realize it or not. Pondering upon one’s own cultural identity requires extensive thought and reflection. One’s cultural identity is so deeply embedded in the individual that it can be hard to discern what is a reflection of the effect culture has on you and what is a direct consequence of yourself.
I urge you to examine the influences of culture in your own life. Do you have two, or more, conflicting cultural identities? Or are you still searching for yours? What comprises your cultural identity and how is it different from those around you? By examining your cultural identity, you are able to reveal a lot about yourself as a person and the way you view yourself. Culture is never something to be neglected or overlooked, but rather, always examined.