Sunday, June 08, 2008

An Alien's Zodiac

When I first arrived in the USA with my new husband, in late 2004, I wasn't immediately overwhelmed with enthusiasm for the American way of life. For moral support I used to contribute to a couple of immigration message boards where new immigrants in similar situations would share their experiences. Someone there once helpfully posted details of a pattern of experience which had been found to apply to new immigrants in any country, and had adapted it specifically for aliens in the USA. I dutifully copied this to my Document File for future reference. I came across it the other day when doing a housekeeping purge. The pattern does, indeed, fit my own experience, I recognise it easily from this vantage point.

As I read and re-read the five stages it struck me that they are akin to the progression of the zodiac signs - not precisely, but broadly. Here's that list with the addition of a few smileys to liven it up, and my astrological comments:

1. The honeymoon period when all seems new and interesting. It is a very exciting time for all. (ARIES/TAURUS/GEMINI ~ enthusiasm for the new, new material things, open to be sociable with new acquaintances)

2. Period of weariness from the adaptation to a new environment. During this phase you start to understand, that you must work to adapt to a new life. You feel pressure, isolation, irritation, disorientation, and depression or apathy. You can start to eat and sleep too much. You can become upset over trifles. You, at times, feel ill. (CANCER ~ become tired, moody and easily emotional, sorry for oneself)

3. Period of non-acceptance of the culture of the host country. In this period you suddenly feel animosity to the USA and are surprised, how Americans can live how they live. You begin to question why you have come to America. (LE0/VIRGO/LIBRA/SCORPIO~ an arrogance emerges -my country's better than your country. Criticism of just about everthing. Trying to be more fair-minded but become indecisive and flip-flop from day to day. More emotion and bitterness emerge)

4. New culture starts to make sense. You start to acquire new knowledge and skills. As you gain confidence, you become more sociable. You start to feel satisfaction that you begin to understand the American culture.
(SAGITTARIUS/CAPRICORN ~ a wiser more philosophical stage begins. Common sense and a practical frame of mind emerges.)

5. Adaptation to new the culture. There is a feeling of comfort. You begin to feel and seek interaction with the new cultural environment. You accept life and conditions of American culture and take pleasure in making the distinctions between your new culture and the old. (AQUARIUS/PISCES ~ One begins to embrace the new and feel spiritually more in tune with surroundings).


What the person who posted the above list didn't say, however, is that the immigrant can experience re-runs of some of the stages at any time, rather like going through a retrograde period. Although I consider that I completed the 5-stage cycle some time ago, I do still return to stages 2 and 3 on occasion. I'm experiencing a retrograde right now! Retrogrades are always temporary, of course, and for this The Husband is thankful.


Wisewebwoman said...

Funny this, I posted a little on emigration experience in my entry last night.
It is never easy to cross the line between old country and new and really feel 'part of' the new.
And acceptance is a challenge. As we all know, back there, they really knew what they were doing....;^)

Alex said...


Funnily enough, I never experienced 2 and 3. I've always loved England and never wanted to return to the US. So I guess I'm saying, this doesn't work for Americans in England!

Good post!



Twilight said...

WWW - Yes, I've just read yours - a bit of synchronicity there, perhaps :-)

The challenge of blending in to a new country copmes easier to some than others, and it doesn't seem to depend on age or exact location.
I suppose it's an attitude of mind.
But one cannot simply summon up an attitude of mind, as and when required.

I suspect that everyone goes through stages similar to the 5 above, but the speed of transition will vary a lot. for some it might be weeks or even days, for others years or decades.

It would make an interesting study to do a survey on this, then comapre natal charts.

Maybe in my next lifetime! :-)

Twilight said...

Hello again Alex

Hmmmm - well maybe that means you're an extra fast blender - or maybe it's just that the British way of life is easier to swallow.
LOL! I'm highly prejudiced on that sore, so my opinion is worthless.

It's nice that you've said that though !

anthonynorth said...

Interesting thoughts there. And I must admit, I've experienced some of the same just moving from county to county in England.
'I think it's a touch of the outsider syndrome, (As I'm from Yorkshire, you'll appreciate this) I've heard it said to an incomer of 30 years standing.'

Twilight said...

Funny you should say that, AN! The same thought flitted through my mind as I prepared the post.

My maternal grandfather was born in Wiltshire and travelled up to Yorkshire when a young man (on foot!)to find work.
He spent all his adult life, to his late eighties, in East Yorkshire and I heard him say many times that he "was never really accepted" by local folk.
He was a sociable fellow too.
Of course, in those days travel between counties was rare, so people from distant locations weren't often exposed to one another as they are now.

Not sure if this is peculiar to Yorkshire though - I thought we were a pretty friendly bunch on the whole. East Yorkshire folk do tend to be a bit on the quiet side. I found from my own experiences that, in general, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire people were warmer and easier to get to know.

Thanks for that AN - more food for thought.