How to feel a sense of belonging in the US and in American culture
In my experience of teaching English for over a decade, living and working in 5 different countries and learning various foreign languages myself, I’m sharing how to feel a sense of belonging to a country and culture.
It’s my belief that if you want to belong someplace, you’ll belong. A lot of times that sense of belonging is up to you.
With that being said, let’s get into it.
Some ways you can feel or begin to feel a greater sense of belonging in the US and in American culture:
(1) Engage with the Language
Use the language in ways that mean something to you. If that means reading journal articles, blog articles, magazines or books, do that. If that means listening to the top songs right now and staying up to date on the latest music, learning the lyrics and analyzing the songs do that. If it means watching classic American movies or new releases and engaging with the language in that way do that. There’s no right answer for how you do this as long as you do it in a way that means something to you.
(2) Make Friends
We all want to find our tribe. We all want to be in a community that we can learn from and a crew we can count on. That being said, it can take time. That’s ok, though, because you can never really have too many friends. And the point is to find people that might be having the same life experiences as you at the same time or going through a specific transition as you. When you make friends and interacting with people you start to feel a sense of community. And if you can get a group pf people together, even better. Maybe start a WhatsApp chain with three or four people and meet for coffee every week. Or maybe you have movie night and watch films together. Or perhaps you start a book club and invite people to join. Keep in mind that the people you bring together dont have to be first language learners of English, they can be second language learners. Having a mix of people is the way to go because you get a great blend of cultures and worldviews. Of course, English can be the language medium you choose to interact in.
(3) Build a Life
Building a life can help you establish some roots in a place. This is particularly true if you’ve just moved or are planning to move someplace. It’s also true when you get a job in the US and are starting to establish your career. Or maybe you’re well into your career trajectory but you’re in a new position. Building a life can help you integrate because many of us spend so much of the day working - if not for a company that for ourselves. And for the entrepreneurs out there, this goes for you too. Maybe you’re running your business in English or you’re interacting with people from the US. Setting up roots someplace - even in a virtual way - can help ground you in community.
(4) Find Purpose
Purpose is a big word. It can mean so much yet sometimes it’s nebulous and a bit unclear. Your goal is to establish your purpose. That comes from finding meaning from something that’s important to you. If you can do this in English and in an English-speaking setting, then it might help you integrate that much better in American society. So you might find purpose in your family, or your job, or a hobby, or a side-hustle. You might even find purpose in mundane tasks, those daily actions that make up a huge portion of our lives. Set an intention and make that in some way helping you find your purpose.
(5) Activate your Identity
I believe the more languages we speak the more layers to our identity there are. So for this, I want you to activate your English identity. The more you do in English, the more your English personality will form. This is separate from your L1 identity. Think about adding an extra layer of identity to your personality, similar to an onion with many layers. Discover things you enjoy doing, people you enjoy spending time with in English, songs you love to listen to and watch how your brain begins to expand with new ideas and new ways of thinking. It’s simply remarkable when we let ourselves expand our identities and evolve over time.
Belongingness is often a mindset. Sure while there might be some external factors, those are generally beyond our control. Instead, let’s focus on what is within our power to change.
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