Culture Shock in New England, USA

June, 1991

The huge moving van drove up the hill to my new condo and parked on the roadside. The men carried my 100+ boxes and furniture over the grass, through the sliding glass doors, and piled the boxes floor to ceiling in the living room. “Lady, you sure have a lot of books. Will they all fit in here?” I smiled and replied, “God willing!” I treasure all my Bible commentaries and missionary biographies.

After filling up my water bed with the hose, I put on the bed sheets, drove down the street to a fast food place for dinner, and came back home. I began unpacking the bathroom things, but quickly discovered I was too exhausted, so I fell into bed. The next morning, three ladies from church came to help me unpack, so I made good progress. Thankfully, all my books fit!

The following day, I drove down the street to the grocery store, but couldn’t find it. Nearly in tears of frustration, I went back home and called the assistant Pastor to ask for directions. He gently told me I had turned the wrong way, so I got back in my car and tried again. I’m finding I need to leave 15-30 minutes early before I go anywhere new to allow myself time to find it. I have a county map that usually helps me when I become totally confused!

September, 1991

It has been quite a summer for me. I absolutely love the new Bible church I am attending. The Bible teaching and music are wonderful, causing me to  dig deeper in the scriptures and grow in God’s grace. I have been richly blessed by the fellowship in the career group with about 20 single adults my age. I also attend a single ladies’ group of all ages that meets every Monday night in a retired lady’s home for dinner and Bible study. The church picnics, volleyball, and water skiing have also been great fun and times of sweet fellowship in the Lord.

I have been able to see quite a bit of New England including the mountains of Vermont, the elegant mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, and Acadia National Park. I survived my first hurricane on the way to Acadia. I have never seen rain blowing so hard totally horizontal! I was wondering why it was so difficult to keep the car on the road. When I pulled into a gas station, the owner said, “Ladies, they are shutting down the roads so you have to find a place to stay.” At the next highway exit, we checked into a room at a nice inn and watched in amazement the torrential rain and wind as we swam in the cozy heated indoor pool. I’m used to seeing tornadoes in the Midwest where I grew up, but not hurricanes!

Acadia view 1991

Misty Acadia National Park after Hurricane Bob

Cornwall CT covered bridge 1991

Cornwall Connecticut covered bridge

Vermont 1991

Pretty view in Vermont mountains.

The people at church are so friendly, but in general, the public is cool and distant. It’s difficult to get the grocery store cashier to even make eye contact with me or say hello unless I greet him first. Then he usually just grunts in reply. People are rude on the phone also. The traffic is congested on the highways and the drivers are terrible! They zoom in and out across all the lanes, never use their turn signal, and never seem to get caught by the police.

I’m trying to learn their terminology. Pop is called soda, a submarine sandwich is called a grinder, and I never heard of a calzone before! I discovered that it is an Italian stuffed pizza sandwich that you dip into tomato sauce. Very filling and quite good. I miss the German food of the Midwest. There are mostly Italian immigrants here, so there is an abundance of Italian restaurants.

One guy in the career group teases me about my Midwest accent. They say um-BRELL-a, but I say UM-brell-a. They say in-SUR-ance, but I say IN-sur-ance. I was talking with a lady at church whose young grandson was standing next to her listening. He turned to her and said, “Grandma, why does she talk so funny?” The Pastor grew up in Boston, so at times I have trouble understanding his accent. Some people leave out the “r” sound as in “quawtah” for “quarter”.

Since I moved here with no nursing job, I was relieved to have several dialysis job interviews within the first two weeks after my arrival. I chose to work in a large inner city hospital dialysis unit. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a disaster. They used three different type of dialysis machines from different eras, and the patients were divided into several small rooms. I felt unsafe walking in the early morning darkness from the employee parking garage a block to the hospital. It was so chaotic, understaffed, unsafe, and mismanaged that I developed severe stomach and back pain from the stress. I gave two weeks notice after working there for just a month.

One of the staff nurses told me about a new dialysis unit in the suburbs that sounded similar to my unit in the Midwest. I called the nurse manager, and she interviewed me. I asked if I could shadow a nurse for a few hours during the busiest time when they took patients off dialysis and then put the next shift on, and she agreed. There were 20 dialysis chairs in the large bright calm room, and the staff seemed happy to work there. They use new Fresenius computerized dialysis machines that are similar to the Cobe 3000 which I know. I can also park right outside the building which is in a safe neighborhood. The downside is that they work 13.5 hour shifts from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. three days per week. There is no cafeteria on site, so each staff member has to carry all three meals with them to eat during the shift. The nurse manager offered me the position, so I accepted. I hope I have the stamina to work the long shifts.

Sadly, I have to find a home for my dog, Sandy. While he is home alone so much, my neighbors complain that he barks nonstop. I have asked about 30 people at church, and gave his photo to the vet and groomer to post, but no takers yet. It’s hard to give him up since he is the only living thing I brought with me from the Midwest.

My expenses have doubled and I took a 30% pay cut from what I made in the Midwest. But all in all, I am happy I made the move. The spiritual blessings and new friends have greatly enriched my life. I’ve been told that a person needs to take at least a year to adjust to a new culture, so I will do that.

Thank You, dear Lord, for bringing me here and for providing my every need. Thank You for encouraging me in my spiritual walk and helping me grow in Your grace. Please help me adjust to the new job and long hours. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me…But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13, 19

Reflection

It seems hard to believe that I have now lived here in New England for 25 years. In the summer, I still miss the miles of cornfields in the Midwest, but overall enjoy the more varied geography of New England. The cost of living has become even more challenging as the years have rolled by, but God continues to provide for me. I was able to purchase an 1880 colonial home one year after I moved here, although it was not as nice as my home in the Midwest. I’m on track to retire at age 62 rather than 57 which is what I would have been able to do in the Midwest. But the eternal spiritual blessings from God have far outweighed the earthly challenges, so I thank Him for leading me here.

 

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