Italian version English version
If you just could imagine how we felt when we arrived in America. We had come from small towns where life was hard, but simple. Not more than a handful of the adventurous young had ever ventured farther than the other small villages located nearby. Even fewer people had seen or visited big cities. The only things that old people knew of were the work in the fields, their homes, their churches, and their families. The streets of the village were not crowded with cars. There was only one road that led out of the village and only a few lucky people were fortunate enough to possess the means to own a car. There wasn't even a stop sign; the biggest obstacle in the streets was the flock of sheep coming back to the pen at night. There was no flock of sheep in the new cities, but large and long roads, covered by lines of cars that seemed to stretch on infinitely. People kept coming and going in a hurry at all times, always in a hurry.
The owner of the grocery store knew all the people from the village; he knew what they wanted when they came into the shop and gave them credit. From these simple origins we then arrived in big cities that were unknown to us. Cities that were built in a completely different way from our old village. Even the colors of the surroundings looked
was a difficult, total and immediate change. We didn't even have the time to learn the simplest rules, like how to understand traffic lights. We used to cross the streets running, hoping not to be run over, instead of waiting for the green light at every intersection.
We didn't know how to buy any kind of grocery item. There were supermarkets and they were well supplied, but we were not very familiar with how they worked, nor were we familiar with the new currency.
We had to learn everything and we had to do it as soon as possible.
It was then, in 1958, that the expression “Culture Shock” was created for immigrants like us. The people who moved from one culture to another suffered a very significant shock that left them disoriented and caused a strong sense of anxiety. The simple things of daily life, like signs, directions, shaking someone’s hand, facial expressions, asking for directions, using the phone and everything that we had learned subconsciously, no longer had a meaning in the new land. We felt a strong sense of anxiety and frustration, a sense of loss of confidence in ourselves.
Delia Socci Skidmore