The most culture shock I’ve ever had was on a cruise with other Americans.

You probably live in a bubble. It’s okay, I live in a bubble too.

You may be thinking, “actually, I’m a traveler. My only bubble is Earth.” That’s why I said probably; it’s possible that you’ve had meaningful connections with every type of person in the world, in which case you’re right, you don’t live in a bubble.

But if not, you live in a bigger or smaller bubble than I do.

When I was young (last year, when I was 25), I thought I was the most cultured person ever. I grew up with almost exclusively other first generation kids. I lived in big cities for nearly half my life. I had (college educated) friends from different ethnicities, countries, sexualities, and socioeconomic statuses. I had traveled around the world and stayed with families in different countries. I knew both (very wealthy, highly educated) far right people whose bible was actually Infowars, and far left people who seriously get offended when I type “folks” instead of “folx”.

But, there was one group I had not gotten to know in person, only saw articles about on the Internet, or read books analyzing their way of life.

One group who comes to mind when many people think of the US, but somehow I had never shared more than a cursory interaction.

One group whose voice can overcome the majority, even if their voice is the minority (this is an electoral college reference, btw).

People living in Trump’s America 2017 may know who I’m talking about: white, not college educated, blue collar, right wing Americans*.

For whatever reason, this cruise (i.e. the only cruise I’ve ever been on) attracted mainly this demographic. Maybe it’s a cruise thing- I never thought I would like them or go on one, and many of my traveler friends are the same.

But, I’m glad I did this because it gave me the opportunity to connect with so many people I normally would not have connected with and in a safe environment. Everyone I met was wonderful (well, people are generally nicer when they’re not worried about cooking or commuting- who knew), and we had so many interesting conversations. Plus, the cruise was actually a lot of fun.

It was visibly different though than my typical interactions with people from my cosmopolitan, multiple degree owning, progressive, ambitious bubble in the US. Which is a little ironic, calling last year me ‘cosmopolitan’ despite not actually interacting with ‘stereotypical Americans’.

Anyway, I don’t know what the point of this post is (or why someone other than me would read anything on this site) so I am really just unpacking my thoughts. But I think I figured out why this was a such a culture shock for me.

For me when I’m abroad, there’s not too much that surprises me since I know I’m in a new country, and I know I’m going to see new things. I’m already in that mindset of “things may be different than what I’m used to; learn about it, and go with the flow.”

On the flip side, on a boat with passengers from the same country as me, going to other parts of the same country, I think I initially expected them to act/think similarly to or share the same experiences as everyone else that I know from the country. In fact, talking with the cruise workers (from India, the Philippines, Venezuela, etc) was more comfortable and familiar than talking to the passengers.

This, I think, is because it’s easy to forget how many different types of people make up a nation- especially ones as large as the US.

So now I wonder, when people say things like “people from country X act like _”, who are they really talking about? The people in the middle of the country? The people on the coasts? Shouldn’t both types be considered in these generalizations because they are both shaping the country? Would I have interacted with the stereotypical person from that country if I was from there, or would I feel like that narrative was incomplete?

I am not saying generalizations are without their place, but more wondering, where do they come from, and do I still believe them?

And that, I think, is where I will end today’s ramble session.

*If you think I’m on crack and am putting people in boxes without their consent, stop being a sensitive snowflake [kidding] and see this article which describes three types of people in the US. I literally have never been to the Midwest- hence why this was a new experience for me.

And yes, I know “American” is a strange word to people who live outside of the US, since there is also Central and South America, and North America also has Canada and Mexico. I am channeling the people of the cruise, who when I point this out would counter me by saying “traditionally we are called Americans, and if you don’t like it you can leave.”

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