Moving to the US in December 2014 I had my rules based on my perception of the US according to what I saw on the TV shows. My rules included absolutely no fast food, more work-out, be anti-stereotypes, make a diverse pool of friends and finally do not lose your underlying values. I had rules but no mechanisms to ensure I follow every one of them.
My first year in the US I struggled with food choices and diet. Being really busy with graduate school meant less time for home cooked meals and more subway sandwiches. In addition, I had no Nigerian friends that can hook me up with the Nigeria stores in Denver. Sundays were the only days that I ate Nigerian food and this was because my mother packed "poundo yam powder", "dry egusi" and plenty seasoning. Honestly, the first vegetable and egusi soup I made looked so weird because I used canola oil instead of palm oil. It tasted really well partly because I'm an excellent cook and the only missing thing was palm oil.
I was very anti-burger because of its association with gaining weight so I kept that off my diet. Also, most of my friends that travelled to the UK and the US had gained some weight as seen on their social media (no shade), was it as a result of burger eating? I don't know! All I wanted was to maintain my stature in order to avoid comments such as "Bibi you are getting bigger, are you eating horses?" or "Bibi please take it easy, you might find it hard to get a husband" from people back home. It took me more than a year to have my first American burger. My first one was homemade and on Labour Day because national holidays were for grilling apparently.
Honestly, sometimes I eat hot pockets, frozen dinners, canned mac and cheese, freezer to microwave meals. I am not proud of it! It's just the way of an average American millennial. I get it now, everyone is very busy for daily home-cooked meals. Sometimes, I eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Is it okay? No. But I am understanding the system to a limited extent and becoming part of it. I still do not eat burgers, I go for chick-fil-A lowest caloric chicken sandwiches.
Some new things that I do bother me. For example, I find myself unconsciously giving and receiving items with my left hand. I had better not try that with my parents or older folks at home because... let's just say I won't be happy afterwards. The constant struggle between keeping my Nigerian values and acclimating to the American one is something I believe everyone goes through.
I find myself maintaining eye contact with my professors and other people, which in the US is a sign of confidence and trustworthiness. Back home, it can be seen as a sign of disrespect. You can see how this can get intense. I don't want to look an older person in the eye when I go home or when they are admonishing me. That just means I have "grown major wings" and now I think, "I'm a big girl" and "I have arrived".
Anyways, the point of my rant is that change is a constant thing and I have to succumb to it someway. However, I still want to keep my Nigerian values of respecting older people while being assertive and trying different cuisines that are healthy.
I think I just have to up my "code switching" level when interacting with both worlds. A simplistic definition of code-switching is the practice of shifting the languages you use or the way you express yourself in your conversation depending on the individual or group of people.