My family and I recently moved to Detroit. What an interesting city. It has such character, history, and sadness weaved into its streets. When I first thought of the idea of moving to this city, I was concerned. I heard from US citizens and others that I had to make sure that I locked my car doors when I drove through the city. That’s how high the crime rate is. Indeed, I made sure they were locked the first few weeks that we were here. The culture in this city is unlike any I have encountered in my life. Its as if Detroit yells: “I was something once!”
I think back to the first few weeks in Detroit with fondness. How intrigued and terrified I was with vacant and boarded-up houses, and how I didn’t think I could live here. It helped that family was just across the border in Canada, and that there is a big Lebanese community nearby.
With a few months behind us in this reminiscing city, I have grown quite fond of it. I no longer lock my doors when I drive through the streets, granted I am usually at home after six pm every night. And like any city, Detroit has areas that you should not venture into. I now see familiar buildings and have learned not to pay much attention to the blight around us. Perhaps I like it because I love the cultural mix. There is a whole range of people from different cultures. I especially like the culture of the automotive industry threaded into the city. And then there is the culture of racial-identification.
My years in Canada did not introduce me to racial-identification. Sure, you would ask someone where their background was from, and they proudly announced roots from Ireland, Ethiopia, China, or all three! But racial identification and classification before saying hello is foreign to me. Now I must mention that my time in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, made me learn to pay attention to gender before certain conversations, but the feeling of a great ‘cultural divide’ between races is new. The way they talk is even different. The way they spend their time is unique, and you often do not see them mixing, at least where we are. There are major differences between the US and Canada and whoever says otherwise, is culturally unintelligent. (Why should you care about Cultural Intelligence, you ask? click here.)
Regardless of the expectations and the experiences from the last few months, the main learning for me has been that the unfamiliar will become comfortable with time. You just have to put yourself out there. I good lesson to learn time and again – I know that I keep learning it.