It’s been two years since I fist arrived in the US. It’s been a fascinating and, at times, tiring journey to become comfortable in my new culture. But I have, and now I don’t want to leave, even though most people think I don’t shave my legs and am totally fine with nudity purely because I’m European. Americans also tend to think that I don’t like to pay for anything because I’m a socialist, and that I tend to bring cheese to the top of a mountain for a snack.
To be fair, I used to think Americans were mostly obnoxious, anti-social, violent, contradictory radical Christians. And just like some of their prejudice is spot-on, so are some of mine. Any country hosts many different people, and you simply don’t befriend all of them. You develop a circle of humans with similar values. Obviously it takes a lot of effort to learn the finer point of daily pleasantries and a solid understanding of cultural sensitivities, but it’s only a matter of time before figuring it out.
But what I love most about living here, in North Idaho (one of the most conservative states of the country), are the wilderness, personal liberty and people. North Idahoans are helpful, inviting, open and adventurous. Differences of opinion are no reason for friction; my neighbors are Trump supporters and I’m a socialist. We talk about that and can still count on each other for neighborly help, anytime.
I can drive down any dirt road, pitch a tent and feel safe. I’ll see animals up close, pick wild berries and everyone will greet each other. I can be a rugged wilderness woman or make a fashion statement through my dress and behavior. I can be both. No-one will question it, most will encourage it.
I live in what’s considered the ‘west’ — the ‘wild west’ from films such as Jeremiah Johnson and The Revenant. Idaho did not become part of the United States until 1846 and had no permanent settlement until 1860; that’s incredibly recent. Getting to know folks who have lived in the ‘west’ since the mid or early 1900s, there is never a dull story to be heard. Most consist of long-distance moves, building homes from scratch, wild animal encounters and some intense drama. This contrasts sharply with the typical Dutch story: Went to school, did some drugs, got married, had kids, went on vacation to France each year for 2 weeks. I’m sorry, but for me that’s a little dull.
It’s intriguing, invigorating, moving, inspiring and overall exciting.