“When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.” ― Rodney Dangerfield
I suspect that, if pressed, we could separate people into three rough categories: those who would not mind living in other places, those who would like to just visit other places, and those who have no urge whatsoever to leave where they are.
There is a strong suspicion that most of us would fall into the latter category. At least most of the time. We prefer as little change or challenge as possible. The peace of being where we are comfortable (and know) is greater than the pain of adjusting to change in someplace new.
But there are exceptions. For a goodly sized segment of people in America there has been the opportunity (or need) to relocate for career or in order to take a new job. While becoming more common after WWII, I think this has deep roots in our founding by immigrants and in our historical westward expansion – a pioneering spirit searching for opportunity.
For my family, my mother was born in Florida, schooled in Michigan, and moved to southern California in her early twenties. My father, originally from Oklahoma, decided to stay in southern California when he got out of the navy and off the boat at the end of the war. He started his own business in real estate and insurance, which consequently had an odd but significant effect on my life.
How? Because when he needed cash to grow the business, he would sell our home, buy up, and put the extra back into the business. As a consequence, we moved seven times by the time I was in high school, all within one city (one time was from upstairs to downstairs in a duplex – he remodeled the upstairs to rent out for cash flow. Another time was five houses down the street). They moved again after I was in college.
I figured this was normal. What was interesting was that I only had one unplanned change in schools during this time. Most of the other moves were in the same neighborhood, or at least in the same school district.
In spite of these moves, there was little cultural change other than the massive culture shock (and baggage) that everyone goes through in adolescence.
My wife’s story is similar, but with a twist. Her parents relocated from the mid-west to southern California, but when she was in 8th grade. As a consequence, she had a double dose of culture shock. She tells that it wasn’t pretty.
We met in college, and clicked with no little help from similar cultural backgrounds. This changed when we moved to Texas for graduate school. There we experienced massive and unexpected exposure to massive cultural change. This was a momentary surprise, until we clued in a bit on some of what was going on. For one, we realized we lived with uniform nationwide radio and TV, which filtered out a lot of cultural aspects and tended to ‘standardize’ a world-view, or at least country-view. We don’t have different dialects of language; we call them ‘accents,’ and national news doesn’t care about local life.
Thus began our ‘adventurous’ journey in life, career-wise as well as culture-wise. Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (warning, this will come back to haunt readers), I have to admit that we also have chosen to relocate quite a few times: 3 in Texas, 2 on Long Island, then 2 in western New York, to Michigan (only one place), New Jersey*, The Netherlands (2 there), back to New Jersey (earlier home, plus one more), Romania (2 there), and finally to Pennsylvania (1). Sixteen times. Beats Dad’s record.
(*Confession: We didn’t do our best in this move. Of our three boys only one made a smooth transition, into high school. The younger two, 7th grade and 2nd grade, didn’t fair so well. Double dose again: they nearly slipped off the edges, but we recovered. I say again, ‘Sorry, guys, forgive me. I could have planned that one better.’)
Overall, I think that places my wife and me in the ‘People who wouldn’t mind living in other places’ category. Open to experiences. Besides the physical differences one experiences in a seemingly nomadic life such as this, one also gets to experience some non-physical differences, like being surrounded by different languages and dialects, attitudes, values, and world-views, a lot of the latter being tightly held by warm friends and acquaintances who just so happen to be in the third category, ‘People who have no urge whatsoever to leave where they are.’
That’s a short synopsis of experiences that have contributed to what is going to follow: a view of culture as it affects each of us, particularly in family, clan, tribe, organizations, and even nations and civilizations.
Stay riveted. And remember your categories.