How cultural transitioning affected the Garcia Family
Cultural shock is a common feeling a person experiences when transitioning into a completely different environment and living situation. Throughout the world, immigrants experience many difficulties when assimilating into a new culture. The novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez, illustrates these challenges. Throughout the novel, we see how different aspects of culture shock impact the Garcia family. In this essay I will discuss how particular events change each family member’s Dominican cultural values and identity. As the family became immersed with the traditions of contemporary American culture, they began to forge conflicting identities and values, which led to the dissolution of the family. One effect of culture shock was the dramatic changes in family relationships, which were caused by conflicting values among family members. This family matter was the primary struggle throughout the novel. Another aspect of culture shock is the life style changes a person undergoes when transitioning into a new foreign culture. A person is likely to change certain ways of living in order to survive in the new country. In the novel each girl slowly deviated from certain traditional Dominican cultural values that she grew up with. This typically causes emotional distress, identity loss, and inability to adjust. The most prevalent form of cultural clash is a language barrier. The person who is moving into a foreign country usually must learn the countries native language and customs in order to successfully communicate with citizens of the domestic country. Another impact associated with cultural shock is the difficulty to accept prevalent values and beliefs within the foreign culture. Identity loss occurs when a person feels as if his or her identity has become replaced or eliminated due to a change in social status or place in society. Despite the numerous disadvantages of moving into a different culture, there are several advantages that come from moving to a different continent. A few major reasons as to why someone moves into a different country is because of criminal charges, a more prosperous job or promising living situation, or a life-threatening situation that is occurring within their native country. In the novel How the Garcia Girls lost their accents, the reason why the Garcia girls moved was due to a small revolution in the Dominican Republic (107). This usually affords the family a way to resolve whatever financial deficit or liability they were facing in their previous country. When a person experiences cultural shock, it is common for him or her to experience feelings of trauma and frustration towards the counterculture. These feelings are produced by any drastic changes seen within the counterculture that overwhelm the foreigner. It appears as if the most dramatic feelings of cultural shock occur within the first few months of moving to an alternative country. Other feelings of cultural integration shock take much longer to manifest. Every member of the Garcia family experienced several different feelings of cultural shock. One event, which produced a feeling of cultural shock, was when Carla met a pervert. This event occurred when she was walking to school and encountered a man in a car who gestured her to come over to him. Once she came over to his car she noticed that he had a string tied around his erect penis. This event perplexed her and created confusion (157). Another disturbing event which created cultural shock was when Sandra tried on a tampon. This event embarrassed the mother. The ethnic’s slurs that the girls were subject while walking to school produced another initial feeling of cultural shock. They Garcia girls were constantly being made fun of for their English slurs and pubescent stage of growth(153). These experiences are commonly associated with families that move into foreign cultures.
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