Most people live two lives—one at home, and one at work or school. But I live a third life, and it’s a life that I’ve developed by spending a month in Cyprus every year.
When I’m in Cyprus, I live in a different house, speak a different language, have different friends and immerse myself in a different culture than the 11 months I spend in New York and Pennsylvania during the rest of the year.
The people I spend time with in Cyprus have helped distinguish my experience there. Cyprus used to be under British control, and because of this, everyone at the local beach in Larnaca visits from London. Each year I go, I see the same people who I have developed friendships with over time.
Since English is the main language in both the United Kingdom and the United States, I thought of the two to be very similar. Shortly after I interacted with people from London, however, I realized how different the countries actually are.
I will never forget the first questions my friends asked me about America. They often included the words “Trump” and “corn dogs.” Unfortunately, I had to let them know that corn dogs were not the main food in the U.S., and that I’ve never even tried one.
They asked these questions because, having never been to the United States, they were basing their questions off of American stereotypes.
I knew as little about England as they did about America. By answering their questions, I was able to share with them more about where I’m from, and I learned a lot from them in return.
For starters, their accent isn’t the only thing different about them. They taught me British slang and told me more about life in London. I remember a conversation I had with one friend about the type of music they listen to, and I realized that even the little things can make each culture more unique.
When I’m not with these friends, I spend time with my relatives who live in Cyprus. Trips to Flassou, a village in the mountains, are always a large culture shock. My older relatives don’t know English, so I can only communicate with them by speaking in Greek.
For meals, they prepare traditional Greek dishes for my family to eat. Only one house has wi-fi, so my cousins and I have to find sources of entertainment that don’t involve sitting in front of the TV or playing on our phones. Instead, we go on walks and explore the area around us and witness how different life is there.
Being exposed to other cultures has shaped my life by changing the way I see the world and understand people.
Most importantly, I have learned the value of being different. When I encounter a new place or meet a new person, I make an effort to identify what makes them unique. From this, I have learned to be more appreciative and open to different perspectives.
This especially helped me when I started college. Being on a campus where I meet students from other states and countries has given me the incentive to branch out and learn about countless different perspectives that provide me with the opportunity to learn about the world around me.