American Dream doesn’t live up to expectations for Muscovite

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

PAVEL ZLATIN, Channels Staff

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It was August 2015. After a 12-hour flight, and 3 hours on an Amtrak train, I had finally arrived to the United States.

I was sitting in the backseat of a black car. God only knows why the driver kept asking personal questions about my life. I was too tired to care about this little inconvenience.

It was already 2 a.m. in Santa Barbara. The streets were empty. I rolled down the window to breathe the fresh coastal air that I’d dreamed of while living in Moscow.

I found Santa Barbara beautiful—at first. The Spanish revival style buildings were gorgeous, but would soon be replaced by ordinary, middle-class homes. The black car looked like an alien when it parked in front of a green, two-story house; a house recommended by City College.

“Where the hell am I,” I thought. “This is not the California I know from ‘The O.C.,’ and ‘Clueless.’”

This was indeed the America I saw on “Desperate Housewives”; an Ikea kingdom with low ceilings, white walls and brown carpet. The place looked strange, although it did have comfortable furniture.

My “American dream” had begun with a journey from a two-bedroom apartment, to a bunk bed.

And lucky for me my roommate was out. I started to unpack, realizing that bringing seven pairs of shoes was a big mistake.

The next morning I woke and I took a walk on Wisteria Lane. The houses were cute, perfect and all the cars were new and mostly hybrid. This was exactly how I imagined the legendary, American middle-class life; I just hoped I wouldn’t be a part of it.

I realized Fairview was Stepford: people were friendly, the streets were clean and the buildings stood close to perfect. This precision was everywhere and it was suffocating me as a person. It’s hard for me coming from Moscow, one of the largest cities in the world.

Eventually I was forced to adapt, and inadvertently become a part of this lifestyle. I became friendlier with other people. I walked slower, even my Whole Foods shopping cart was organized to perfection.

I hoped college would bring me back to normal. I was wrong.

Not only did I suffer from severe culture shock, but I also had to answer some surprisingly ignorant questions about my life: Was I from Moscow in Idaho? Do we have central heating and credit cards? Is it true that every winter we freeze to death? Is Moscow close to Siberia?

No matter how much I wanted to send those people back to elementary school where they belong, I kept answering those questions and slowly moving towards my identity crisis.

“Who am I now? Am I a European, or an American, or am I somewhere in between?” That was the question I kept asking myself.

Most of my European friends in Santa Barbara have had a much more positive experience. And, honestly, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I came from a particular country, or maybe because my background and lifestyle were different.

I really don’t know.

What I know is that I came here for a reason, and I’ll do my best to achieve every single goal of mine. A wise friend once told me, “You are not an American unless you get a Coach bag.”

I have two of them right now.

 

 

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