Every family in the U.S. differs in their dynamics and values, so it is hard to pinpoint a specific aspect of U.S. culture that applies to everyone. Generally, though, many families in this country value individuality and autonomy more so than those in the rest of the world, especially in regard to the freedoms that parents allow their children. Also, it is more common here for children to move out of their childhood homes and enjoy increased freedom from their parents as soon as they turn 18, whereas in more traditional cultures, multi-generational homes are common, and people live under their parent’s rules for a significantly longer amount of time.
This individuality that is common in U.S. culture is definitely present in my family. Growing up, I always enjoyed a great deal of liberty and freedom to do what I wanted, especially after I turned 16 and started to drive and work. Some cultures and families highly value the tradition of eating dinner together every night, but I cannot remember the last time my family ate together except for holidays. I am now an adult living with my family at home, and I will often leave without telling my parents where I am going. I have been told by others that come from different cultures how lucky I am to live in a family that values my independence, and while I do enjoy the freedoms that come with this, I understand why parents of different cultures maintain higher levels of control over their children. Sometimes I do wish that my parents had paid more attention to what I was doing in middle and high school; maybe it would have led me to make some better decisions in regard to my social and financial situations. People from more traditional cultures might perceive U.S. families with this dynamic to be too lenient on their kids or too disconnected from family life.
When I begin my homestay in Amman, I will be required to be in near-constant contact with my host family, always informing them on where I am going, who I am with, and what I am doing. This will be a major change compared to my life at home. I will also be eating breakfast and dinner daily at the table with my host family, which is something I am not used to. In Jordan, instead of everyone having their own plate, it is the norm for families to place a large serving dish in the middle of the table, with everybody eating the food that is directly across from them. It is also more customary to eat with your hands or by scooping the food with bread. I am nervous about not knowing the correct (and most respectable) ways to eat at a table with native Jordanians, but I am hoping that my host family will be aware that this is a new experience for me.
Rather than thinking of it as a burden to have to be keeping my homestay family constantly aware of my whereabouts, I will choose to appreciate their efforts to keep me safe and informed about how to navigate their home country, especially as a younger female. I hope that being required to acclimate to their culture will result in a completely immersive experience during my time abroad. My flight to Amman is in 5 days, and I am not sure that my brain has fully grasped the enormous change that I am about to go through, but nevertheless, I am extremely excited (and quite nervous) to begin this journey.