Blood and Milk by Frederic Fontenoy

    “I grew up in the South Pacific, in Fiji. I came here after high school, and had to get used to a lot of things. I experienced culture shock: a new environment with different people, expectations and assumptions.     It made me want to hang on to the culture of the country where I had spent my formative years. Instead of wanting to assimilate, I decided to stay true to my accent and the things I grew up with. Basically, I was hanging on to the familiar in a world of the unfamiliar.”     “What’s an example of the cultural differences between Fiji and the U.S.?”     “In the culture I grew up in, men wear a sulu, which is similar to a sarong and looks like a skirt. But here? Not so much, unless it’s a kilt. In Fiji, it’s a masculine thing—men wear it all the time and no one bats an eye.  Here, if you wear a sulu or a sarong people will ask you, ‘Why are you wearing a skirt?’ You have to explain that it’s not a skirt, but they’ll still insist that it is. It makes you realize how things are perceived in different environments and societies. In one place, they have assumptions that something is masculine while something else is feminine. When you go somewhere else, it could be completely different, or even the exact opposite. People become confused if you use the same scheme as before—they find it jarring.”

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