Moving from one place or culture to another can be a difficult transition: we are away from the family and friends who have always known us, everyday tasks can become our biggest challenges and it can be hard to find anything that feels comfortable or familiar. In this process, though, growth and vibrant life can also be found: we love and are loved by new friends, we are shaped by other perspectives and we understand there are depths to ourselves we could not otherwise have known.
Here, Monika Keen who has made her home in Southeast Missouri from Koszalin, Poland, shares about her native culture, her new culture and what she’s learned in the transition. Here’s to letting life be a process and all the things we learn along the way.
Hometown: Koszalin, Poland
Moved to Cape Girardeau in 2003 to attend Southeast Missouri State University
What is something that surprised you about the new culture you are a part of?
The most surprising thing for me was how friendly everyone was, in Southeast Missouri, that is. When I first moved to Cape Girardeau, I was all alone; I moved here all by myself, and I spent my first Christmas at a Chinese Buffet. Very quickly, I met so many people which instantly became my family down here. It was hard for me to believe that a perfect stranger would be so kind to another. Everyone was so nice and helpful. Back home, we all keep to ourselves, so that was a huge surprise to me. I truly believe that the Southern hospitality is the main reason why I stayed around this area.
What is something you miss or are proud of about your native culture?
I am proud that Poland was one of the first countries to successfully fight against Communism. I am proud we had a Polish Pope, who was a great man. I am proud of the Poles fighting in WWII. I am proud to be Polish. I miss my family and friends the most, being able to speak in my native language every day. I miss traveling around Europe and the more laid back/slower-paced lifestyle in Poland versus here in the USA.
How do you incorporate elements of your native culture into your new culture?
I absolutely love cooking. I try to introduce a new dish to my family and friends fairly often. Having the ability to share my culture makes me happy. Not always do they love the dishes I make, but at least they try them. I order Polish sweets very often, especially chocolate from stores in Chicago. I do wish there was more Eastern European cuisine around here.