June 15th, 2010 5:33 pm | by RUTH BROWN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Diary of An Immigrant: "Welcome to America. Are You Finding Everything OK?"

I'm Ruth, the new WW music intern. For the last 24-odd years, I've lived in Melbourne, Australia. A little over a week ago, I chucked everything in to move halfway across the world to Portland.

I arrived in the country with little more than a backpack, a laptop and an "alien registration number", and have spent the last week trying to navigate my way through a new life in a new city in a new country.

It's more difficult because I don't look like an outsider (maybe fewer tattoos and piercing than the average Portlander, but give me time): I'm young, white, wearing Levis and Chucks and a messenger bag, with a coffee in one hand and an iPhone in the other. So I just seem a little bit "special" slowly holding up each individual coin to see what its value is when going to the grocery store, asking waiters things like "Uhm, what exactly is 'ranch dressing'?", and drawling out an incomprehensible "G'dayhowsitgoin'?" every time someone says hello.

And just about everyone in this country does say hello. The bus drivers, people in elevators, supermarket checkout chicks, military recruiters, security guards, the drifters who sleep under my building, buskers, maids. They all want to know how I am, and what I think of the weather, and where I'm going, and where I've been, and what I'm looking for, and if they can help me with anything.

Jan from New Seasons is very, very interested in how my first online grocery delivery went (two emails and three phone calls later, I'm not sure how much more I can tell her. The food arrived; I ate it; I didn't die). Derek from T-Mobile is desperate to know how I'm finding their mobile phone service (I am able to both make and receive calls. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT TO KNOW, DEREK?). And the staff at Fred Meyers seemed genuinely sorry they didn't stock any of the items I required but were still super keen to know if I'd found everything OK. Some stores here actually seem to employ people just to stand at the door and say "hello" (Isn't there a recession on? Dear American businesses: I have discovered a simple yet effective way you can save yourselves some money...)


On Sunday I went to a pub to watch Australia get thrashed by Germany in the World Cup. I made my way through the sea of large blonde men (and even larger blonde women) holding pretzels and giant bier steins (no really) to the corner where a handful of gloomy-looking figures in green and gold were huddled over their stubbies (language lesson of the week: that's Aussie for “beer bottle”). We grunted "G'Day" then completely ignored each other for the following 93 minutes, after which we all grunted again and went on our merry ways.

I haven't felt so at home all week.

Check back in next week for another installment of Diary of an Immigrant. Follow more of Ruth Brown's adventures in Portland at her blog Stump'd.
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