In less than 24 hours, Ana, our new exchange student from Brazil, will be here. When Chuck and I first got Joop, we were a little naïve and didn’t know what we were getting into. By now, we’ve got more of a handle on things, but teens always find a way to throw you for a loop. Initially, we believed there were some rules we thought were kind of stupid, but have since decided were pretty amazing ideas. Some, we still think are stupid.…
The biggest rule we allowed Joop to break ended up being the rule that he wished he had been given. He says it’s one of his biggest regrets for the year.
Most exchange agencies suggest that you don’t allow your student to call home more than once a week and that they don’t talk to friends at home. As millennials, Chuck and I didn’t understand how this would even work with social media and technology.
To remove the temptation to call home more often, the agencies suggest that tech usage is strongly monitored and that phones, iPads, etc., are confiscated at night. At first, this seemed really strict! I mean, I get monitoring your kid's internet, but keeping them off social media, or preventing them from calling their significant other, or Snapchatting with friend groups, and then removing all tech from their rooms at night seemed mean.
Now that I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, I realize the wisdom behind this rule, which has less to do with internet safety than it does with helping the students acclimate faster to the American culture. As my community rep, Amy Ovalle, says, you can’t fully integrate into American culture if your mind is back at home. One of the biggest problems early on with exchange students is them staying up most of the night talking to friends and family back home.
I had no problem at first with Joop talking to his Dutch then-girlfriend almost every day. And often every day. But it wasn’t till after they broke up and he was no longer calling home all the time that his year here took off. He started football, made friends at the local school, felt better about America, and all around got better acclimated to American culture.
He now says he wishes he had tried to get into American culture more quickly and that he had spent less time talking with people back home. So I decided that the next time we had a student, I’d take their phone and not let them call home.
Because Leonie was sick, I never took her phone. Though I fear I still should have taken it. I’m not sure how much time she spent talking with people back home, adding to her mono with extreme homesickness. I fear the homesickness may have made the mono worse, and lying in bed texting her boyfriend may have been part of what reset her equilibrium to horizontal, so that whenever she stood up she’d get dizzy.
Our third teen was an American student, and she wasn’t allowed to have social media or her own technology. And the quick ease that she fit in with us proved my point. I know she was an American, but without access to social media or friends from home, she had to talk with us. She had to make friends here. So when Ana comes, her phone will be mine at night. And lucky for her, she doesn’t have a boyfriend back at home either.
Side note: I know this seems harsh, but exchange students, just break it off with your boyfriend or girlfriend at home. Otherwise, your heart will always be back home, and you won’t get the most out of your year. Live fully in the moment in America. In 10 months, you’ll go back home, so don’t waste a moment of it.
Smart phones and social media can quickly rob an exchange student of their time here. Most, almost all, of the students who come really do want to get into the American culture. They are here to become bicultural. As a social-media-loving, tech-savvy millennial, I know the near addictive draw of it all. I’m an ambitious, self-retrained 34-year-old woman, and I have a hard time putting my phone down, quite often. I know I shouldn’t be on my phone just before bed because it disrupts sleep patterns, but so often I find myself scrolling through Instagram or playing some mindless game 30 minutes after I should be asleep.
If I was 16, living in a new country, and homesick with the means to talk to those I miss the most in my hands 24/7, you bet I’d use it. Even if I knew it wasn’t good for me.
Some rules will still be bent, but this one will be strictly enforced this year. Y’all didn’t really believe I’d follow the letter of every single rule? Nah....
When Joop and I started our adventure, we tongue-in-cheek called it #JoopDoesAmerica. And it kind of stuck. Joop was doing all kinds of American stuff, trying American foods, and it was a funny hashtag. It was amusing.
It wasn’t until we came out with the book that someone pointed out the infamous – and what some would consider classic, if you can consider anything pornographic a classic – adult film called Debbie Does Dallas. Debbie never once crossed my mind when I was writing the book, filming the videos, or posting on Facebook. And because most of our audience was either conservative, young, or international, the link to her was never explored.
However, it became quite clear that most Americans over 30 did have that immediate reaction to the book. When it was videos staring an underage foreigner drinking Mountain Dew or eating potato chips, it was quite obvious nothing kinky was going on. But in the absence of videos or pictures, most Americans' minds went straight to the gutter.
Since everything was branded #JoopDoesAmerica, Joop and I made the decision to keep the name for the book. Initial sales were fine, but most of the sales were not in the US. Sales in the US, despite following marketing that almost always worked, plummeted after our initial fans bought it. Then they stopped altogether.
Then, about a month ago, I was flagged – by an American – for adult content. It was dismissed after a very brief inquiry, but I got the message: Joop Does America was too racy of a title for the American audience I was seeking to reach.
So, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks coming up with a new title and book cover that will convey the message of the book better to an American audience. I decided to use the catch phrase those of us who work with exchange students use … daily.
"It’s not better or worse, just different."
So here’s the new book cover and title: Just Different! The Art of Cultural Exchange.
To keep the #JoopDoesAmerica brand intact, I changed authors from me and Joop to #JoopDoesAmerica, which is me and Joop together. We’ll still be listed as the authors on Amazon, but the cover will have the brand instead of the people. Though, Joop will argue that he is the brand.
The new cover with the new title will be available only in ebook format later this week.
My family loves salads, which means we have about 15 different types of salad dressing. Greek dressing. Italian dressing. French Dressing. Ranch Dressing. I also love a good dipping sauce, like Chic-Fil-A’s Polynesian sauce.
If you notice, with one exception, all of the dressings I had use a country’s name in it. Or a region, like Polynesia. However, have you ever thought what an Italian would say if you showed them Italian dressing?
“What? You call that Italian? That’s just an herby vinaigrette!”
And for the life of it, I can’t figure out how that red goop is attributed to France, or sometimes Russia, maybe even Catalina. What American came up with these ideas?
In case you’re wondering, I think Dutch Dressing would be just plain mayonnaise.
Ranch dressing, my one exception, is not called by anything in America other than ranch, just like Italian dressing would just be called vinaigrette in Italy. Ranch dressing, believe it or not, was not invented until the late 1950’s in America, where it was only sold at one Ranch until 1973, when they started selling dried mixes. It was until 1983, the year before I was born, that you could buy ranch dressing on a shelf. By the 1990’s, ranch dressing had cemented its place as America’s favorite dressing.
But, many places in the world don’t have it!
A former exchange student I met in the Netherlands asked me if I had brought any ranch dressing with me, because she couldn’t get anywhere in the Netherlands, and really missed it.
I thought, when I come back I should bring some ranch with me. Or at least some dried packets to mix with the fabulous Dutch mayonnaise. Bring ranch, funky M&M’s and Chic-Fil-A sauce to the Netherlands; bring home mayo, stroop waffles, and licorice. But, that was about the extent I thought about it.
However, last week a friend of mine sent me that photo of a specialty flavor Doritos. For Americans, we call them Cool Ranch Doritos. But apparently, elsewhere, ranch dressing is known as American dressing. So, the Dutch call them Cool American Flavor Doritos.
I guess I was wrong when I said that there was no food or flavor that was uniquely American. Ranch. We are ranch flavor.
This all reminded me of one time when I was at a conference on diversity and immigration issues, and a speaker actually talked about ranch dressing. He said we accept people from all countries and backgrounds into this country, but then we just end up pouring Ranch Dressing on their traditions.
We do this metaphorically, but we also literally do it as well. Cilantro Lime Ranch? Ginger Miso Ranch? Curry Ranch? Basically, Mexican American dressing, Japanese American dressing, and Indian American dressing. Let’s take these ethnic flavors and mix it with bland, white goop. Cool American Doritos have me thinking about this on a whole different level.
You never knew salad dressing could be so political, did you?
I live in Athens, Georgia, with my son, my husband, and an ever-revolving list of exchange students, who are a never-ending source of entertainment and writing material.