Today I introduce you to Jon Herrin, an American with an ordinary name leading an extraordinary life!
Jon, a common name in America is often spelled John. It may have been this first change in perception that led Jon on a unique path from America (Alabama) to Guyana with a pit stop in America (North Carolina) to Grenada with pit stops back in America (a few places in Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, and Michigan) to Venezuela and then to his current home, Mexico.
Though Jon appreciates his American-ness which includes his open mindedness to appreciate and adapt to new cultures and ways of thinking, he prefers to ‘hang with the locals’ in the ‘foreign’ locations he has lived in. Currently, in Mexico, he surrounds himself with Mexican friends, culture and food! He does admit to missing American Mexican food as the Mexican community he’s in has a cuisine that heavily relies on meat products, but for the most parts enjoys eating a diverse menu of foods from different ethnic backgrounds.
His main language of communication is English, but does learn a bit of the local language to communicate with and relate to his local friends where he lives. Even in places where English was the main language, Jon shared that a different kind of English, such as ‘the Queen’s English’ was required in places like the Caribbean. It’s also intriguing to know that in countries where a different English was spoken outside the home, American English continued to be spoken within the home among family members. He does know Spanish and has taught me that the Spanish of Venezuela and the Spanish of Mexico, his current home, are two different languages, albeit having the same name!
Though Jon admires the American spirit of self-reliance, he admits being intrigued by all aspects of other cultures; climate, food and people and wishes Americans could learn the value of ‘living a slower pace of life and emphasis on down time’ he’s learned in the other cultures he’s lived in.
When asked which aspects of other cultures he has adapted, he wonders:
“What have I NOT adapted!?!? We eat dishes from the US, the Caribbean, Venezuela and Mexico...we have decorations from all sorts of places. Our speech is sprinkled with "modismos" from all of these places. The music of the day can be from any of several countries. Yes, life is so rich from my experiences..."
When asked what inspires him most about living in different places, Jon appreciates having the opportunity to learn something new everyday and not live a mechanical, routine life. He especially liked living in Grenada and Venezuela because people there seemed very open and receptive to outsiders and welcomed him with open arms.
He shares that smiling and greeting others while getting involved in the community and meeting people are the best ways he’s found to integrate in the local lifestyle and culture and make new friends.
When asked one of the shocks he faced in moving between cultures, Jon shared a moving story from his own life about the culture shock he faced in one of his moves back to America as a child,
“Absolutely. It's [culture shock] real. We moved from the Caribbean when I was 17 years old. When we arrived in the US, I was lost. All of my friends in the Caribbean had been black. In the US high-school, I drifted naturally towards the Blacks...who wanted nothing to do with this "cracker," and I didn't want to hang with the Whites...because in the Islands, Whites were all rich and stuck-up. So, I was lost...and didn't know what to do. And, the food was all salty and fatty. I was a lost puppy...and not happy to be "home." Took about six years to adjust completely....”
Maybe it is in having such extreme and memorable experience, Jon is happier in living an expat or international lifestyle. It’s hard to return ‘home’ and realize it’s not what you expect it to be- or want it to be. Sometimes we find ourselves and feel more at ease in environments that to others seem foreign and alien, but if we ourselves feel foreign and alien in our ‘native’ environment or ‘birth environment’ then maybe we fit better elsewhere!
Kudos to Jon for taking a path less taken in life. Though it’s a normal path for him, because that’s what he knows, for us to read his story, it’s quite exceptional and inspirational! We appreciate you sharing your story with us, Jon!
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More information on this post, "Teach Us About Your Culture".
See an archived list of cross-cultural interviews here.
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