Lova Ralitera Mitchell

Lova Ralitera Mitchell

Malagasy American living in the United States.

Born and raised in Antananarivo, Madagascar, I came to the United States in December 2004 as an international student.

I had spent the last six months of my stay in Madagascar going to a cybercafé. There, I read and watched videos about American culture and followed the U.S. news. I have always loved English since I was a little girl but never attended an English program. Because of my high proficiency in English and good knowledge of the American culture, I was able to immerse and adjust to life in the U.S by participating in aspects of the American culture, while still holding onto my Malagasy cultural values.

My first night in the U.S. was beautiful. Seated in the back, I was so fascinated by everything I saw: nice cars, bright roads, U.S. flags flying everywhere…We drove by the Key Bridge and I was so mesmerized by the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations in Georgetown. It was a beautiful sight of America that I will never forget. I was badly jetlagged but as soon as I felt better, I told my sister to teach me about the U.S. money and public transportation and she did. It didn’t take me long to find my ways around Maryland, DC and Virginia.

I have encountered many culture shocks but I’m sharing three. Americans love space and privacy. When I got on a metro for the first time, I grinned ear to ear and was ready to chit-chat. Most of them, however, avoided eye contact and looked like they did not want to talk. A few days later, I got myself an iPod and listened to music. On our second date, my then boyfriend, husband now, took me to a baseball game between the NATS vs. Chicago Cubs. I couldn’t follow the game because I was more distracted by people cracking peanut, gnashing on sunflower seeds and talking to themselves. I also remember my first job as a nanny for an American family. They treated me like family. They made sure that there was Malagasy food in their house. They took such a great care of me, and I feel so blessed to have known them. Today, we still are very close. The little boy I once babysat for is now a young man. He is starting college at Columbia University.

The biggest gap between the two cultures I think is the use of time and family. Malagasy people tend to dedicate most of the time with relatives. Americans on the other hand, tend to overwork and have little time to themselves.

I am still learning as an immigrant, but I can say, having a high proficiency in English and a good understanding about American culture gave me access to things and information that others could not easily access. I was able to navigate, solve problems easily and contribute to both societies. I can immerse into American culture without losing my culture or identity. As a matter of fact, I balance and blend in my traditional culture with American culture, that’s why I identify myself as Malagasy American. I am American, but I also still feel very Malagasy. I’m a Malagasy daughter, sister, and friend. I speak Malagasy, eat Malagasy food, I listen to Malagasy music. I teach English to Malagasy students for free on the Facebook platform: Malagasy American. I engage students to be active participants in their own learning. I hold group discussions in English about topics that matter: inclusion & diversity, women’s rights, civic engagement, personal empowerment…I am amazed at how good Malagasy people are at English.

At the same time, I’m a wife to an American man, mom to three beautiful Malagasy American children. I’m a legal secretary at a large international law firm that focuses on corporate and securities, complex litigation, finance and real estate, and financial services and asset management.in DC. I’m a classroom mom at my kids’ school and hold regular play dates and sleepovers at our house. I sing English songs, but I also sing “kalon’ny fahiny” songs. I belong to both worlds and for that I am very grateful. I’m proud to be Malagasy American.

An initiative by

Initiate by

 

Funding provided by

Supported by

 

AmCham sponsors

sponsorsponsor

Disclaimer:


This website was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.