I spent three days in Washington D.C. and it was more like our Capital Islamabad than what I expected. It has subways, metro trains, and busses. I had been told that I might get cultural shock when I came to Cincinnati, Ohio. I did. I read about the United States of America-- it is a democratic state like Pakistan. We also have the chance to choose our government. I found some differences here.
The religion: You are very good in practicing your religious beliefs. I found some churches here and will definitely visit over here. You give respect even to those who have other religions. I say that because everybody here was searching for the Muslim worship places (Masjid) and Halal food for me during my stay. I feel bad about it, but in Pakistan we have some people who do not do the same. Before coming to U.S. I knew a little bit about the beliefs and the behaviors of the Americans. But I found them very kind to any religion; and this is the same thing that our Islam teaches us too.
The culture: America is multicultural, here in Ohio especially. You have Africans, Mexicans, Japanese, and there are also communities of Muslims and Hindus. I learned in Cincinnati there are 12 Muslim restaurants, four Halal markets (markets that sell food that is not prohibited in Islam) and two Mosques for the Muslims.
On the very first day I found that people in Cincinnati love to play baseball a game that we don’t play in Pakistan. When children play, their parents are always there to buck up their kid. In Pakistan, we don’t give too much attention to the games. I know most of the parents don’t even go to watch the matches. I think we have to adopt this behavior in Pakistan too, because a child feels proud to have his or her parents in the crowd to push them up.
I am impressed with the signals on the roads. The perfect thing you have is the signal for the people to walk across the road. Everybody follows the traffic rules. According to my colleagues you get tickets for speeding. I’ve found most people here wear a seat belt—not because it is the law, but because it is a routine.
The first shock that I got was the time of lunch and dinner. I was trying to order pizza at 8:35 p.m. and the shop was closed. You seem to have dinner before 8:00 p.m. I can compare this with our people who live in the villages of Pakistan. They eat their lunch at noon and dinner at 7:00 p.m. Since I live in the city I have my dinner after 9:00 p.m. It was a bit shocking for me.
Another cultural shock for me was that I have to eat alone while working. I have to do lots of things by myself. I was feeling bad at first because I came from a country where all the family members and colleagues eat together. We have lunch breaks at work with a staff cook who prepares the meal. I observed that you work your meals around your other commitments. The reporters know they won’t get their calls returned after business hours, if it’s not necessary. I think this is a good thing because we have to attend to the calls even after business hours.
The architecture is quite impressive here. I can find many of the buildings were built in a German style. Most of the people have cars in Cincinnati because they don’t have subways as D.C. has.
At least I am happy that I will never lose my way to my hotel here because of the technology that you use. I can find the directions to any destination. People use Twitter more than Facebook; on the other hand in Pakistan people are more on the Facebook.
Fasiha Sharif is a journalist from Pakistan visiting and working in the WVXU newsroom on a three week assignment. She’ll be sharing her thoughts and experiences here on the WVXU website and doing some on air reporting.