At that time I was not only trying to figure out how to assimilate to American teenage culture and schooling, but I was also just going through the growing pains of being a teenager in general. I figured out that TV was a big part of American culture and often the topics of conversation. We didn't really own a TV, or rather the one we had was super old and only had 4 fuzzy stations. The way I learned to talk about the TV shows, though, was by listening to other people's stories of what happened and then repeating the same story with my own twist. This trick always worked and helped me look like I was in the know with pop culture.
I also learned that what you ate for lunch could make you cool or weird. This was new to me because in Germany we didn't eat lunch at school. Basically the more crappy food your parents packed you, the cooler you were here. I always wanted chips, soda or juice, cookies and those weird lunchables to help me not stick out as one of the kids who ate "weird healthy food." I never got any of those (which I am so grateful for now) and had to just endure the rath of my peers.
Even though I moved and changed schools a lot while I was growing up, the move to the U.S. was probably one of the hardest I did in my life. Alas, I survived it all and along the way I learned some useful tricks for social survival in middle and high school. I have listed some below.
1. Listen really closely to people's stories and figure out their worldview.
2. Match people in their slang, worldview and body language.
3. Be kind and friendly to everyone, even the "outcasts." This has a big and long term impact that you may not realize in the moment.
4. Be true to yourself and your experience...eventually you will find someone who will appreciate and understand it.
5. Make people smile and laugh.
I still use these now to figure out how to fit in and build rapport with people quickly. Of course, as an adult I have found friends who think being unique is cool so that is helpful. Nevertheless, we still all want to be liked and fit in with others. Never underestimate the tools you used when you were younger to figure out the world around you.
P.S. The thing that helped my popularity tremendously in the 5th grade was that I had a strong kick for a girl, so I was always a favorable pick during the recess kickball games. I became the new sensation. When in doubt, rely on your strengths. :)
What social survival tricks helped you survive middle or high school?
Leave comments below.