Fake smiles and big popcorn: African immigrants’ impressions of America

Ah, America. Land of freedom, opportunity, the entrepreneurial spirit...and giant buckets of popcorn. That last one, at least, is what's most striking to some recent immigrants.

A new series called "Africa Time," created by the Waave + Dada artist collective, explores the experiences of Africans who have immigrated to the United States.

One recent episode, flagged by the blog Africa is a Country, is a particularly entertaining look at one Ghanian woman's take on American culture.

First, Dzigbodi Akyea riffs on Americans' "cut-and-paste smiles," meaning that to her, Americans seem to smile even when they don't mean it.

"Where I come from, when you smile at someone, it means you are establishing some kind of relationship or you are just happy, you are content, you are on friendly terms with a person. Usually we don't smile at strangers," Akyea says.

She recalls going to the mall with her young son, who sees two smiling women walking toward them. He ran toward the women, and, much to Akyea and her son's surprise, they promptly stopped smiling.

Then there are our infamous portion sizes, whose enormity Akyea first experiences at the movie theater:

"This lady came in with this bucket, and I looked and saw there was popcorn in the bucket. I just couldn't take my gaze off this lady. She kept eating popcorn, and my eyes kept getting wider and wider."

And to top it all off...

"Not only did she finish the popcorn, apparently there's something called refills."

Yet in the end, like most immigrants she eventually assimilates:

"A few months later, I was filling popcorn buckets myself."




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Caitlin Dewey · February 5, 2013