Between two cultures

Senior Ramtin Ghafoori shares his experience of moving from a foreign country to the US

Growing up, senior Ramtin Ghafoori had many different experiences than your average student. There were no McDonald’s in his hometown, and foods with pork were off-limits. He had never even attended school with girls. This was because Ghafoori spent his childhood in Iran, a nation with a vastly different culture and legal system.

When he first visited the United States in 2016, Ghafoori noticed many cultural differences. One of the most apparent ones was how people, especially strangers, interacted with each other.

“In Iran if you see someone walking in the street, probably you don’t say ‘hi’ or if you sneeze no one says ‘bless you,’” Ghafoori said. “Here it is part of the culture that everyone says ‘hi’ or ‘bless you.’”

Ghafoori also noticed differences between the two countries’ the education systems. One key difference was the relationship between teachers and students.

“Students and teachers [are] kind of friendly with each other, but in Iran, teachers, principals and other secretaries have so much power over the students,” Ghafoori said.

Another important distinction Ghafoori experienced relates to who his classmates are. The Iranian government follows a strict interpretation of Shia Islam and many policies are rooted in religion.

“In Iran we have some segregation, like between boys and girls. [They] go to different schools. When I came here and my classmates were girls it made me [wonder] why Iran did segregation. Iran is super religious and the government and education system is all based on religion so I don’t like that.”

Iran and the U.S. also have very different culinary traditions. Ghafoori was a little unimpressed by American flavors at first.  

“In Iran we use many things like salt and other [spices] to make it more tasty but here they use the original flavors,” Ghafoori said. “Like sausage doesn’t have taste.”

Ghafoori’s friends often discuss their cultural differences and learn about each other’s childhoods and communities.

“He was able to learn English and become friends with people and relate to people a lot easier than I think an American would,” junior Spencer Stabile-Bell said. “He’s taking three sciences, two of which are AP. He takes the hardest classes. He is definitely a hardworking student.”

While adjusting to a new country is challenging, Ghafoori has made the most of his new home. One of his main motivations to immigrate was education and he now earns high grades and respect from his teachers and peers. Despite all their differences, Ghafoori appreciates his newfound community and the people in it.

“People here are so kind,” Ghafoori said.