If You’re an Introvert, Don’t Move to America

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I’m an introvert. I don’t talk a lot, treasure my private space, find loudness overwhelming, and don’t get excited easily (unless it involves things like food, travel and culture.) In fact, I’m on the far end of the introvert spectrum.

I moved to the US from Singapore in 2013 when my husband and I got married. He’s an introvert too, born and raised here in sunny California. All his life he was the odd one out. He hates sports, would rather tinker in the garage than be social, and is often described as “quiet.” I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for him. As a Singaporean Chinese, I enjoyed a much more introverted culture.

If you’re an introvert looking to move elsewhere, and you’ve somehow set your sights on the good ol’ USA, run away. Run far away. Unless you already have friends or family here, or belong to a community with introverted peers (eg. geek culture, computer science, engineering etc.), run far far away.

America has an Extroverted Culture

Thinking what it’ll take to succeed here scares the heck out of me. Public speaking, group projects, collaborations, networking. Oh god, networking. Small talk with a bunch of strangers who probably don’t share an ounce of similarity with myself.

Don’t be mistaken; I have no issue with working with others, as long as I’m separated from the others through a screen. But I find my brain shuts down when I’m in a meeting in person. Because then I’m too busy thinking how meaningless the meeting is, or how I’d rather be reading, or working on my own…

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Extroverts here truly do not understand introverts.

Too many times I’ve received a blank stare. They stare at me, wondering what’s going on inside my head. They don’t understand why I’m not talking. Why I’m not going “woohoo I’m so excited!” Why I’m not expressing every thought in my head.

Here’s a confession: in social situations with a ton of extroverted strangers, my thoughts are probably going along the lines of: “Oh God why did I do this to myself?” and “How do I escape?” or “How do I survive? Maybe food will help… Where’s the food bar?!”

But there is hope.

I’ve found fellow introverts here, and I’ve found communities that share my interests. Examples include animal rescue groups, veterinary hospitals, and board game communities. I even suspect some people at my current workplace are introverts pretending to be extroverts, or rather, people who’ve worked together for years and are now super comfortable with each other.

So if you absolutely have to move here (like me), take comfort in the fact that there are introverts out there, people who understand you, and people who share your interests. Find them, build a strong community and support network, and thrive.