One of the biggest fears of a young person growing up in the Western World is the thought that you may be different. If you fit in with the rest of your piers, you are less likely to be picked on or stand out from the crowd.
If you really want to tell the world you are different, nothing helps more than your mothers strange interpretation of what a prom dress should look like. Or maybe having one of your parents shout at you in a foreign tongue in front of your new friends because you are not behaving in a way they seem appropriate.
If you are the child of an American immigrant you represent a unique breed and I feel your pain.
A child of immigrants in America most likely has a confusing relationship with both America and the country from which his or her parents came.
When you are younger you can feel a little bit like an alien but as you grow and mature you start to realise there are a lot of advantages to your roots.
Here are four examples:
1. Appreciating Just How Vast The World Is
Because you have family in another country or your ‘motherland’, you get a very early understanding of global issues. As we go through our day to day lives, we are constantly reminded by our family that there are issues outside of our own little world that maybe greater than our own.
2. Being Bilingual(ish)
English is pretty much exclusively used in American public spheres, so having exposure to another language in the private sphere is a privilege of having immigrant parents.
Some of us, who grew up being first-generation Americans, are fluent and literate in the other language, some are just fluent and some invented our own dialect (Spanglish, anyone?).
In any case, we all have a unique relationship to a foreign language that expands beyond one hour of international language class in a high school classroom.
Plus, our other language allows us to have secret conversations in public. We’re probably not talking about you as much as you may assume, but there’s always the chance…
3. Appreciating Your Culture
“Oh my God, that is so weird” is probably one of the most common phrases you heard in your high school international class. Children of immigrants tend to be more understanding than their peers regarding things that may appear “taboo.”
Of course, what’s considered taboo has many different interpretations in each culture, but ultimately, a child of an immigrant is more likely to see the normality in things that may not be considered normal.
This usually gives us more interpersonal skills when conversing with people from other cultures. Thus, we avoid ignorant statements that leave bad impressions on other people.
4. The Shared Connection With Others Just Like You
Over the years, I have found that first-generation Americans love complaining about their parents’ eccentricities.
There is a short spurt of ecstasy upon discovering someone grew up with parents from the same country as your parents. The connection is much stronger than discovering someone grew up in your hometown.
These people allow you to skip those awkward conversations, where someone states a blunt, yet uninformed statement about your parents’ country (ie: “That’s where all the cocaine is, right?”).
Also, bilingualism is pretty useless if you have no one with whom to talk, so having a peer who is capable of conversing with you is always a positive.
Sometimes, your parents don’t even have to be from the same country, but just have to be as unique and eccentric as yours. Suddenly, you have an instant best friend; just add a little bit of cultural spice and a complaining spirit.