Culture Clash

practice copy 2Nowadays, the majority of immigrants in the U.S. are non-white. These immigrants come from diverse backgrounds and have brought unique cultures from their native countries to the U.S. The children of such immigrants are known as “second generation immigrants”. According to research from Migration Policy Institute “In 2010, nearly 17 million children ages 17 and under lived at home with at least one immigrant parent. They accounted for 24 percent of the 70.6 million children ages 17 and under in the United States.” Those second generation immigrants often experience a culture clash between that of their parents and that of the mainstream U.S. society.  

Even in Maine, a state often assumed to be lacking in diversity, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the foreign-born share of Maine’s population was 3.2% in 2011. Maine was home to 42,747 immigrants in 2011, 3.6% (or 28,849) of registered voters in Maine were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2008 Census.

maalouf croped

A Mother balances between Lebanese culture and American culture while raising her son

French and Arabic teacher Roula Maalouf grew up in Lebanon, and followed her husband to the USA in 2004.

Some might stereotype Middle eastern woman as reserved, quiet and shy. The truth is, Maalouf is loud and funny. She’s straightforward, and she talks fast. She describes herself as  “aggressive”. That is the woman from Lebanon.

Maalouf grew up in an accepting and loving family. There are four girls in the family and she is the third child. The traditional Lebanon culture values boys more than girls since boys are usually the ones who carry the family name, but it seems to not be an issue in her family. Her father gave love and attention to all of them. When she was born as the as the third girl, her uncle was upset, but her father said, “what’s wrong with girls?”

Maalouf’s husband Tony immigrated to the U.S. with his family in his early teens. He met her when he went back to Lebanon. They got married and she came here with him to start a family. She liked life here, especially when it came to personal life, she said different from Lebanese, Americans like to give people more space and privacy.

In Maalouf’s home, they grew up speaking English, French and Arabic. Between friends, they often mix the three languages together. As for Tony her husband, he doesn’t speak French, only English and Arabic.

Their son Joseph, who is a 6 year-old U.S. born kid, speaks and thinks in English just his peers, but he understands French and Arabic too. Maalouf said when he was a baby, she would speak to him in Arabic then back it up in English, then she put him in daycare when he’s 6 months old, that’s why he can speak fluent English. Maalouf knows the importance of knowing both English and their mother language for their son because she wants him to still be able to communicate with the rest of the family that still lives in Lebanon, so she always reminds Tony –”Arabic in the house”.

Joseph doesn’t like to speak Arabic, though. Like many second generation immigrants while he understands everything in his mother language, he can’t speak it as fluently as English.

According to Pew Research Center study, “Eight-in-ten second-generation Hispanics say they can speak Spanish at least pretty well; just four-in-ten second-generation Asian Americans say the same about their parents’ native tongue.”  When Maalouf talks to him in Arabic, he likes to speak back in English.

When it comes to manners, Maalouf keeps some of the traditional values she had from her country. American kids are a lot more casual sometimes when it came to manners, but Maalouf has her own standard when she’s teaching her students as well as educating her son. For example, she does not like it when students put their feet on the table, or eat in class. “They don’t have to do the pledge, but they need to stand up to show respect to the country they’re currently living in,” she said. “Maybe that’s the American way and that’s ok”  acknowledges Maalouf, but she considers these behaviors impolite and “too casual”.  “I’m used to following the rules. My mum was strict too and full of manners. We do care for these manners and it’s in the culture. Politeness and education.”

“So talking about that, I say to Joseph ‘As Lebanese, we don’t do that’, and last week he said to me, ‘I am not Lebanese, I live here and I’m American’. He chooses things he likes and he likes to say he’s Lebanese. But when he wants to do things in an easier way, he likes to say he’s American and he’s not doing those the Lebanese way. He’s smart.” Maalouf is not worrying about Joseph might lean in to the “American way”, maybe the wild side when he grows older, because “I’m planting the seeds for him right now. He may try but I know he will always come back to the right way. Because I plant the seeds and gave him the values he should have. He will make the right choice because of the good seeds.”

They went back to Lebanon once three years ago, but haven’t been able to go back again due to the social issues. But Joseph Skypes with his grandparents and cousins and keeps in touch with them.

kevin

Chinese on the outside, American on the inside

Kevin Xu, a Chinese-American student in here, is currently taking Honors Chinese three. His parents owned a Chinese restaurant in the area. They moved to the U.S. at different times between the age of 18 and 20. He can understand the basics of Chinese language, but cannot speak about anything in detail. He has a diverse group of friends and he considers himself more American than Chinese.

According to a Pew Research survey “Hispanics and Asian Americans make up about seven-in-ten of today’s adult immigrants and about half of today’s adult second generation. The second generations of both groups are much more likely than the immigrants to speak English; to have friends and spouses outside their ethnic or racial group, to say their group gets along well with others, and to think of themselves as a ‘typical American.’”

Xu thinks the term “banana people”– yellow on the outside and white in the inside would be the perfect way of describing him. He also runs into the situation of being “mistaken” as a international student. He said, “I feel that many Americans don’t strike up conversation often with me because they think my English is bad, and that many of the Chinese students will begin speaking to me in Chinese, even though they don’t know that I don’t speak their language well. But once Americans know that I speak English fluently, they will begin talking to me.”

Xu went back to China only one  time when he was two or three years old, but he has no memory of going. He thinks it’s almost like he never went. So he doesn’t really think much of China.

paradis

Both Filipino  and American, people don’t have to be defined as just one thing

Catherine Paradis, our dorm parent for the International students, is a second generation immigrant herself. Her father is white American in the U.S air force and stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. And that’s where he met her mother who is from the Philippines. Paradis and her five sisters, four of them were born on the Clark Air Base which made them U.S. citizens.

Because of her parents are very united when parenting her. She doesn’t feel the culture divided that much in her family.” My parents parented us together, I didn’t ever feel like my mother wanted something for us that my father didn’t. I never saw a difference in what they both wanted from us.” In her family we see two culture merge together beautifully and maybe that’s what makes her a very open-minded person.

Although, there are some values that Paradis’s mom had that are different from other parents. “Culturally I find my mom to be a little bit more strict than other parents.”  “I think for my mother, and I’m not quite sure if that’s completely an Asian trait, I think there’s probably other cultures and probably even people in the U.S. that feel the same.But I know that my mom, her role is always to take care of my father. And I remember once I had introduced my parents to Mr. Paradis, and he came to my parents house to stay and visit. My mom expected me to do that for him, like makes him breakfast and feed… But I don’t want to do that, I want him to take care of himself.” Maybe it is because growing up in America, maybe because it is different generation, Paradis does have different opinions towards certain things her mother believed in.

Different from Xu, Paradis is very connected to the Asian part of her. “Whenever I’m answering any questions, I always say I’m Asian-Amercan. The actual term I would use is Pacific-islander. I’m proud of where I’m come from. It’s part of my heritage.” She considers herself as a minority and in fact, she’s proud of it. “ I’m proud to say that I’m a minority.And it makes me more aware when there’s time in my life when I see the minority are not treated well.”

“The number of immigrants and refugees settling in the United States has increased dramatically in recent decades as has their dispersion to numerous states that have not traditionally been a destination for immigrants. The overwhelming majority of children in immigrants families (88% in 2012) are U.S. born.” According to Migration Policy Institute.

People like Joseph, Xu and Paradis, growing up in America, but still connected and defined by their parent’s homelands. They are ruled by two culture at the same time. That unique culture clash can be a struggle but it can also be a gift. The second generation immigrants group is growing faster than ever. People who can’t be defined as one thing and fall in between. And that’s what fascinating about this country, people can’t really say where exactly they are came from, because they’re all Americans.

Latest posts by Chen Li (see all)

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Educating students for more than 200 years.