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The Great Divide – Cross Over Issues With First Generation Immigrants

I have a close friend who hates immigrants – especially from his own country of birth in Asian continent.

He himself is a first generation immigrant, mature in his profession and has done extremely well as a professional. You would think he of all people would value the contributions of all immigrants, and more so from his country of birth because they too have done well–and have come here legally. Some may have gamed the system by coming here as students and then got employer sponsorships, but everything done legally.

However my friend has a hard time understanding why most immigrants love the US more than the country of their birty. I think he sees America as the land of the grabbing, reaching, grasping mercenaries and therefore has created an artificial barrier which stops him from embracing the American culture, to the point where he dislikes anyone who embraces it. It does not help that he also had a bad marriage. I have not probed him about the issues relative to his marriage but few bits and pieces in talking about it lead me to believe he did not have an effictive lawyer and the outcome was, his wife cleaned his clock.

While my (distant) friend’s attitude could be defined as extreme this is a recurring, albeit uncommon theme among first-generation immigrants in the US. But so many of the immigrants, even those who have been studying, living and earning a living here for decades, seem to live in a cultural cocoon.

Unfortunately and tragically, this cultural divide has in rare cases led to violence and terrorism, perpetrated by seemingly ‘normal’ first generation immigrants.

The so called ‘ethnicity’ can sometimes keep us from finding the best of both cultures, our immigrant culture and the American culture. How do we bridge the divide?

Here are some practical tips.

1. Make a commitment to spend some time to learn about American culture–its history, practices, angularities and inhibitions. See if you can find similarities in your culture—believe me, there are many similarities no matter what your ancestry is.

2. Never let anyone denigrate your culture.

A person from southern Europe told me—“In our culture we revere the elderly. You Americans do not. The moment their needs born of ageing begin to impede upon your lifestyle, you put them in a nursing home.”

I told him while I admired his pride in his culture, his generalization of a culture based on some observed incidental behavior was wrong. I then pointed out how the Government and the private citizens were working hard to care for senior, the disabled and the veterans who had been hurt.

3. Let language be a uniter, not a divider. Be curious how other languages express emotions, places, how they name their babies, etc. Genuine curiosity is healthy and breeds respect.

4. Freely acknowledge that most immigrants contribute, do not take away resources. It is a fact, look it up.

You may have valid points against practices of other culture (for instance radical religious beliefs practiced by followers of one well known religion which tramples upon other religions and women are abhorrent and have kept its practitioners in poverty and decadence for centuries. But you will get nowhere criticizing it–the awareness must come from within that religion.

5. Celebrate important dates and events in other cultures with its followers.

In other words, the best advice I can give you to bridge the divide of culture is—CROSS THE DIVIDE. Humans everywhere have certain common values and attributes—good food, love for family, decency and of course money worries–capitalize on these.