11 Things Only People With Immigrant Parents Understand


Thousands of Americans abandoned their weekend of relaxation in order to join a spontaneous, nationwide protest. It seems, overwhelmingly, the people of America enjoy having immigrants here.

Our country is, in fact, a nation of immigrants. That's not meant to be some sort of sentimental pitch, either, that's just basic history.

"Let them in!" #jfkprotest #MuslimBan #JFKTerminal4 — John Haltiwanger (@jchaltiwanger) January 29, 2017

Immigrants come to America in search of a better life. That usually includes giving birth to first generation Americans, who, like me, eventually serve as the window to American culture for your parents who are just trying to understand it.

If you're one of them, like me, you're definitely familiar with the following situations:

The awkward phone calls with relatives you don't know.

Look, from the parents' perspective, I get it.

They're proud of producing a second generation in their family (i.e. us, their kids) and since uncles, aunts, cousins and other family members have never met us in person, the next best thing to do is to force a meeting of sorts: via phone call.

Still, that doesn't make it any less awkward when, you know, it comes to the actual part of being forced to talk to people you've never met.

And you'll definitely score bonus awkward points if your (insert parents' native language here) isn't up to par.

Becoming an expert at phone card appraisal.

Speaking of phone calls overseas, if you're a true veteran of talking to relatives, you've likely had to rely on a few calling cards. Here's the tricky thing about those cards, though: They change effectiveness based on a whole bunch of variables.

That $5 card that gives you an hour and a half is your favorite. That is, until all of the sudden it starts giving you 15 less minutes, and now you're on the market for a new card to be loyal to.

Sooner or later, you know exactly which brand to get for which part of which country to want to call. That's called being an expert in phone card appraisal, my friends.

Getting a, "I didn't come all the way here for..." lecture.

It could never be "just" a bad grade. It could never be "just" a note from your teacher. It could never be "just" a disappointment.

It's always, "I'm disappointed in you" with an added, "I ain't come all the way here to be disappointed by you."

In fairness, though, I will say this: There might be no better motivating tactic from immigrants parents than their trump card: telling you exactly what it took from them to come "all the way here."

I had absolutely terrible grades in high school 'til my father told me he used to walk miles to school and only had one pencil for the year.

(I'm deadass serious).

The shock when you realize how other kids talk to their parents.

I literally couldn't believe it when my friends in middle and high school told me that, more or less, they called the shots at home. The idea of telling my parents when I'm gonna be home, and them not telling me, for example, was hard to wrap my head around.

But then came the kicker: when your naive American friends tried to tell you how to manage your parents, they way they manage theirs.

Ah, silly rabbits, negotiations are not for first generation kids.

Having a sleepover at any someone's house they don't know from back home.

LOL, jk. They'd never let that happen.

Trying to explain your career choice.

They're your parents, so they're inclined to support you.

But being a first generation American and telling your parents you're doing anything besides becoming a lawyer, doctor or engineer might just land you one of "I-didn't-come-all-the-way-here-for___" conversations.

I've legit been a writer for about four years steady now, and I'm pretty sure my parents still have no idea what I do for a living.

Some things are just harder to explain than others.

Dating someone outside of the tribe.

Anything from casual dating to a serious, but nowhere close to marriage, relationship is all fun and games, until it's actually time to bring someone home.

Now, I'm not saying dating outside of your nationality is outside of the rules, but we can all acknowledge there's a whole lot of awkward that comes with bring someone to Thanksgiving dinner, only to have your aunt that speaks no English grill your significant other.

Like I said, some things are easier to explain than others.

Handling anything with technology.

TV got a problem? It's on you. Customer service needs to be called? It's on you. Online bill needs to be paid? It's on you. Voicemail needs to be set up? It's on you.

Pretty much, the more English a responsibility requires, the more likely your parents are to delegate that responsibility to their kids.

So if a task falls outside of making money, using a belt or showing what food with seasoning actually tastes like, it's probably on you.

Trying to do your best to succeed for them.

There are very few immigrants who come to United States comfortably. Not trying to throw a pity party or anything, I'm just telling you how it is.

Unlike us kids, who will have the luxury of having children in a culture we're totally familiar with, our parents (likely) had both some aspect of sacrifice to their story. They were given the task of guiding sons and daughters in a place where they needed guidance themselves.

There's no way you can think about that deeply, and not want to pay them back doubly with your own success.

Aziz has the right idea.

Relating to anyone who feels the same.

It's easy to feel some sort of commonality with first generation Americans. Regardless of color and nationality, if I know someone with parents who are immigrants, I can relate to the fact that they're living within two cultures.

I also can relate to having a higher sense of pressure to succeed -- because your success is not just your success. The stakes are much higher when someone sacrificed much more than usual to give you a chance to make it.

And I also can relate to eagerly anticipating a family members coming off a plane, but I can't imagine the frustration if, all of the sudden, they couldn't make it past the terminal.

On a weekend like this past one, that thought just makes you appreciate your foreign-born family even more.

Bonus: The way they leave voicemails.

Oh, and let's not forget this.