While growing up, the last thing you probably want to be is "different."
Nothing screams difference like your mother’s weird interpretation of an appropriate prom dress, being berated in another language in public, explaining why your parents don’t “believe” in sleepovers and a whole other slew of near traumatic incidents and encounters.
Children of immigrants represent a unique American breed.
A child of immigrants in America likely has a complex relationship with America and the country from which his or her parents came.
Sometimes, there is a feeling of being alien, but as I’ve matured, I’ve noticed distinct benefits of my upbringing. I’m starting to see that a lot of things I found to be traumatic in my childhood were actually advantages. Here are four examples:
1. 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...
2. Understanding The Vastness Of The World
Whether it be the long distance calls to the “motherland” or overhearing intense conversations about issues in another country, immigrant children get early introductions to global issues.
Perspectives get far more context when you have multiple opinions on which to base. We understand the world to be vaster than our own experiences, as we are constantly reminded about the lifestyles “back home.”
3. Cultural Understanding
“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. Instant Connection With Other Immigrant Children
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.
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