First Generation Americans

I was recently reading a book titled “The Namesake”. It’s a story about a first generation Indian man and his family. I thought it was interesting because I could relate to the scenarios, being the first generation American on my Mom’s side (even though she is Mexican and not Indian).

Tell me about what it’s like for you, being a first generation American.
Tell me about cultural differences between your parents and yourself.
Do you feel you have to help your parents out a lot, in regards to cultural differences?
If your parents speak a different language and you plan on having children, will you teach them it?
Do you see your culture slowly drifting away with each generation or does your family hold tight to customs, still?
My mom has been in this country for over 30 years. In some ways, having grown up close to the border, the American way of life is not a complete shock. My mom would prefer to live in 1950’s Mexico, given a choice. I think it is hard for her to come to grips that while living here, Mexico has changed A LOT since she was there. The Mexico she grew up in is gone, and she has told me that sometimes she feels coutry-less. She speaks English well but still has a strong accent. Idioms still confuse her. She once asked me, in ernest, why my dad said he was going to hit the hay (you have to know that she has chickens and really does have hay outside)…that sort of thing.

I hate it when people make fun of her accent. I don’t think they realize how hard it is to pick up a new language during your 20’s. She may have an accent, but hey, she knows TWO languages!

I think that, being the only girl, I am very protective of her. Perhaps, more than I should be. Now that I am a mom, I have even more respect for her because I could not imagine moving to, say, India, and raise three children.

My brother did not teach his son to speak Spanish (why I do not know. His wife is Hispanic, too). I think he regrets it now. His daughter does speak Spanish, but only with my mom. My nephew started out like that, but once he went to school he lapsed. I can understand that, though, because when I went away to college, I found my Spanish atrophing as well.

I have every intention of teaching my daughter Spanish. I buy a lot of books and DVDS in Spanish and speak to her. I tell my mom that I would prefer if she only spoke Spanish. I still worry that she will not be fluent. English is my primary language now because I don’t know of anyone outside of the family that speaks Spanish. IMO, most people here in the DFW metroplex that are not directly from Mexico (or a spanish speaking country) do not speak Spanish well/correctly or basically prefer to speak English.

I just think its a shame when younger generations lose out on their culture. My dad’s side of the family is from Poland and I know almost nothing of their culture. I wish I knew more. His family came over during a period in American history where you assimulated fast.

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to be an American. I just think it is important to know where you came from.

My father is first generation American. His parents came from Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Before he started school, he spoke a mixture of Italian and English, with the majority of his vocabulary being Italian. At school, of course, he got quite a bit of teasing because most people only spoke English. He started speaking only English, and now has forgotten most of his Italian. His older brothers and sisters made a pact to only speak English, never Italian. Speaking a “foreign” language in America was quite frowned upon back in those days.

He married a WASP, and had four children. None of us speak Italian, though I did take Spanish and French in middle and high school. Oddly enough, this was of great help to me in my 20s, as my husband was in the Air Force when I married him, stationed in Spain (in a small town near Madrid), and knowing some Spanish gave me opportunities that other AF members and their spouses didn’t have. I had learned Mexican Spanish, though, so that was a bit of a pain.

I do wish that I could speak Italian. It wasn’t offered in high school or in the colleges I went to. I have no wish to take up learning another language at this late date, though.

My husband is of Polish and Cajun descent. He’s monolingual too. Our daughter took French in high school and college…and she’s teaching herself Japanese from books, tapes, and videos.

My sisters and I are first generation on our father’s side. He immigrated from Germany in 1964, when he was 27 and had just married my mother, who is American.

When I was a child in a small town in Ohio, there was a bit of difficulty, but nothing serious. In my memory I have blocked out the trauma of being sent to school in lederhosen (only once; I guess it was pretty awful). In Ohio in the 1970s “German” was for many people still synonymous with “Nazi” or “Hitler”; this has subsided with time.

My father has always loved classical music and despised all other forms (this taste is not unique to Germans, but it’s probably more a European than American attitude). Also he simply could not understand the appeal of teenage life in the 1980s. My mother, having been an American teenager in the 1950s, saw clearly that little had changed apart from fashions, but Dad was unconvinced.

Not a bit.

My parents often spoke German to each other at home (my mother is fluent as well), but never with the children so we didn’t learn it. I’m in no position to teach German to my children. But if my wife and I have children someday and are living close enough to our parents, we’ll probably beg for German. My mother-in-law is German too, so the odds are good.

My wife and I, both being half-German, share a desire to preserve some of the non-American cultural habits we grew up with. In practice this will probably be limited to Christmas customs, which are slightly different in Germany and which we both enjoyed as children.

I can’t speak for myself, as my family has very, very deep roots here; but, my wife is a first generation American. Her father was from Scotland and her mother was Australian. Aside from her two sisters, she has no relatives in this country. Both of her parents are dead, but I don’t believe that there were any major cultural differences. The language was the same, so there wasn’t much of an adjustment to be made.