'Melting Pots' in other countries

Here in the US, most of the people I know have “ethnic heritage” - they’re a few hops from ancestors from other countries.

Me, I’m 1/4 German and 3/4 Slovak (3rd gen. American). My best friend is Russian and his wife is Czech (also 3rd gen. American). Some of my cousins are Slovak/Italian and others are Slovak/German/Polish.

There’s also a good deal of people I know who claim themselves to be “mutts” - usually they take this to mean their families have been in the country since Colonial times or slightly thereafter and no one has a good grasp of what boat they came in on. But at least here in Cleveland, there’s alot of ethnic background.

How’s this work on other countries? In England, for example. Are people more likely to be 100% English or do you find alot of people who have German or Hungarian heritage “mixed in”?

How about in Asia? Are people from (and I mean living in) India or Japan usually of 100% Indian or Japanese heritage?

Are there more likely to be region-specific “mixes” such as you’re more likely to meet a Korean-Japanese family in Japan than you would be to meet a German-Japanese family?

How about Canada? I honestly don’t know many Canadians, so not sure if their immigration patterns would be the same as in the US.

Canada has immigration patters like the US, but even more so. Toronto, where I live, is about 50% immigrants: everybody is a minority. :slight_smile:

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I am English and all the evidence is that Britain is something of a melting pot although there has been little recent imigration before the 1950s.

I am dimly aware of having a German great grandmother on my father’s side of the family. Many people I have spoken to are similarly dimly aware of a non-English ancestor, but I really could not say how common this is. Generally, only crackpots think such details of their ancestry are of the slightest importance.

The English have been intermarying with people from other parts of these islands on a regular basis for at least the last couple of hundred years. Nobody troubles to talk about. I guess that British identity is much more invested in the locality where one grew up and very hard to pin down ideas about class.

A good many Americans I have met have told me something of their ancestry. This in part is, I am sure, simply because of my status as a foreigner. I guess that colonised countries such as the USA, people are more interested in ancestral links to “the old country” and such links may be remembered for many generations. Such family memories just make life a little more interesting and there is nothing wrong with that.

Since the 1950, Britian has enjoyed significant imigration from former colonies. I am pretty sure that without continued imigration those subcultures that have formed here will soon be subsumed. I understand that in the UK about one in three members of ethnic minorities marry outside their race.

Little non-white immigration, maybe. British history, all of it, is in some way about immigration.

Yep. We really don’t care all that much - just about everybody has a convoluted lineage in the fairly recent past, so we just ignore it. (And that includes the royal family.) In particular, it’s hard to find anyone in England who doesn’t have an Irish ancestor.

Agreed 100%. I think this is the aspect that makes it impossible for us to use American-style identifications with any meaning.

OK, I’ve got 15 minutes to spare, so I’ll give some specific examples of people I know or have known, to illustrate the complexities of the English approach:

Person A: She’s from Yorkshire, and solidly so. Up to five generations of both sides of her family are all in the same village graveyard, and she’s got a very locality-specific surname to boot. Obviously, she thinks of herself as ‘English’. But the Yorkshire identity is often far more important.

Person B: A typical Suffolk lass. Strong local accent, rabid Ipswich Town fan. Later, I discover that her family only arrived here from Germany after WW2. (It’s just occured to me that I don’t actually know what her surname is, whether it’s original German, an Anglicised version, or something else.)

Person C: Irish mother, English father. Father’s parents were Welsh. Born in the north-west, brought up in Suffolk. Irish nationality on paper, but simply Suffolk & proud (say that out loud ten times :wink: ) - feels in some ways an outsider almost anywhere else in the country.

When you say that, do you refer to how Americans say they are “half German” or “Italian-American” and the like?

If I may answer Zipper’s question to GorillaMan…

I may be going out on a limb here, but I would say that in England locality and class are treated as more important that ancestry. Locality and class are given away by accent. It is not at all unusual to meet somebody of non-white ancestry who has a strong, British regional accent.

In America I was nonplussed when an American would tell me something of his or her ancestry because this was invariably without being asked, it just seems like a rather odd thing to mention. On reflection, it is quite possible that I inadventently caused offence by not being in the slightest bit interested. Sorry.

Is ancestry something Americans discuss among themselves as a natural part of getting to know someone or is this just something brought up in conversation with foreigners?

I am an Indian living in India, and my parents belong to different parts of India, so in a sense, I have a mixed heritage. The languages and the customs of my parents are quite unlike each other, and whats more, I was born in a completely different part of India, where there is a different language spoken, and the customs are compeltely different, so I would say that even though outside of India I am an Indian, but within India, my roots do matter. Also, a friend of mine has been living in a different part of India for three generations now, but they still claim their ancestry from a different part altogether.

I am an Indian living in India, and my parents belong to different parts of India, so in a sense, I have a mixed heritage. The languages and the customs of my parents are quite unlike each other, and whats more, I was born in a completely different part of India, where there is a different language spoken, and the customs are compeltely different, so I would say that even though outside of India I am an Indian, but within India, my roots do matter. Also, a friend of mine has been living in a different part of India for three generations now, but they still claim their ancestry from a different part altogether.

I guess this is only tangentially related, but when I was in Britain (and Europe in general) I was really surprised at how black the black people were! I know that sounds silly, but while we have, particularly in the South, an enormous population of African Americans here, they run the gamut from “able to pass for white” to “so black they have purple highlights in their skin”, with probably the majority falling at “coffee with cream” or thereabouts, obviously because their African foreparents came here quite some time ago and, unlike in other slave-owning colonies, were not replaced with new African slaves but expected to breed here, sometimes with the master’s… help.

So it was kind of strange to me to walk around the streets of London and see quite a few people of African descent, only they were really Africans! There was a lot more very dark skin, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear African accents from them. It was, truth be told, a little odd to me; much more exotic than the ordinary Britishness of the place.

Ancestry is a time-honored, serviceable conversation starter in America, regardless of where the participants come from. It’s a relatively safe topic, less abrasive than politics or religion, and is more interesting than discussing the recent weather — though that’s a low threshold to pass, I’ll admit.

Just so you know, here’s a list of standard conversation topics that random Americans will normally fall into, at least until they discover something of stronger mutual interest:
[li]Ancestry: which foreign lands your ancestors came from, and when, and where they settled initially.[/li][li]Geography: which US state you’re from, and if it’s not the one we’re in, where your hometown is in relation to a more familiar major city, or river, or lake. If you’re from Canada, you might get asked which province you’re from, but only by those Americans who know Canada has provinces.[/li][li]Extreme weather events you’ve participated in: hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, earthquakes, floods. Also, which if any body parts you lost in said events.[/li][li]Past or ongoing altercations with local fauna: black bears, copperheads, skunks, fire ants.[/li][li]Food and its preparation: how ever did you make this absolutely scrumptious Red Velvet cake? You simply must tell me.[/li][/ul]

Keep this list in mind if you ever come to visit. It’ll carry you a long way.

There’s every bit as much diversity betwen ethnic groups in the skin color of Africans in Africa as there is anywhere else. Come to think of it, many British of African descent actually came by way of the Caribbean, and some genetic intermingling took place there as well.

At this point Canada has a much higher percentage of immigrant population from the US, and is aggressively recruiting more.

Most of Latin America has mixed populations of European, native, Asian and African immigrants (not always voluntary…) as well as mixtures of native populations. Nepal shows a remarkable variation of skin tones and facial structures in a comparatively small geographic space. Guyana has an interesting mix of natives, Europeans, Africans and Indians.

Those are some examples; on the whole I don’t think that Americans realize to what extent the rest of the word is ‘mixed’ and the degree of migration that happens which hasn’t involved Ellis Island.

Yes. In Britain, such descriptions are only ever used light-heartedly, because they seem so simplistic.

Australia and New Zealand are definite “melting pots”. I personally have a Norwegian name and Swedish, Danish, Maori, and Irish ancestors. Although all of these ancestors are only two generations back I don’t identify with ANY of these nationalities in particular and consider myself to be a New Zealander.

What I have found interesting is that in Australia people seem more aware of their heritage when compared to those in NZ. My perception–and I realise it may be wrong–is that an Italian Australian will generally consider themselves to be Italian. An Italian New Zealander would consider themselves a New Zealander. Have other Australasian dopers noticed this?

The Japanese government is trying to keep things fairly Japanese only. But it seems to be picking up regardless as more people from around Asia come to work–since once a few people come, their friends will join them, and then their friends, so it grows steadily. Though i think that the ones who probably seem to stay here and date Japanese are black guys (I assume they come from Africa, but I gather that they pretend to be American rap-heads.)

Though there were the Ainu people on the islands, I imagine that there hasn’t been much intermarrying until probably fairly recent–and that would be localised to Hokkaido. Traditionally Japanese felt Ainu were too hairy and ugly.

So probably if there is any mixing it will be Japanese/Korean. During the 1500’s (if I recall correctly) there was a pretty good business for Korean slaves. But I think they were more high level slaves (like teachers and artisans) and so merged with general society as time went on. For instance, I know one girl who looks much more Korean than Japanese and her family name is that of one of the major ciities where Koreans came in.

Australian certainly seems more intent on preserving the cultural customs of their country of origin while still adopting Australian values. Walk around some of the “ethnic” suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney and you can see lots of examples of people keeping up the “old way” of life.

Info on Australian migration. I have noticed to some extent communities consisting of mainly people from the same ethnic group sprout occasionally. In Brisbane, there are Samoan, Vietnamese, and general Asian communities that I can think of at the moment.

We did a quick survey in a class in high school and one kid had been born in Australia.

I just wanted to thank GorillaMan for keeping up the good fight by reminding us that all of everyone’s ancestors immigrated from somewhere, sometime in the recent or distant past. (In a recent post, he – or she? – alluded to the fact that “native” Brits are really descended from Vikings, Jutes, the Celts before them – all originally from elsewhere). All of history and pre-history, at some level, is a continuous story of people moving across the earth and intermingling. That might sound PC, but sometimes it actually has anti-PC implications. For example, it means we shouldn’t romanticize as much the idea of “indigenous peoples” being inherently attached to a particular piece of land. Also, for me, it makes the idea of “national citizenship” – that I “belong” to a part of the earth that begins HERE and ends HERE – rather silly.