Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Refugees and Immigrants


A never asked my grandmother or great grandmother if it was a coincidence or a conscious plan, but my grandmother's family immigrated from Europe on the eve of World War I.  During World War II, one my father's uncles and a couple of his cousins came to the seek refuge in the relative safety of the United States - and never returned home. We are largely a country of immigrants.  Some of my family has been here for nearly 400 years, other parts for just over 100 years.  They came here seeking a better life. 

Refugees and immigrants are not always welcomed with open arms.  Those who become a part of the culture, who become part of the creole of the community, are much more welcome than those who do not. People who fail to become a part of the culture - stand out and never really reap the bounty of being here. They are permanent tourists, in the place that they live. If I moved to France (a fantasy in my dreams,) I would need to improve my French, dress like the locals, shop, cook and become a part of the local community, or I am merely living my American life in an inconvenient place - complaining about a lack of peanut butter in the local market. I love to travel, but living my American life in another country and culture for a couple of weeks, is very taxing for me and for the locals.  I do it for a couple of weeks, if I was there longer than that, I would expect the locals to lose all patience with the crazy American who has never really learned the language.      

Our immigration system is outdated and does not work well.  We need to fix it.  In doing so, we need to think about who we are as a culture and who we want to be 100 years from now.  Are we still the great mixing bowl of the world?  

If you moved to another country, would you try to become a local, or try to live in a bubble of your culture in a new place? 

5 comments:

  1. I would eventually fit into the new surroundings, like walt and ken have done in france (http://wcs4.blogspot.com). I would like to think I would share some of my culture with the natives, but not insist that mine is superior in every way.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Become as local as possible without losing who I am. Without leaving the US I have done this in my lifetime. A boy from the mountains of SW Virginia first moved to Seattle and eventually settled in San Diego. Three very different cultures within the fabric of one country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I moved to Florida from Michigan, a friend's mother very bluntly told me, "we don't care how you do it up north!" I became a local, I even learned to understand the rhythm of seasons in the semi-tropics.

      Delete
  3. As part of our desire to move here to Spain, we wanted to become a part of Spanish society and culture. We enjoy sharing some of our American traditions as a novelty and we're grateful to have received such a warm welcome in our new home. Of course, because we're white and financially independent [of the State] people like us call themselves Expats and not Immigrants... although Immigrants are exactly what we are.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A bit of both I hope. I lived and worked on a temporary visa near Boston for about a year in my very early 20s. I have an odd accent so people there kept asking me if I was from Belgium. I enjoyed the experience and American seemed as interested about me as I was about American culture - but I'd never thought seriously about living outside of the U.K. until I met Guido. We'll leave London at some point, probably for Spain, so I guess I'll find out.
    JP

    ReplyDelete