i’ve always been interested in immigration and the people who choose to make a foreign country their home – probably because i’m an immigrant myself.
i came to england from burma with my mother when i was 6 months old, joining my father who had got a job here a couple months previously. he was present for my birth, then jetted off on the boeing to start his new life. i like to call myself a 1.5 generation immigrant – i wasn’t born in england, but i’m too young to remember burma (and my burmese is downright pathetic now – my parents see this as a good thing though, since we are living in england). my parents and i are pretty well assimilated into british culture – my dad’s english is pretty perfect and my mum’s is wonky, but good enough for people to understand the gist of what she’s saying. a while ago, i found a hilarious, but extremely bittersweet blog post about being an ‘engrish’ to english translator – a mortifying experience i, and probably many other children of 1st generation immigrants have had to face. my parents have also been pretty stereotypical 1st generation asian parents too – amy chua describes them perfectly in her description ‘on generational decline’ in the (in)famous book battle hymn of the tiger mother:
“The immigrant generation (like my parents) is the hardest working. Many will have started off in the United States [or whatever cushy first world country] almost penniless, but they will work hard until they become successful engineers, scientists, doctors, academics, or businesspeople. As parents, they will be extremely strict and rabidly thrifty. (“Don’t throw out those leftovers! Why are you using so much dishwasher liquid? You don’t need a beauty salon – I can cut your hair even nicer.”) They will invest in real estate. They will not drink much. Everything they do and earn will go toward their children’s education and future.”
in comparison, the second generation (i include myself in this – 1.5 does round to 2) is described as floating on the success of their parents, also working hard, but probably not as hard, as them. they simply don’t have to. and their children after that is the one chua “lies awake worrying about” – the third generation is born into the wealth of the upper middle class and knows that their rich parents can provide everything they need and want without having to work for it. a study somewhere shows that third generation asian-americans score about the same as their white counterparts in maths tests, despite the stereotype that all asians are amazing at maths. scary.
for some reason, as soon as i started secondary school i managed to find myself in a friendship group full of mixed-race, immigrant kids. we’re all smart girls, with perfect english, and quite a few of us have scholarships. but if the bnp or any other scary far-right political party takes over the uk, then 7 out of the 8 of us would probably be deported. the latest immigrant is blanche, a perky half-german, half-english gal, with a bit of french in her as well, who speaks perfect german and perfect accented (it’s not a german accent, but not an english one either – a lot of people think she’s american) english as well. she moved to the uk with her mum and older brother when she was 5 years old.
any of you guys in the covey immigrants, or mixed-race? do you have any interesting experiences of culture shock to share? i would love to know ^^