one and a half

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 ^^

~miki ♥

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8 thoughts on “one and a half

  1. Reblogged this on jump into the fog and commented:

    here’s a little (actually, it’s quite long) post i did for covey view on immigrants! it’s pretty interesting, if i say so myself, and might give you a little bit of an insight into immigrant life ^^

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for this mikiren. A lot of food for thought here. I am English/Irish/French descent but Australian born. One of my ancestors (a woman) migrated to Australia from Ireland alone a century ago by ship. I often think how brave she must have been to come to such a different country to start a new life.

    I will never know the details of her life as an immigrant. My ancestors became farmers and worked their own land. Both my parents grew up on farms.

    My own experience of culture shock came when I visited London for the first time in 2011. Even though much of my ancestry is English I have never felt so alien as I did in England. I feel more at home in Hong Kong. Thanks again for sharing this story. 🙂

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    • wow! going to a new country today is hard enough, but having to travel miles and miles to a completely different side of the world a century ago must have been really tough, especially since australia would have been pretty unpopulated at that time :0

      i haven’t been to australia before, but i know from my friends and family there how different it would be! i’d love to go there one day :3

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      • It blows me away to think how much courage she must have had. I think all immigrants are brave to start a new life in a different country.
        It seems to me that Australia is very different to England and Europe.

        I am sure you will visit Australia eventually, mikiren! I wonder what you will think of it here? 🙂

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  3. I’m fascinated with emigration and immigration as well, Miki. Technically, I’m 2nd generation Canadian-American, but since my grandfather only moved about 40 miles west and since Canada and America aren’t terribly different relatively-speaking, I don’t consider it a real immigration story. Despite the fact that I have the official ship passenger records of his immigration in my family tree. The rest of my family has been in America since at least the 1780s. I was surprised at how long they’ve been here and that so far none of them came through Ellis Island, which is the first place Americans think of when they think of past immigrants.

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  4. Great post! I always admire immigrants and can’t imagine how tough it must be to start all over in a new country where you don’t know the language. Are immigrants well received in Great Britain? One of my struggles as a teacher is teaching English to our largish immigrant population…the verb tenses are quite difficult for people to get the hang of. I always feel like I do a poor job in this area. Your English is beautiful! 🙂

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    • aw, thank you! ^\\\\^ the majority of immigrants in the uk are from the middle east – you can see how some people might view them :S i haven’t had many problems as a south east asian, and many people are especially forgiving of my mum’s grammar mistakes :3

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  5. I grew up in Australia, but my parents taught me those same views. Work hard, be frugal, though that was more to pay the bills. (They didn’t agree with the education part-University so I did that on my own on the opposite side of the country). 🙂

    Most of my friends during my school years were from other countries or cultures. They were wonderful and lived life from a perspective I understood. I loved their sense of community and wished I could be a part of that.

    I think my first culture shock was seeing people picked on at school. Most of the time I stood up for them, or me. I couldn’t understand why someone would want to be mean or make things harder for another.

    I think it’s amazing to not only move to another country, culture but also have to learn another language. (When I was lost in France it was difficult to be understood with the few french words i knew. I can’t begin to understand, but can admire the move.) What courage it takes to leave friends, family behind and start an unknown adventure. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. 🙂

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