Immigration to the US has been reported to be one of the most “complex phenomenons” that has resulted in considerable population growth in this particular country. Apart from causing high population growth, immigration to the US is an incident that has dramatically brought many changes in society. In fact, the social structure and way of life have now changed almost in all aspects because of this phenomenon.
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The level of social change in terms of economic, social, and political elements due to immigration has contributed significantly to transforming the culture and history of the United States of America. This paper highlights some of the changes in terms of culture, political, economic, and social context experienced by my father, an immigrant to the US.
I interviewed with my father, who is an immigrant from China, currently living in the US. In the interview, I focused on numerous topics as I sought to discover and understand my father’s experiences as an immigrant to the US. The interview was carried out immediately after dinner. Before the interview began, I made a hot cup of tea for all the family members since it is part of the Chinese culture to take tea after dinner. I cleared one table in the living room and set every ready to begin the interview session. Mostly, the interview focused on general changes experienced and other cultural aspects.
Through the interview, I discovered that immigrants to the US had caused considerable changes in the social structure and cultural patterns, causing a big controversy concerning the way of life (ethnicity), economic status, employment for the immigrants, issues of social mobility, and social patterns among other topics. In addition to this, most immigrants to the US have also experienced cultural changes. For this reason, I will discuss issues of immigration, gender roles, cultural practices, issues of ethnic identity, issues of discrimination, and the impacts of these aspects in relation to culture, which was also part of the interview.
My father came to the US for the first time in the year 2001 and settled in Portland, Oregon, because his sister, who had arrived in the US earlier, was already staying there. The other reason why my father chooses to come to Portland, Oregon, is because he wanted me to learn the English language by speaking with natives at the middle school—owing to the fact that my father was treated very well during his stay in Portland, Oregon, my mother and I also stayed in my aunt’s place when we first came to the US.
This is also because Chinese culture demands that people must be useful to others. After staying in Portland for a few months, my father says that he decided to move to Los Angles because of the ease of traveling and other business-related reasons. In most cases, he travels a lot from the US to China every three months to check on his business that is based in China.
My father explains that the reason why he came to the US is simply to have new opportunities and fulfill his love for the US. For a very long time, he always dreamt of migrating to the US. He also points out that the main reason why he decided to move from China to the US was to ensure that I could access the best education system. In fact, my father says that the quality of education in the US is good, and for that reason, he always wanted to make sure that I got the best opportunities in life, and he believed only the US could offer this.
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For the sake of his daughter, my father was ready to give up all he had in China. According to him, America is a country with many opportunities, and for this reason, he has always wanted to be in the US. He further argues that being in the US gives people a chance to attain the American dream. Today, my father says that he has been pleased after migrating to the US. He feels that he has fulfilled his desire to live in the US, and he has experienced significant business opportunities here.
His life here in the US has had many triumphs and challenges as well. According to him, he feels that the difficulties experienced are “not too big to handle,” as he puts it. Indeed my father admits to having undergone many positive and negative changes in almost all aspects of life. He describes how he and his entire family have witnessed numerous changes in terms of lifestyle, family size, interaction patterns, and social mobility, just to name a few. In terms of lifestyle, my father enthusiastically admits that his life and that of his family seem to have totally changed compared to their life back in China.
In terms of family size, my father also admits to having experienced positive changes that have brought happiness to him and his entire family. In contrast to life back in China, where his family lived as an extended family, my father explains that here in the US, his family lives as a nuclear family. He says that his family had become more independent as compared to the time when we lived in China, an aspect he claims to have been inherited from the American culture. Indeed, many families in the US are independent since family ties are not very strong compared to that of Chinese people in China. He points out that today, his family has become an Astronaut family considering that other family members are living in China while we stay in the US.
In addition to this change, my father happily says that he has fathered a daughter here in the US. My father confirms that he is happy and proud to have two children who are girls regardless of the fact that the Chinese people (particularly those in China) value boys more than girls. He argues girls are also valuable, just like boys, especially if they are brought up with love and in the right way. He points out that in China, he could not have another child because of the one child policy.
My father’s perspective on gender has also changed dramatically since he moved to the US. This can be attributed to the fact that he values his two children who are girls, and he is happy to have them, unlike in China, where boys are valued more than girls. He explains that his stay in the US has enabled him to appreciate gender differences. During the interview, he describes how much he values his two daughters. He loves and highly values them despite many questions from his friends who are surprised why he is comfortable with having daughters only.
Concerning issues of family and gender roles, my father says that being at home most of the time forced him to take other responsibilities. Today, my father’s role is to prepare meals (this includes cooking and cleaning the dishes) for the family as my mother looks after the baby and does other house duties. My father has moved from being the boss and now helps in doing house chores, something that he could not do in China. According to Chinese culture, women are the only ones who can do house chores. He also goes shopping with his wife to buy groceries, something that he could not do in China. He says that he is happy that his family enjoys his cooking.
This is a significant shift in gender roles for him because, in China, men do not perform any household chores. In terms of family roles, there has been a reversal of roles, although not much. My father observes that, in most cases, I act as a family spokesperson when my parents want to communicate with other people since they cannot speak English fluently. This has changed because, in China, a young person cannot speak on behalf of elderly people.
In terms of interaction patterns, my father says that he has experienced changes due to different communication patterns. Here in the US, he is still learning to use the English language as a mode of communication. His Chinese accent is evident as he tries to speak in English. However, after moving to the city of Alhambra, he has had an opportunity to talk and interact with Chinese people. Generally, my father admits that because he travels a lot and interacts with many people, his Chinese background has been overshadowed by the American culture. He argues that coming to the US has had many changes, although he still perceives his family as 100 percent Chinese.
Despite the fact that Chinese people are not colored, people in the US were able to differentiate us from Caucasian Americans. However, there were no cases of racial discrimination, and this notion made my father envy US culture. Notably, my family has learned a few aspects of American culture. He says that maybe in a few year’s time, he will become an Americanized Chinese.
Comparing his economic status to that of the American people, my father admits that he definitely has undergone social mobility, and he now belongs to the middle class, unlike in China, where he was an upper class. My father feels that lack of employment is one significant change he and his family have encountered. In China, he used to run a business while my mother worked as a bank teller. Today, my mother is ashamed to look for a job because of poor English and Chinese accent.
Because of these changes, he says his social status has changed. Today, he enjoys spending more time with his family, not like back in China, where he was swamped spending most time away from the family. He recalls that while in China, he was rich, and he took his family to lavish restaurants. He also had a driver to take the family to adventurous places. However, when he moved to the US, his social class changed, and today, he is the one who drives himself and the family. However, this does not seem to be on the list of his worries, as he appears to be comfortable with his current social status.
On the other hand, cultural values are essential aspects of any community. I sought to investigate what cultural values the family has held while staying in the US. My father argued that the most important Chinese cultural value stored today is the concept of family gathering. My family has a few groups, especially during holidays, birthdays, and other anniversaries. According to Chinese culture, a community is accompanied by a special dinner. My father points out that it is a requirement to give children presents especially Red Envelopes at the New Year. Additionally, the family has always observed the Filial Piety and Qing Ming Festival.
Qing Ming Festival is meant to honor and remember the loved ones who have already passed on; it involves eating food at the graveside with relatives and friends. In addition to this, the family also celebrates the Chinese New Year that runs for 15 days. Despite being here in the US, the family considers the Chinese New Year as a big holiday. Every year during this season, my father takes the entire family to Portland, where my aunt lives. At Portland, we exchange gifts and celebrate together with other family members.
In summary, my father says that the changes he and his family have experienced after migrating to the US have come with many challenges. Generally, he says that migrating to the US has been a good experience. Although his family does miss other family members in China, my father argues that staying in the US has challenged him in a positive way. He admits that his life and that of the entire family have changed for the better, and the family is happy here in the US. He concludes by saying that his family is his priority, and their happiness is all that matters. He says that he is ready to accept changes and diversity, which he argues are patterns and parcels of life.