Upon arriving in the United States, it can be seen that acculturation tends to greatly affect older generations of immigrants versus their children. Between adapting to an entirely new cultural norm, learning to navigate language barriers, all while ensuring that their family is able to remain safe and secure in their new home, adult immigrants are faced with unique challenges in terms of acculturation compared to younger child aged immigrants.
Navigating Language Barriers
For many children, they are able to learn English as a second language as they are brought into the United States during their formative years, which allows for more flexibility in terms of cultural adaptation. However, for adults who are living in the United States for the first time, this transition can be especially difficult as many things can become lost in translation, leaving their children to act as a translator and teacher. Where these two meet, however, is through learning collectively through watching television broadcasted in English or taking classes together.
Understanding Social Norms
It can also be observed that understanding the difference in social norms may clash with older generations of immigrants compared to their younger and child aged counterparts. This often causes discourse between family members as some may have resistance to learning acceptance and change for fear that they may lose their cultural roots, while others welcome a new way of life. While the subject of accepting new things that may be taboo in other cultures is frightening, it is a learning experience that will draw families closer together.
Goals and Ambitions
Elders in the immigrant community solely transition to America in pursuit of a better life for their families; and in doing this certain values such as placing a large importance on education and marketable occupations, takes precedence in what is expected of their children. Younger generations also share the value of education however the pursuit of alternative and creative careers such as ones in music, art, film rather than the expectation of becoming doctors, lawyers, and office professionals. In terms of the traditional “American Dream” concept younger generations are more willing to take risks than older ones, however it is still observed that both groups are able to find more opportunity in their new home.
The differences between the older and younger generations of immigrants can be vast and sometimes difficult to weave through for some who are surrounded by both. However, there is much wisdom and knowledge to be offered by our elders and even their children as they navigate this new world together.