Home > Uncategorized > Diary of an immigrant family

Diary of an immigrant family

An interesting anecdote recently came to my mind, about families and the cultural, and possibly generational differences that exist within even the most cohesive family units.

Here, we have a family of five living in Canada, two parents and three siblings. This is an immigrant family from a country that upholds very different cultural values, where children’s upbringings are much more strict and structured. The three children of this family were all born in the family’s home country. The third was only an infant when the family moved to Canada, while the two older siblings were both already in grade school.
Along with the parents’ decision to move to Canada comes the inevitable reality that their children will be brought up in a much different cultural environment than back home. The parents wholly realize and accept this reality, and also know that they will still – or at least try to – hold on to their traditions within home and within the family unit. 
So the question becomes whether or not this kind of co-existent cultural dynamic is realistically possible? Can parents really raise their children within one external cultural environment and expect that the same children will be able to maintain a high level of their ancestral cultural background in the home? 
Are the differences in personal views between children and parents only inherent in an immigrant family like the kind described above, or is it also – or more-so – a generational difference?
Within the family described above, the oldest of the three children is very much like how the parents imagined: (s)he holds the values of the family’s own cultural traditions of structure and discipline, but is also very much Canadian in many of his/her values and attitudes. In this case, the end result that the parents aimed to achieve comes to fruition, and this first child is very much Canadian, while maintaining the values within the traditional family unit. 
The second child is much different, perhaps a little undecided about whether to uphold the family tradition or go in the complete opposite direction; ultimately, this one will fall to the side that makes the most sense to his/her personality. This child does not embody the kind of hard structure and discipline that the parents believe in and promote wholeheartedly, and he/she rejects traditional values of stability and security, which the parents believe must be the ultimate source of happiness. Instead, the second child lives a very liberal lifestyle open to many possibilities, believing that this is a much more realistic source of happiness for his/her personality.
The third child is Canadian in heart and soul. This child will uphold the traditions, values, and beliefs of the Canadian way and will live life accordingly. Meanwhile, the third can also understand and entirely support and respect the tradition and beliefs of the parents; after all, it is the Canadian way to be tolerant of all systems of belief, and to respect the traditions of all cultures. Like the second, the third maintains a liberal lifestyle open to many possibilities, BUT also understands the value in striving for some level of stability and security in order to find eventual happiness.
So how much of these differences are cultural – a dialogue relevant to immigrant families – and how much of this is simply generational – a dialogue between all parents and children?

Clearly, these kinds of personality conflicts within a family unit can exist within immigrant families and native families alike. The question is more about how the family members treat these differences. The parents of the immigrant family will often be very strict and impose rather restrictive expectations upon their children and their personal lives, eg. to marry someone of the same cultural/racial background; or to go to University and get a job they can keep until they retire.

Would we also find these same kinds of high impositions from parents on their children in native families? Certainly it exists, but is it then more of a generational, rather than cultural conflict of personalities; and do we see these generational conflicts within a family as much as we see the cultural ones within an immigrant family like the one described above?

Based purely on subjective empirical evidence, I believe that in Canada, we see a lot more of the cultural conflict within immigrant families, and this does make sense given that Canada is widely known to be an incredible cultural mosaic. The generational conflicts within a family unit will exist more in countries that have a much deeper history, and a more one-dimensional cultural dynamic.

We see the generational conflicts much more in America, and this dynamic is played out and popularized in American mainstream media, in movies and TV dramas and sitcoms. Given this realization, perhaps Canadian media could create an entire industry that focuses more on the cultural context that exists here, for example, Little Mosque On The Prairie…?!?

But I digress! 

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 9, 2010 at 8:42 am

    interesting…we all have needs for liberation/fun and stability/safe…a matter of degrees not type i guess…i just find it safe to do things like ride motorbikes without drivers licenses…lolbut i agree the 3rd son seems to embody parts of the other two, who tend toward extremesv

  2. May 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    hey! so you finally decided to do the blog thing! that's great! I'm pretty lucky cause my family is a rare exception where ALL of us (Korean-born parents and Canadian-born children) have very similar Canadian/Western values. Sure, my parents and brother are slightly more conservative than I am but I don't think it's so much a cultural or generational distinction as it is a religious one (for my family specifically). Hope you keep up with this and write more posts! I didn't get a chance to read your other ones but you've inspired me to actually write in my own blog!

  3. May 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Hey Great Post T-Man!For Immigrant families the cultural clash i believe is a HUGE problem. Certainly along with the generational gap, most immigrant parents are so ditatched from the reality of the world as it exists in Canada that it becomes very difficult for the children to choose their own paths in life. A key factor is also the childrens' age when they arrive in Canada. I believe the if the child is under the age of 8, they have a much better chance at simply being Canadian, which makes life much easier than to have to pick and choose values from 2-3 different cultures.A LOT of studies are needed in this area, as it is truly causing Major problems within immigrant families. I myself have had to deal with this all my life, and it has caused me a Great deal of pain and lots of problems; all because i didn't recognize what was happening until it was too late. Had there been there someone to recognize the problem and make me aware sooner, things would have been much better and easier.Great Topic. =) …just LOTS to say lol

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