Immigration is a beautiful thing. It allows people to explore new horizons, move when they're tired of seeing the same vistas, fall in love with new countries and stay there if they become too enamoured to leave. While the U.S is often called the melting pot, a place where a multitude of cultures blend and become one, this notion is not entirely true. Immigrants do not simply shed their own culture and cloak themselves in an American one, but instead become a delicate balancing act of old and new. If you were raised by immigrant parents, this is a concept you're familiar with. You know that your home life, while similar to your friends', wasn't exactly the same. Yep, there are just some things only children of immigrants would understand. Tell us if these 19 ring a bell.
19 That time you played interpreter (AKA always)
Having an immigrant parent is a little bit of a job in itself. As a U.S citizen child, you have to help your parents wade through an unfamiliar culture, explain modern trends and of course play translator. Whether you’re translating a Seinfeld episode in your living room or the next door neighbor on the front lawn, your parents are depending on you to accurately translate what they’re trying to say—no matter how confusing it is. Sometimes the ideas they’re trying to get across are so abstract and unfamiliar to them, your parents have no choice but to resort to noises and hand motions to be understood. It’s basically a game of charades except it's just you and your parents playing, you're stone cold sober and there are no prizes. Fun!
18 That time your parents told you your career choices
If you have immigrant parents, you know how much your parents have sacrificed to migrate to America and give you the type of life they never had. You are reminded of this very fact hundreds of times over the course of your life. Considering the hell your parents went through setting up a foundation for your future, the least you can do is get a “real career” and pay them all back. At least, that’s what they think. Waitress? Musician? Gasp, artist? Not real careers. Basically, in the eyes of an immigrant parent, if you’re not sitting in a personal office with a framed degree behind you and a name plaque on your desk, you haven’t truly achieved their American Dream. Sure, they may claim they’ve gotten “over it” and “accept you” but let’s be real, a little part of them died inside when you didn’t become the next president.
17 When your parents finally mastered some technology
While language may prove to be difficult for some immigrants, if there's one thing they're gung-ho about, it's technology. Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp allow them to connect with friends and family back home, Netflix and HBO GO are like gifts from the heavens and smartphones are basically straight out of a sci-fi novel. Yeah, there's nothing more brag-worthy to an immigrant than letting the family know they just uploaded every single one of their photos onto Facebook, binged Game of Thrones and bought a GOT shirt on Amazon and organized and customized their entire iPad. It may have taken them an absurd amount of time and they may have only been typing with two fingers the entire time, but hey, they did it, and that's what counts.
16 That time there was a bit of a language barrier
Learning the language of a new country is just the first step of truly understanding the culture. Nowadays, knowing pop culture trends, popular hashtags, memes and slang are just as important, if not more. After all, are you really a U.S. citizen if you've never heard the word "twerk?" Hardly. Immigrant parents may hear some of these popular phrases from their children, but usually they can't keep up with every single one. Sometimes, parents don't even realize that they're saying something that can be construed as lewd. Daddy won't be coming on anything? To an immigrant parent that seems like perfectly valid response to "Dad, come on." And that, we're afraid, is just the unfortunate truth of the English language at work. Sorry, immigrant folks.
15 When you realized your parents were way stricter than the other parents in the neighborhood
More often than not, immigrant parents becomes synonymous with strict parents. Why? Well, usually after seeing American movies, listening to American music and watching American television, immigrant parents feel like they have no choice but to be strict—that is, unless they want their kids to become drug-using, sex-having delinquents. If this sounds like your F.O.B-ey parents, you know that going out means having a 20-minute Q&A session first. Borrowing the car means coming home at a ridiculously early hour. And asking to sleep over someone else's house is pretty much like slapping your parents in the face and saying that your bed isn't good enough. Most of the time your parents' worries are totally unwarranted but if you do happen to mess up and get caught, get ready for lectures that last for days, a month's worth of grounding and a lifetime of dishonor upon you.
14 When you thought you were fluent in another language (but apparently weren’t)
If you are one of the lucky individuals who was taught another language by their immigrant parents, you know how amazing it can be to have a bilingual mind. You can communicate with far more people, you learn words to which there are no meaning in English and, like we mentioned before, you can play translator at a moment’s notice. It can be hard to know two languages perfectly, though. You may randomly forget English words because in the moment you can only think of their Spanish counterparts. And given the fact that you've mostly spoken the foreign language with your parents, you may not know certain slang or less common words. "Uh... excited? I swear I speak Spanish all the time but let me just Google that real quick."
13 When you Googled all the curses your parents weren’t teaching you
And if you learned to speak another language, there’s a good chance you also learned another culture’s curse words too. After all, everyone knows that once you tell other people that you’re bilingual, the first thing they ask is if you know any curses (shortly followed by the “say a sentence!” like you’re a talking parrot). You may have not known the answer to this question when you were younger—after all you were taught this language by your parents—but considering the number of times you’ve been asked this question, you likely have a plethora of swear words in your arsenal now. Hey, if your parents ask, tell them you learned them all from those telenovelas they're always watching in the living room; it's not your fault.
12 When your parents took the reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy to a new level
Oh man, immigrant parents love reusing containers. We don't know if this applies to all immigrant parents, but we think we can confidently say this is the case for most. Whether it's a yogurt tub, a cookie tin or an old coffee can, immigrant parents will find a use for it. After all, where else are you gonna put all of those extra paper clips and old phone bills? That stamp collection needs to go somewhere! Yeah, immigrant children know better than to get excited over a tin of butter cookies since there's a 99 percent chance that it’s actually a collection of shirt buttons and thread. Guess when you come to America and have to start with just the basic necessities, you learn to make those basics last!
11 When they wanted to play shaman using methods from the motherland
As overprotective as immigrant parents can be, they can be kind of hard-headed when it comes to injuries and sickness. In their world, there are very few illnesses that can’t be cured with some soup and a little vapor rub. If you try to protest, get ready to hear tales from their childhood of broken arms mended by prayers, flus that were combatted with nothing but herbal tea, and concussions that were simply slept off. And don’t bother trying to remind your parents that the world of modern medicine has evolved a great deal since they were young, they’ll just ignore it. We’re not quite sure where this doubt of Western medicine comes from. It may just be looking to avoid any pesky hospital bills—can't blame them for that one.
10 When you were genuinely shocked when you saw kids disrespecting their parents
Like we mentioned before, immigrant parents sacrifice a lot for their children. More often than not, they leave a life surrounded by family and familiarity and trade it in for a life full of new challenges. They do this with the intention of giving their children a better life. Having heard this spiel hundreds of times, children of immigrants know to treat their parents with at least a semblance of respect. That means never raising your voice to them, thinking twice before cursing in their presence and knowing when to accept their no and walk away. Because of this uber respect, spoiled kids pretty much seem like aliens. Throwing a tantrum in public? Dropping the F-bomb like it was nothing? Seriously shocking to any immigrant child.
9 When they tried to keep their culture alive through you
Yes, immigrant parents go to another country in hopes of changing their lives for the better, but that does not mean they want to leave their culture behind. They will listen to music from their homeland, dress in traditional garb, cook customary dishes and partake in the usual rituals from back home. The same cannot always be said about children of immigrants. Assimilation is a powerful thing and it's inevitable that along with the culture their parents ingrained in them at a young age, immigrant kids will possess the typical characteristics of a U.S. child. Eventually this turns into a cultural tug of war, with your parents on one end trying to pull you back into tradition and society on the other end, flexing their modern grip. Pretty intense, to say the least.
8 That time you actually learned some cool stuff from their culture
When you're a first generation child, it can be hard to balance the process of assimilating into American culture and staying true to your roots. Kids tend to make fun of anything and anyone who's different so, you may even be tempted to wash away your culture and stick to what everyone else is doing. However, if you do open your mind to the idea of mixing both worlds, you can actually learn a lot of cool stuff. Whether it's how to make a bomb samosa, how to dress like a Bollywood star or how to dance cumbia as well as Selena, these are things that are invaluable and tether you to your culture forever. Plus, one day you'll get to share these awesome skills with someone else. Pretty cool.
7 When your parents were heartbroken because you mentioned moving out
Like we mentioned before, immigrant parents tend to be extremely family oriented. Once they've set up a place for you to call home and carved out a job for themselves, their main goal is to make sure you stay on the right path and go on to have a bright future. Sometimes this means being a little overprotective and controlling, but at the end of the day they really just want the best for you. While every immigrant parent, and parent in general, knows that the day when their baby bird flies out of the nest is unavoidable, they still can't help but be heartbroken when you mention it. Move to Brooklyn? To live in a loft?? With five other people??? Are you trying to kill them?!
6 When they tried to help you with your English homework
When it comes to doing homework, parents can be incredibly helpful. Many times, they’ve taken the same class at some point in their lives or have read the same literature. While this can still be true of immigrant parents, growing up with them as your homework helpers is undeniably different. Math and science is universal but English? Yep, nothing but confused looks there. Shakespeare and Lord of the Flies isn't exactly in every country's curriculum. Lots of immigrant parents will still try to lend a helping hand but oftentimes it takes more time translating your homework to them than it would to just tackle it yourself. Yeah, you were probably better off just going to a tutor. But at least you had delicious homemade food while you studied!
5 That time your parents were worried about your health (no matter how much you ate)
If you and your family have been in the U.S. for a while, some family traditions may have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps instead of eating every meal together, you guys stick to having dinner as a family, or getting together every Sunday. Without being able to watch over your daily eating habits, parents start to get a bit concerned as to whether you're keeping a proper diet without their homemade meals available 24/7. Add in some remnants of fast food and a few 5-Hour Energy bottles strewn around your room and you've got all of the ingredients needed for a parental breakdown. Convinced that they've neglected you and your need for their food, they will try to feed you at all times, even if you've just had dinner elsewhere. Guess things could be worse.
4 When they told you that basically everyone is your cousin
If your parents decided to travel to the U.S. on their own, there's a very good chance they have a ton of family members back home. You've probably seen these people in photos around your home, on Facebook, and maybe even in home videos, but there's so many of them you can hardly keep track of who's who. This issue only gets magnified when you actually go to visit them. Instead of having to explain the familial tree every time you ask about someone, many immigrant families resort to introducing pretty much everyone to you as a cousin. And this applies to people of all ages—whether they're three times your age or a newborn infant. Yep, according to your parents, you're family tree is basically 80 percent cousins. Whateva.
3 When you (accidentally) started speaking like your parents
Teaching your parents another language isn't just a one-way street, either. Just by coexisting and listening to your immigrant parents, you will likely start to pick up some of their phrases, as well. Usually these are combinations of their native tongue and English, the kind of linguistic concoction that will sound totally wrong to you at first, but eventually starts to get normalized. Out of respect for your mom and dad, you'll stop correcting them for these phrases and figure everyone else will grant them the same courtesy. The only problem? You'll start using these wacky idioms yourself! Suddenly you're telling people that you'll be buying Kylie Jenner lip kits "when cows fly!" You'll only realize how foreign you sound when you get home, hours later. Whoops.
2 When you learned that you better say hello to every family member... or else
In case you haven't noticed a reoccurring theme in this article yet, family is super important to immigrant parents. Considering they didn't know many people upon moving here, family members were and are the support system that keep parents afloat. So, of course, that means you must treat them with the utmost respect. You have to call them at least once a month to catch up (this applies even if you don't speak the same language as them). You have to make sure to wish them a happy birthday and reach out to them on holidays. And OF COURSE, you have to greet them with a kiss hello, even if you're just popping into the house for a second. If you don't make that two-second interaction, get ready for a monsoon of a lecture on respect for your elders. Seriously, just save yourself the trouble and say hola.
1 When they wanted you to appreciate what you have
It's no secret that first generation kids can sometimes take things for granted. After all, you didn't do any of the hard work to make it to America; your parents did. They were the ones who lined up all the necessary pieces to travel here, studied for U.S. citizenship and created a foundation for you out of thin air. All you did was wake up after being born and you were good to go. To make sure that you're grateful for everything you have, immigrant parents will share tales from their own turbulent childhoods in hopes of showcasing how much better off you have it. Most of these stories are true, but every once in a while, your parents will exaggerate to drive the point home. Yep, didn't you know your parents once survived a whole winter without food, water or heat? Don't ask how, just be grateful you don't have to do the same!