ABC’s of Assimilation in the USA. Not that Simple
- Person A has been living in the US for 16 years. His English is perfect; he has a good job and has long ago figured out how to succeed in the American society. Proud of himself, this person likes to think about how he managed “to conquer” America, having climbed the career ladder from a construction worker to a respectful lawyer. He is not explicitly condescending, but you can sense that he still differentiates between “his” people and Americans.
- Person B has immigrated 8 years ago. His social skills are quite fine. He has some American friends. He believes that “American women have too much independence” and occasionally sounds racist and homophobic in conversations.
- Person C is a recent immigrant. Her English is a work in progress as well as her career. She can appear socially awkward because she’s not familiar with all behavioral scripts. Her American friends have become her family. This person is dreaming of a career in medicine but for now she’s ready to settle down for what she can have – and that is people who understand her better than her former compatriots.
Who is better assimilated? Who’s better culturally assimilated?
If you, as an American, meet person A at the bar, you probably won’t even detect an accent. Person B will probably leave you somewhere between unimpressed and neutral. Person C, however, will probably have to deal with all stereotypes and assumptions you have about immigrants/immigrants from her country.
Job/education, language, connections, and material wealth are often thought of as a measure of assimilation. When, in fact, they represent just the top of the iceberg. Sometimes there is no direct correlation between time spent in the country and the degree of assimilation. Especially when it comes to the assimilation of the heart.
Surprisingly often illegal immigrants (those who supposedly steal jobs and don’t want to americanize) care SO MUCH MORE about America and their American friends/neighbors than legal immigrants. Surprisingly often, they get the worst judgement.