How Cultural Identity Defines An Immigrant’s Experience

The United States is a melting pot of cultures due to a high immigration rate. Second-generation immigrants are those who were born and raised in the United States but have parents who were born and raised elsewhere. 

Unlike their first-generation immigrant parents, who struggle to integrate and pick up a new language and culture, they have a unique experience. 

With a new experience comes challenges, like managing their cultural traditions and values with those of their parents while adjusting to living in a different nation with foreign cultural customs.

The pressure for second-generation immigrants to adapt into American culture while making sure they don’t lose their cultural identity is one of the toughest obstacles they are faced with. 

Many second generation immigrants feel conflicted between adjusting to the American way of life and sticking to their parents’ cultural expectations. 

For instance, children of first generation immigrants could experience pressure to perform well academically while their friends might place more importance on sports or socializing. 

As a result, they may feel alienated from their classmates, losing both their connection to their original country’s culture and American culture. 

However, some Sea Kings don’t feel the same pressure that many others do. Junior Mark Lin, whose family is originally from Taiwan, China, said that although he experienced the difficulty of socializing with others and crossing the cultural barrier between friends, “adapting to the environment is more important [to me] than sticking to a culture stubbornly.” This is not to say that one shouldn’t embrace their culture fully, but to keep an open mind to make the most of your experiences.

Language barriers may pose challenges for second-generation immigrants. They may not be as fluent in English if they grew up speaking their parents’ native language, which can lead to misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. 

Furthermore, language barriers may make it difficult for them to maintain cultural bonds and familial relationships. 

Second-generation immigrants may face discrimination and prejudice as well. Because of their ethnicity or cultural upbringing, they may be perceived as “foreign” despite being born and raised in the United States. 

Luckily, Lin also stated that he has been to places considered more conservative and still didn’t experience prejudice or hate due to his ethnicity. 

Second-generation immigrants have several advantages and strengths growing up with two or more additional examples of culture in their life. 

Growing up in a multicultural atmosphere may broaden their perspectives and make them more tolerant and welcoming of others. 

Being bilingual or multilingual is useful in the current globalized society. 

Immigrants of the second generation usually serve as a bridge between the generation that their parents came from and the bulk of American society. 

They might be able to speak for their communities and inform their peers on customs and practices unique to their groups. 

Also, they might be able to find a balance between their aspirations and their parents’ expectations, creating a unique identity that includes both their cultural heritage and American identity. 

A great example of a Sea King who speaks for her own community through her experiences as a second generation immigrant is senior and president of BTC, Ainsley Schmitz.

“Becoming [BTC] president was so rewarding, being in a position to give back… and raise more awareness for people of similar backgrounds,” Schmitz said.

The experience of being an immigrant in the second generation is unique and challenging, but it is also one that is full of opportunities and positive traits. 

They must strike a balance between their cultural identity and the linguistic challenges, bigotry, and expectations of American society. 

But their multicultural upbringing might have encouraged them to adopt more hospitable and understanding perspectives. 

They also serve as a bridge between their parents’ generation and the majority of American society by supporting their communities and infusing their cultural histories into their identities. 

Given that the United States is a nation of immigrants, it is crucial to comprehend the viewpoints of second-generation immigrants to build a society that is more diverse and inclusive.