8 Things You Experience As A First Generation American

Kahunapule Michael Johnson
Kahunapule Michael Johnson

Admit it, having your parents born and raised in another country made your life a lot different than other kids whose parents are born in America. Sure you might be bilingual but you also probably didn’t get the same amount of freedom growing up.

1. You’re parents gave you a traditional insert nationality name that was almost never pronounced correctly. Roll call growing up was always something you didn’t look forward to because it meant snickering kids laughing at a struggling teacher pronounce a name that hardly resembles yours.

2. When you did family trees in school you omitted family members because either one or both parents had too many siblings. Being of Ethiopian descent, my father has over 10 siblings but to make my life easier I would only include the ones who I saw in the past month and whose name I could spell with ease.

3. You have so many relatives that it is not uncommon for you to meet a new cousin, aunt or uncle yearly. Sometimes said family members aren’t even blood related but your parents insist that they are family because they went to school together or perhaps lived near each other back when they lived in their native country.

4. You were not allowed to attend sleepovers growing up. Growing up in a predominantly white suburb in Fairfax, VA I was often invited to sleepovers in grade school and middle school that I had to refuse every time. It is one of those American things that foreign parents just don’t understand. You always had to tell your friends you couldn’t go and didn’t know how to explain why your parents allow you to sleepover. Even to this day you probably still don’t know why they didn’t let you attend sleepovers

5. One or both of your parents are EXCELLENT cooks and you spent your life eating home cooked meals. This is one of the best benefits being a first generation American. The only downside is when you get to college your dining hall food is a hundred times less appealing and when you go out to eat at a restaurant that serves your nationality’s food it doesn’t taste nearly as good as your mom’s.

6. You are constantly being asked “what are you” and even though you are American, that answer doesn’t satisfy people. You were born and raised in America but your parents weren’t. However people still ask you “but what are you” or “okay but like where are you from?” Sometimes you’ll tell people what nationality you are and they’ve never even heard of the country. I’m from Ethiopia and you’d be surprised at how many people have never heard of it.

7. You have people who think they know where you are from speak to you in that language. I’m Ethiopian and the official language is Amharic. However I’ve had people try speaking to me in Spanish, Arabic, Somali, Hindu and Portuguese. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does you always ask your friends if you could pass for the languages corresponding nationality.

8. People always assume to know why your family no longer live their native country. Being ethnically from a third world country people always assume you or your parents fled because of poverty, war or ethnic/religious persecution. While according to the UN, Ethiopia is a third world country that depends on foreign food aid the reason my parents emigrated to the US had nothing to do with that. Both my parents were financially secure, educated and comfortable in Ethiopia. The main reason for their emigration to the US was for certain job opportunities. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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