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Media and the modern immigrant family

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Franz Strasser | 19:47 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

People immigrating to the US today are more connected to their homelands then ever before.

With the internet, satellite TV and inexpensive telephone calls, it's getting easier and easier to stay in touch no matter where you come from.

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Do these advances mean new immigrants are less likely to build local communities?

Is technology changing what it means to be an immigrant?


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Franz,

    To fulfill my love to travel by motorcycle I have immigrated to New Zealand to London to St. Louis. I feel that technology makes it easier to stay in touch with family for example they can see me on a web cam; however I miss the hand written letters which I read many times and enjoyed each time! Technology is definately changing the experience of immigration. New immigrants like me are still building local communities because we like meeting people in person! Real interaction is still much higher than virtual, so we are using the net to organize those meetings better!

    Safe Journey!
    Ravi in St. Louis

  • Comment number 2.

    For sure, new technologies help! Especially for first generation immigrants to not feel too lost! You're very near my hometown of Milwaukee, WI (which is the most German of all American cities). I wonder what you would think? I understand what the Mom in your report said about how here in the US (particularly the suburbs), people just aren't outside as much. My dad came to visit me while I was living abroad and he noticed that contrast instantly. On a technical aspect, is it hard conducting interviews while also having to monitor your sound levels?

  • Comment number 3.

    This is no different than what the previous nationalities that came to America did. They brought and remained connected with their cultures. They did it through arts, social contact, cultural display, food, clothing, religion, language, etc. Even after being in this country for 200-300 years, there are communities that still display that, here in Pennsylvania. Today, due to media and technology, the way of doing it is different. The first family to immigrate is always caught in between. Being a recent immigrant myself, I face the same situation. However, I am not in favor of immigrants living in a caccoon. Their children need to grow up as Americans. But what does an American mean? A typical American is a fusion of different cultures, mostly from Europe, but also from Africa, Latin America and most recently from Asia as well. As new immigrants arrive, they need to assimilate and learn local culture but also retain their culture by educating not only their children but the local Americans. This way the immigrants get to live their cultural life, but also makes them true Americans that live in a mixed society. The children should be taught that they are Americans first. They need to get out into the local community. For the parents, who are recent immigrants it may be difficult, but the children should be able to become true Americans while staying connected with their heritage.

  • Comment number 4.

    America is what it is, a bigger version of Europe, largely because its built from European immigration. If we don't want to see it turn into another version of Asia or Africa, with all the problems that brings then we need to rethink our immigration policies and quick.

  • Comment number 5.

    I saw the video. Somewhat I do not agree with them. It is your attitude how do you mix with the people.
    I am from West Bengal state of India. I lived 5 years in Southern India. I could not get a good apartment for rent because I eat meat. Local Brahmins (my neighbours) would not even talk to us. I could not make a single friend.

    Now I am living in the US for 11 years and lived in three different towns. Here I can live anywhere(rent or own), eat anything. My daughter (7 year old) made lots of friends, we take to play ground, music/art school, created lego group. We pick up conversation with the parents of kids with whom my daughter is playing. One thing I could tell you people in US are reachable, you need to be proactive. Unlike India, if you live outside of your home state, it will take a generation to get adopted.

    Technology definitely helps, we can video chat with me family in India. Phone rate is much cheaper nowadays so that we can talk for hours. Older people sometimes face awkwardness though. Even when my father-in-law came last time he used to pick up conversation with the locals and used to work in our yard along with us. Every passer by would stop their car and say hello and few sentences.

    Except for the winter months (December to March) we never had to spend time in front of TV.
    Mit Freundlich Grussen

  • Comment number 6.

    Yes, staying connected has become easier and affordable. Being in America for more than 40 years, I remember the days when it cost more than $2.00 per minute to call India.

    Nothing wrong with culture and traditional practices, but many immigrants never become truly assimilated; show no desire for it. Except at place of work they don't have much to do with people of other racial origins; they rarely become close to their neighbors. They eat Indian food; listen to Indian music; see Bollywood movies. One gets the feeling that the only reason for being here is income and higher standard of living. There is no sense of belonging, And then they complain about discrimination!

  • Comment number 7.

    My wife and I are both originally from India. We met in Canada where we were the only family members here.

    When we decided to get married, in our home, we set up a webcam. 17 families in 11 countries (from Singapore to the US) were able to participate in our wedding without travelling here!

    Now that voice calling is down to a very reasonable price, we are able to keep in touch with extended family in India and around the world. We don't feel so far away with this connection.

    As more and more family members get computers and broadband in India, we are using Skype to see each other and chat.

    Suddenly the world is a smaller place!


  • Comment number 8.

    I understand you were a High School exchange student in Layayette County, Florida. I live in the area and am thinking it must have been a bit of culture shock for you. Rural north Florida is a far cry from most news and media views of Florida and the US that is presented to the world.

    I am enjoying your journey, Godspeed...

  • Comment number 9.

    Hey Franz,

    Hope your enjoying your trip, very interesting report. I ask as you journey America you continue to maintain an open mind and make no assumptions because America is too diverse to do so. I am a college student from the suburbs of Chicago; both my parents are first generation immigrants from Pakistan. All my public education was done in schools which were 97% white in a Chicago suburb. My family is very connected to Pakistan, we try to visit at least once a year and I talk with my family over there almost daily on the phone or skype. We also have Pakistani TV channels and there is even a local Pakistani newspaper in Chicago. Despite all this, my family and I never had any trouble being a part of American society, America's beauty is that it is up to you the individual to try and work hard to be a part of society.
    Despite my connection to Pakistan I find myself more comfortable among my fellow Americans. Most of my closest friends are white, but my main circle of friends consists of a friend who has first generation Colombian parents, a light skinned, blue eyed, tall man with a Hispanic name but whose relatives mostly emigrated from Italy over a century ago, and also a white American whose family arrived from England during the colonial period. This unique sample of friends is not unique in America; it is a natural part of the American melting pot. I also noticed some comments seemingly suggesting America is just a larger version of Europe. I have been to England and France, and many of my friends have seen all parts of Europe, like Germany, Spain, and even Poland, but one thing we can all agree on is that America is very, very different from Europe and to make an assumption like that would be wrong and overly-simplistic. Keep up the great work and hope you enjoy a great country!


  • Comment number 10.

    In response to Comment 4 by Politically_Incorrect:

    Over half of the problems in current day Africa and Asia are direct or indirect consequences of European rule in the imperial era. I wish the native Americans, Africans and Asians had immigration(READ anti-invasion) policies when the first immigrant (invader) arrived.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think this is an interesting question and I've often wondered it myself. I moved to the US back in the early 1990s before the web was anywhere as developed as it is now. Back then to find things out like how to change your driver's licence, fill in tax forms or whatever, you had to go to offices and talk to people. I have an American accent as a result. I moved back to the UK and then moved to Canada and I find myself constantly using American media and watching American TV shows because I lived in the US. I still have an American accent and haven't picked up a Canadian one and still have more friends in the US than I do here, because it's much easier to stay in touch with them! I do think though that people settle into their identities in their early 20s after they have left home. Once they've settled into it, hard for people to change in later life. My sister has lived in the US for many years now, but she moved there later in life than I did and she's still much more British than I am as a result.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have seen Americans approach a new family and introduce themselves. But, it's for the immigrants to take the next steps and continue to do so, to be assimilated. The first generation, even when they become American citizens will feel attached to their native country. There is nothing wrong with that. Many a times they will get caught between being an American or person from their native country. But it should change from their next generation, as their children will grow up in American schools, play and learn with Americans. That's where true integration should happen. However, may times the life at home is different, they go back to their native life. That's where integration needs to happen. The children need to get out into the American community as well. Volunteering, working, sports, clubs should be encouraged. At the same time listening to native music, watching native movies, reading native books should alos be encouraged as that is what America is. Bring the native culture. participate in the mainstream and integrate the native culture into the mainstream. That's what America is. Immigrants come here for better life, opportunities, jobs, religious freedom, etc. They do not come here to get away from their culture. That will remain part of their life. Immigrants need to e careful that due to this they don't remain isolated.

  • Comment number 13.

    @ RaviStLouis thanks Ravi!

  • Comment number 14.

    @ eric_ga: Eric, of course it's always better when you can just focus on your interview, but I don't know it any other way. Plus, most times you just level them at the beginning and lean back.

  • Comment number 15.

    @ NitinLaud great point! I think that is exactly what is happening in the Gupta household.

    @ Nirupam sarkar: Thank you for sharing your experience. I agree, I always felt that being proactive was necessary to meet people in the US but the reward was almost always guaranteed. When I was an exchange student in Florida, I always thought I needed to initiate contact since all the local students had done just fine without me for their previous school life.

    @ oldmachead: what a great story, thanks for sharing! Yes, the Internet has not only made it easier for the younger generation, my German grandmas bought computers primarily to video chat via Skype.

    @ WC: yes, it was a culture shock, and I am very excited about this trip because it will end in Mayo, Florida. I hope you can catch that report next Monday!

    @ baron44: Zayid, thanks for that comment. Absolutely - I will stay open-minded because if this country has taught me anything it's that there is always an eye-opener around the corner. I love the example of your friends, and I agree that this would be very hard to find in Germany.

    @ Steve: great story Steve, thanks so much! I experienced the same when my year as high school exchange student was over, and I returned to Germany. Just five years earlier I would've lost my English accent in a matter of months but through the Internet, webradio, podcasts, etc I was able to consume the English language.

  • Comment number 16.

    oh man i am an educated immigrant living in canada. i have studied in winnipeg(where there were 50 odd east indians and the temperature gets to -50 C in the winter) and then worked in ottawa. Right now i live in Toronto. I have had friends from every part of the world incl. india. I feel very comfortable moving with them.

    But i can't say the same about people who come from their own country and live in the immaginary or real ghettos in toronto. The same with the people who move to Toronto from small villages in Canada.

    PS - i consider myself as a global citizen having done an MBA from a top B school. I always tend to look at where we where as humans (not what just imbibe from the media these days) and that is what has made me different than 99.9% of the people.

  • Comment number 17.

    @U-Del-Guy: Thanks for the perfect reply to the Politically_Incorrect person's ridiculous comment.

  • Comment number 18.

    The son was watching Pokemon (Officer Jenny is unmistakable)! Mad props son

    (ps, Im also an Indian ethnic immigrant, but from the UK.

    The US is my hope, and my home. That will never change


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