Certain words, actions and traditions bind Americans together in a way that makes us one culture despite our vast diversity. I was asked what objects and traditions make us one and define who we are as Americans. Who better to answer this question than people who started with an outside perspective, then immigrated and became Americans themselves. The questions I used for the interviews are as follows:
- When you first came to America, what stood out to you the most, that you hadn’t seen anywhere else, culturally or otherwise?
- Was their something you did that really made you feel like an American?
- Before you immigrated, was there any symbols, words or traditions that you thought of when you were thinking of America?
- Did you notice anything that applied pretty much unilaterally to Americans?
My first interviewee was Dr. Alberto G. Dr. G is from Peru and holds a PhD in structural engineering and currently works as one here in Northwest Arkansas. He has six children, and five of them were born here in the U.S. making his family, for the most part, born and raised Americans. When asked what stood out the most about America to him when he first arrived (Question 1), he said it was the respect he was regarded with, as “people tried to understand me when I spoke poor English to them.” What really made him feel like and American (Question 2) was the way others helped him to interact in cultural activity. His response to question 3 in reference to symbols was about how “American movies where the main point always was to be the winner.” were easily noticeable and “This way of thinking changed my way of thinking as well and to be like those Americans even if I did not have an opportunity to be in America because my family was a poor farmer. However, God is good, and I had that opportunity to be in America.” For question 4, anything that he noticed applying to Americans unilaterally, Dr. G answered that the many opportunities Americans have is something that groups us all together.
My second interviewee was Dr. Rahman K. Dr. K also holds a PhD and a Northwest Arkansas job in structural engineering. He is from Iraq and for Question 1, he answered that the cultural diversity of the U.S. stood out to him the most and that it made our country a “small world”. His response on something that made him feel American was “this job really makes me feel like an American”. The common conception of Americans that Dr. K had was that it was “different from the social media and the reality. The people here are wonderful and just deals with all other people like Americans and all have the same rights.” To Question 4 he answered that most Americans seem to be open to discussion on a myriad of diverse topics.
My final interviewee was Swikar P. Mr. P. immigrated from Tibet and holds a structural engineering job in Northwest Arkansas. His answer to question 1 was very straight forward, “Strangers are very friendly to other strangers. And very few pedestrians.” On question 2 he said activities that made him feel like a real American were having a thanksgiving dinner at an American home and shooting guns at a range. “Halloween’s ‘trick or treat’ is very similar in concept to an activity ‘Deusi-Bhailo’ we did during our festival Tihar. So, I looked forward to knowing more about it” were his thoughts on rituals that he thought of before immigrating to America (question 3). And finally Mr. P. said that being “Loud and proud, in a good way” and “Carefree when it comes to enjoying life” were aspects that apply unilaterally to Americans (question 4).
All these men came from vastly different backgrounds and cultures and have had different life experiences. But there interviews reveal a common theme that recurs because it is true. That theme is the somewhat abrasive nature of American citizens and how friendliness and pride run through every American citizen. This binds us together because being “loud and proud” is something that everyone in America can relate to somewhat and is therefore a tradition and ritual that establishes and American creed of patriotic pride.
G, Alberto Ramirez. Personal Interview. 1 Nov 2019.
K, Rahman. Personal Interview. 1 Nov 2019.
Lazarus, Emma. “The New Colossus.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 14 Aug. 2019, www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/colossus.htm.
P, Swikar. Personal Interview. 1 Nov 2019.