March 1, 2012
Being a first generation American means that your parents came from another country. If they had arrived here at the age of two, you could only technically claim to be a first generation American. But in the full sense of the term, a first generation American is familiar with his/her parents’ first culture that they brought with them. A first generation American straddles two cultures. A rich mixture. If your grandparents were from another country and imparted their culture to you, then you still qualify for the rich mixture. As you would also if your great grandparents imparted their culture.
If you are not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation American, you still straddle two cultures but between your generation and your American-born parents’ older generation.
Interestingly, even though my parents came to the United States at ages 21 and 19 and became American citizens, I never thought of my parents in terms of their representing simply an older generation. Their foreignness always took precedence.
Even after so many years, did they feel the sense of “otherness?” As a first generation American, I feel that sense for myself. Very often, I look at the American culture from the outside.