At this conference, I met a couple (a scientist husband and a homemaker wife) who’ve lived in North America for about 40 years. They are originally from a big country in Europe, and are not only very proud of their origins, but maintain ties that are so strong that one wonders why they ever bothered emigrating at all, when they go back to the Old Country every chance they get. Here are some excerpts from our conversation, which is typical in showcasing how obnoxious immigrants can be to other immigrants, especially when they way you do immigration deviates from “the one true way,” which is of course their way. (Italics refer to what I am thinking but of course wouldn’t say, because I am a well-socialized adult and don’t have the foot-in-mouth disease.)
Wife: What’s your name?
Me (pointing to my name tag): My name is <How I Pronounce My Name in the US>.
Wife: Oh, you are <How the Name is Spelled>! Your name is not <How I Pronounce My Name in the US>; your name is <How the Name is Spelled>.
My name is what I say my name is. Who the fuck do you think you are to lecture me on what my name is?
Me, out loud: Actually, I have been in the States for nearly half my life now, and <How I Pronounce My Name in the US> is what my children would say my name is, so that is in fact my name.
Later on, I talked with the husband, as he sat next to me. It is worth noting that the couple both have very thick accents and less-than-perfect grammar in the English language despite having lived in North America as long as they have.
Husband: So do you go back home often?
Me: Well, my kids were born here, so this is really my home.
Husband: No, your kids’ home is where you are.
Go fuck yourself.
Me: No, I don’t go to Godforsakia often.
Husband: Why? Don’t you have family there?
Me: Some, but after you have been gone a while, things change. People move on.
Husband: But don’t you take your kids there to learn the language?
Me: My kids speak only English.
Husband (eyes open wide, about to fall out of head): But why? It’s so important to learn multiple languages! It helps with brain development!
My kids’s brains are just fine, and it’s perfectly possible to learn foreign languages later in life. Not everything needs to be shoved down kids’ throats starting in infancy. In fact, the native language is critical to one’s identity. I don’t want my kids to think of themselves as anything other than Americans; I don’t want them to think of themselves as Godforsakian-Americans. They don’t need the immigrant bullshit. The immigrant bullshit stops with my husband and me. If the kids wish to learn my native tongue or any other language, I will be happy to help, but I am not forcing anyone to learn a language of a tiny country, which they would have no one to speak with.
Me, out loud: Mhm.
Husband: Our kids and even our grandkids speak our native tongue! We all go to Old Country whenever we can! We love it there, it’s wonderful! (Follows up with an elaborate description of a party in his mother’s garden, with kids and pets prancing and speaking in the Old Country tongue.)
So why did you leave then? Seriously, why? I will never understand the people who emigrated decades ago, but would apparently still rather be in the country of origin than wherever they landed.
Husband: So have you already been on vacation or are you just going?
This is the US, how much vacation do you think we get? Besides, I like working. One of the things I like about the US, as unhealthy as is may seem, is its workaholism. The US crazy matches my crazy.
Me: We’ll have a weeklong vacation in August. We’re going to <Vacationing Spot>.
Husband: Only a week? My grandkids will be with me for two weeks here and then another two weeks there.
Me: That’s nice.
Husband: So who takes care of your kids in the summer?
Woodland fuckin’ fairies.
Me: They go to various summer camps.
Husband, clearly disappointed with my childrearing choices: Oh, they go to camps…
Honestly, I would have much rather talked about science and tried to stir the conversation that way a few times, but he only seemed to want to talk about Old Country, my relationship to Godforsakia, or childrearing. Soon I turned to the person on my other side and talked with him instead the rest of the evening.