Immigrants in various countries across the world experience numerous challenges as they adapt to host countries. The United States is a country that has many immigrants given that people migrate in search of green pastures and freedom to enjoy their rights. The immigrants to the United States have diverse migration and adaptation experiences, which depend on their country of origin. In this perspective, this essay describes immigration and adaptation experience of Hasan Omar, an Egyptian, who is an immigrant to the United States.
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Decision to Migrate to the United States
The informant of the study is a 46-year-old man called Hassan Omar who resides in New York and immigrated to the United States 16 years ago. When asked what motivated him to migrate to the United States, Omar noted that he got a scholarship from his government, which sponsored him to pursue masters in economics at Harvard University. Moreover, Omar stated that he migrated to the United States in search of green pastures.
Pessar describes the United States as the land of opportunities for it has plenty of socio-economic activities for immigrants to explore (591). In his explanation, Omar said that Egypt has limited opportunities for career growth, and thus, he has been dreaming of migrating to the United States so that he could optimize his knowledge and skills by exploiting available job opportunities.
As Omar was financially strapped, procuring a passport was a problem as the scholarship did not provide. Visa application was not easy as it took a lot of time. After duly filing the visa forms, Omar waited for several weeks before getting a response. Owing to his humble background, Omar had a financial dilemma when it came to raising his fare to the US. Luckily, friends and relatives came to his rescue at the last minute. In the United States, survival was no mean feat, as his scholarship did not cover his upkeep. He had to become a hunter and adopt a Zen strategy to meet his few needs (Sahnlins 32). Omar had to juggle schoolwork and part-time evening jobs to maintain his primary needs.
Advantages during immigration
Omar’s studentship guaranteed him many incentives including, paying cheap rent, electricity, and water bills compared to American students. He states that if it were not for these ‘favors’ life would have been unbearable and would have contemplated his stay in the US. However, after a short stay he realized that life was only good if one was industrious and took advantage of opportunities. Omar had to become a hunter by creating opportunities by studying diligently and networking (Sahnlins 32). After a while, his life changed significantly when he landed a part time job at the university as a teaching assistant.
Problems living in an industrialized world
Omar was quick to point that the major hurdle he encountered shortly after arriving in the US was the high cost of living. He says organic food and rent were relatively expensive compared to home country. Omar also experienced a culture shock (Chagnon 6). American women do not have a standard dress code, and thus, dress anyhow. Women dress code is revealing and no one seems to have qualms about it. Most Americans are also not deeply religious, and therefore, do not observe religious days. Being of Arab ancestry, Omar faced a lot of stigmatization since most Arabs are involved in terrorism. He still faces suspicion from people to date since when he was in school.
Sexuality, marriage and dating in the US
Pertaining sexuality, Omar was shocked by Americans’ openness about their sexuality. His American friends often discussed their sexual preferences openly and women clad scantily as an expression of their sexuality. In Egypt, women wear the ‘hijab’ or ‘niqab’ to conceal their faces and ‘burka’ to cover their bosoms and body, a practice typical to the Nasirema who never exposed their bodies publicly (Miner 504).
In the US, women exposed their bosoms and bodies, which Omar found sacrilegious. On the subject of dating, Omar realized that Americans perceived dating as a fun event, a trial and error thing. Most people who were dating were not faithful to their respective partners, and thus, were in multiple relationships. As a result, people broke up often, and it was a normal thing. Regarding marriage, Omar noticed American divorce rates were high which meant the couples do not uphold marriage vows.
Family and Kinship in the United States
Courtesy of the high divorce rates in the country, Omar held the view that Americans do not take family and kinship seriously. Chagnon avers that family and kinship are important because headmen arise who ensure smooth co-existence between different families (3). Additionally, Omar stated the fact that most Americans advocated for same-sex marriages was a clear manifestation of their lack of seriousness in family and kinship. In a huge contrast to his culture, Islamic law prohibits same-sex unions. These unions, he laments, mark the beginning of the deterioration of family and kinships.
Economic experience relative to home country
Omar says that American remuneration and taxation systems are considerate compared to Egypt’s. He says he earns three times more than he would have in Egypt from his businesses and profession. Americans uphold a high degree of professional ethics, and as long as people are doing their work well, no one interferes with them. The tax regime is fair and effective, and people see their taxes working.
In Egypt, Omar opines that people are taxed heavily and do not see value for taxes. The infrastructure there is wanting, and government officials often misappropriate public funds. Additionally, the American job market is highly flexible as it allows one to do many jobs per day, unlike in Egypt. The flexibility, he says, is what previously helped him when he was schooling. Starting a business in the US does not require one to comply with many government requirements, unlike in Egypt. Little bureaucracy in starting business made Omar start several businesses, which are doing well courtesy of American love for quality services and big spending.
Racial and ethnic challenges in the US
Shortly upon arrival in the US, Omar faced a few episodes of suspicion based on his ancestry, a response typical of the Yanomamo (Chagnon 4). A few of the people he interacted with asked what his personal stance on terrorism was, and whether terrorist outfits existed in Egypt. When he would gather with a few Arabic friends at recreational facilities, people always looked at them suspiciously and vacated those places.
Omar avers that after September 2001 finding a job was almost impossible, let alone obtaining loans from US banks. He narrates how he underwent many interrogation and background checks prior to procuring his fist job and loan. Omar says that the open hatred and victimization Muslims of Arab origin face is a degeneration of humanity. Lately, Arab-Muslims have been the victims of hate crimes from intolerant Americans including, attempts to torch their mosques and shooting of innocent Muslims.
Comparison of gender roles in the US and Egypt
Omar witnessed a reversal of gender roles when he arrived in the US. He noticed that most women were not housewives and flocked the central business district where their workplaces were situated, unlike in the past (Rachels 19). The gender roles contrast those in Egypt where he used to see many women only at the market place, mostly buying things. American women, he reckons, are empowered and liberal to an extent that they are competing with men for the same jobs. He attested this to the feminist movement demonstrations he frequently sees on television. Omar further noticed that women in the US are breadwinners. This was a huge contrast to the Egyptian scenario where men were the sole providers for their families.
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Comparison of education experiences between Egypt and US
According to Omar, university education in the United States is more advanced than the one in Egypt (Rachels 19). One area US universities are keen on but their counterparts in the developing world often neglect is career guidance. Harvard offered him a good career guidance including, potential employment places. Tutors from different cultures with different experiences lectured Omar and captivated him.
Harvard’s academic staff was multiracial and multicultural with a highly interactive mode of teaching, which widened Omar’s view on most things. Harvard’s courses were highly flexible and up to date with the latest job market trend, unlike in Egypt. In Egypt, universities take ages to revamp their curriculum to suit the prevailing job market, and therefore, they churn out graduates who are ‘outdated’. Harvard lecturers, as opposed to Egyptian ones, value their students and are interested in their academic and non-academic pursuits.
Beliefs and morality experiences
Omar says that when a practicing Muslim lives in America, he or she will often grapple with religious and ethical issues. Omar’s conscience is still to date at crossroads over the issue of gestational surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology (ART). Women in America have readily embraced in-vitro fertilization (IVF), embryo transfers, and gestational surrogacy for some reasons. In Egypt, limited clinics offer ART for the sole purpose of remedying infertility but not gestational surrogacy. What bothers Omar is that both single and married women are seeking these services, yet they are fertile.
The experience illustrates that there is a clear difference in morals inherent amongst Egyptians and Americans (Rachels 18). Islamic law allows only married Muslim women to treat infertility, but it does not allow them to engage in gestational surrogacy because it is synonymous to adultery. Omar also contends with same-sex marriages that Americans tolerate. He says, on this issue, at least the Quran and other religious books are unanimously against same-sex marriages.
Acclimatizing to a new cultural environment upon immigration is not easy. The situation further worsens when the hosts are suspicious and hostile to the immigrants. However, when immigrants encounter different cultures, they should try their best to understand where their hosts are coming from, and the hosts should do likewise. Judging each other based on their cultural beliefs is what has made the transitions into different cultures difficult. Nevertheless, until people become tolerant to each other’s cultures, varied human cultures will always be in friction.
Chagnon, Napoleon. “Doing fieldwork among the Tanomamo.” Yanomammo: The Fierce People. Ed. Napoleon Chagnon. New York: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston, 1992, 5-31. Print.
Miner, Horace. “Boyd Ritual among the Nacirema.” American Anthropologist. Ed. Horace Miner. New York: Cengage Learning, 1956, 503-507. Print.
Pessar, Patricia. “Engendering Migration Studies: The Case of New Immigrants in the United States.” American Behavioral Scientist 42.4 (1999): 577-600. Print.
Rachels, James. “The challenge of cultural relativism.” The Elements of Moral Philosophy. Ed. James Rachels. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993, 15-29. Print.
Sahnlins, Marshall. “The original affluent society.” Stone Age Economics. Ed. Marshall Sahlins. New York: Aldine Publishing, 1972, 1-39. Print.