Thursday, November 27, 2008

Becoming American part 2

Joseph O'Neil was the second author interviewed for NPR's series on Becoming American. He talked of how the decision to emigrate has become much less decisive than it was. I think he was comparing immigration today to the waves of Irish immigration in the past when those who left knew they were unlikely ever to return to their homeland, when he says that nowadays:
"You can go backwards and forwards as much as you like, subject to legal and financial restrictions. And you can stay in touch with everyone back home. You can read their blogs, you can speak to them on the phone."
You don't have to go that far back though - even 20 years ago it was a very different experience than it is today. Phone calls home cost dollars per minute instead of cents, there was no such thing as the Internet yet (as far as the general public was concerned anyway) and blogging certainly hadn't been invented. The experience must be very different for a new immigrant (or even an exchange student) in any country than it was for those of us who moved pre-Internet and cheap phone calls! I wonder if it doesn't have the potential for worsening culture shock in some respects because it allows you to cling to home? Or maybe for some it lessens the disorientation because you don't have that shock, like jumping into cold water, of being completely immersed in the foreign culture?


Stinking Billy said...

AA, I am trying to imagine how it must be for ex-pats. In your opinion and experience, do you think that a majority or a minority have, or will, put the UK firmly behind them, and do not entertain hopes or dreams of returning to family and old friends and the British way of life?

Almost American said...

Billy, I really couldn't say how the scales tip on that one. I know when I first arrived, I really had no plans to stay - I thought I'd be here for 2 or 3 years and then return to the UK. When I did return I couldn't get a job, and then got offered 2 back here in the US. Even then I still didn't see it as a permanent move - it just crept up on me. I know some people come wanting to stay and then can't because of immigration issues.

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