Being an immigrant

Life as an immigrant can be exciting, beautiful and also – challenging.   The US has a large immigrant population and they are repeatedly the subjects of heated political conversations all around.  Living in the US, it’s not at all uncommon to hear someone say, “if you can’t speak English then you shouldn’t live here”.  Those words have likely even come out of my mouth.  Shame on me.

I’m on the other end of it.  Living in another country that speaks a language I don’t know.  I’m the immigrant that you could say the same thing to.  And how humbling or even hurtful those words can be.  When I moved here I couldn’t even order a coffee in a cafe in a proper sentence!  Did I feel embarrassed about it?  Yes.  Did that embarrassment magically transform me into a German speaker?  No.

I’m not saying that immigrants shouldn’t bother trying.  We should always work at learning the language of the place we have chosen to live.  What I am saying is that these things take time, work, and lots of effort.  In 7 months I believe my language proficiency has come a long way, but 7 months is still a long time, I’ve got a LONG way left to go, and importantly my situation is privileged.  Yep, privileged.  My job, 20+ hours a week, is only to learn German.  I can assure you, the situation for most immigrants is not so comfortable as my own.  I do not have to go to work every day: I don’t have children to feed, or keep a roof over their heads.

Think of all the times that you tried to learn anything.  Did you learn it right away?  Did you learn it without making any mistakes?  Were your instructors/peers patient with you or did they get irritated and make you feel worse about your mistakes?

Remember this the next time you’re in a store, or restaurant or even school and you hear someone struggling to communicate.   When that thought creeps into your mind, hold it back.  Try being patient with them.  Being an immigrant is a constantly humbling experience.   Do you really want to be the person doing the humbling?

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

Side note, take a look at the photo gallery page, I’ve added more photos of Rome & Bolivia!

*Laura if you’re reading this, thanks for the inspiration 

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4 responses to “Being an immigrant

  1. Lori – thank you for sharing these thoughts. I really appreciate the reminder. You are living out a very difficult situation and you are so right, many immigrants do not have the privilege of learning the language full time – they are just struggling to survive and learn culture and a new job and it is mentally exhausting and humbling. Thank you for this very powerful first-hand insight. You blessed me today. It increases my awareness to keep you in my prayers daily. I love you.

    • Thanks Aunt Sandra for your kind reply. Just had a moment of inspiration today, and it made me feel a bit ashamed of previous things I’ve said. There are always two sides to things…hard to remember that sometimes though. Love you too!

  2. Thanks for the words that express how many of us ex pats feel. And yes I’ve also been the one on the judging panel of immigrants in the UK and now realise my views came from an uninformed place. But staying in Frankfurt is an opportunity for growth and that’s a great thing, and like all growth it comes with the odd growing pain :)

  3. I admire you and your courage and humbleness. With the ignorant statements citizens (mostly politicians) of our fine country make, it makes me have more tolerance for those here from other countries. Lol! But thank you for reminding me the importance of standing in another’s shoes before passing judgment. Miss you lots!

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