It is bound to happen sooner or later. A clash that often materialises over time and can have dire consequences for those involved. It begins with the migration of a people from one country to another, a migration that often takes them halfway around the world to an alien land with an alien set of cultural norms and values.
From China to the Pacific metropolises of North America, hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants all through the last century and into the present ones had made their way to cities like Vancouver or San Francisco, among the others on the western coastline hugging the Pacific Ocean.
Natives from India, Pakistan and other Asian cities followed suit, choosing a more convenient option closer to the shores of Europe or cities on the eastern seaboard of the Americas. London, Toronto, New Jersey, and many similar cities were the destination of choice for families seeking to forge a living in what they considered the promised land. From the Middle East, there was an exodus of immigrants to Canada, Brazil, Germany, and the Nordic countries.
Family conflicts in a strange land
Some of these immigrants ventured on their own, planning to settle down and arrange a stable environment before calling other members of their families to join them. Others came in as young, wide-eyed couples taking in everything that was strangely different from their lands. Eventually, they all gravitated around like-minded communities of their people and set about raising a family by having children in the new frontier.
As the children became older, conflicts began internally within the family. On the one hand, there was the stricter discipline and ethics of the East, and on the other, their offspring, who did not know any other way, found it maddening to have restrictions and impositions placed on their movement.
Many times, there had been deep divisions that left the family splintered or broken up, leaving the immigrant to wonder if it was all worth the effort.
The differences begin as their offspring come of age and, having grown up in Western society, cannot understand why their parents are seeking to impose values that are very strange to them. While Western culture tends to prioritise individualism, focusing on personal freedom, autonomy, and self-expression, many Eastern cultures value collectivism, emphasising the importance of community, family, and social harmony. This difference can lead to conflicts in decision-making, relationships, and social expectations. Often it becomes more serious when the child crosses the age 18 threshold, making them a full adult in the eyes of the law of the host country.
Conflicts arise as Eastern cultures often have a strong emphasis on hierarchy, respect for elders, and deference to authority figures, while for the child growing up in the West, there is a tendency to question authority, challenge hierarchies, and value equality. These differences can lead to misunderstandings regarding power dynamics, decision-making, and social interactions.
Religion and spirituality play a big role in the influences of parents in setting standards for their children. Eastern cultures often have deeply ingrained religious or spiritual beliefs, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam, that influence various aspects of life. In Western culture, there is more diversity and less emphasis on religious beliefs, and there is often a greater emphasis on secularism and separation of church and state. This can lead to clashes in values, practices, and interpretations of religious freedom.
For a Hindu father, a Muslim mother, or a Christian uncle who were first-time immigrants to the West, the cultural impositions of their host country have often led to bloodshed when family honour has been violated
Eastern cultures have a far more restrained view of sexuality and gender mixing. These traditional and conservative views are heavily influenced by societal norms and religious teachings. The West has a far more liberal outlook where anything goes and perhaps exemplifies best in more recent times.
For a Hindu father, a Muslim mother, or a Christian uncle who were first-time immigrants to the West, the cultural impositions of their host country have often led to bloodshed when family honour has been violated. The term ‘honour killings’ originated in the 20th century. Children are not expected to cross such boundaries, and you will not find many family patriarchs condoning common practices in the West, such as relations outside marital boundaries. Even the routine practice of young men and women dating is frowned upon and a line that many youths are instructed not to cross. The children who know no different simply do not understand that.
The patriarchs often look to their network of like-minded authority figures to help them talk some sense into the rebellious youth, but it is not always successful. Many times, there had been deep divisions that left the family splintered or broken up, leaving the immigrant to wonder if it was all worth the effort.
The wide reach of the internet has made the world a global village, and some of these conflicts are abating. By bringing in snippets of culture from every corner of the world, the youth are exposed to the differences at a very young age. And so are their parents, thus resulting in a higher degree of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance.
— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena