By: Jerome Wu
I once asked my parents why they wanted to come to the US. They told me that they graduated from a great college in China and specialized in science and technology, so going for the most advanced world of tech and science attracted them to the US. They are doing great in their careers, and what is even better is that they form a four person family along with me and my little sister.
We speak Chinese (though I respond in English) and eat Chinese food at home. Mom and Dad enjoy parties with their Chinese friends, go to a Chinese grocery store, and live in a that has many Chinese people. As for me, I hang out with Chinese-American friends and go to a Chinese after-school. Suddenly, I find myself inside and a part of a Chinese community and environment. So, I discussed this with my parents.
Surprisingly enough, my parents told me that life was actually different from what they had expected. Before they came to the US, they were told that America is a “melting pot” where people from different countries and different cultures add parts of their culture together to create a brand new and unique American culture. But this is not what they experienced.
So, I started reading and found that there are yet many other models, for example, the “Salad Bowl” model. According to this model, the newly arrived immigrants do not lose the unique aspects of their cultures for quite a long time; instead, they keep them. The unique characteristics of each culture are still identifiable within the larger American society, much like the ingredients in a salad, and they contribute to the overall make-up of the salad bowl so it turns out to be a yummy nutritious salad (that’s why American culture I think is rich). I noted one day my dad asked me, “Son, what’s the difference between a hamburger and a sandwich?” However, Dad does know a dozen types of freshwater fish and how to cook them Chinese style. This is a perfect example of the “Salad Bowl” model.
My family started as a piece in a salad bowl and may eventually melt in the “pot”.