Young people are not losing culture, but they are entwining with American culture.: Becoming Minnesotan

Male silhouette.
  • Name - Mohamed Jama
  • Age at interview - 27
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 06.21.2004
  • Boys playing foosball, Karmel Somali mall, Minneapolis, February 1, 2004.  Minne
    Somali girl celebrates Eid al-Adha at the Mall of America, Bloomington, 2004.


    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    There is often a generation gap between younger immigrants and older generations once they settle in the U.S. Young people adapt to American culture more easily, while older immigrants try to hold onto their traditional culture. Young people generally speak English more quickly and fluently, while elders often struggle to learn a new language. Somali young people are surrounded by American students at school and are quick to pick up on how Americans, talk, act, and think. Elders might work outside the home, but are usually more isolated and tend to stick to their traditional ways.  Sometimes parents are dismayed when their own children start to ignore Somali beliefs and culture, and instead behave in ways that would be unacceptable in Somalia. Young people are more likely to see themselves as Americans, while elders are generally more hopeful that they will be able to return to Somalia some day.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mohamed Jama 4
    1:35 Minutes | 1.52Mb


    Narrator: Mohamed M. Jama (MJ)

    Interviewer: Andy Wilhide (AW)

    AW:  Do you feel like you've picked up some things about American culture and lost some things about Somali culture?

    MJ:  OK, this is cool, because I grew up being cool, or hip, whatever you want to call it. For me, right now I can't go to my generation, all type people, and say, “Yo! What’s crackin’?” They’ll look at me like, “What’s wrong with this brother here?” But when my little brother, who is the age of seventeen, eighteen, now, he can just step up to me and say, “Yo!" Or whatever you want to say, "Yo, what’s crackin, what's happening, know what I'm saying?” They'll be like, "What's wrong with this?" For him, that’s not wrong. For him, that environment allows him to be. For them, it's like they lost their decency. Where he can argue with his mother. When she says, “Hey, go fix up your bed.” “I’m going to do it when I feel like it.” That'd be getting to my nerves. It'd be getting to my skin; I'd just want to do something crazy. That's one.

    Losing culture, most of our young people are not losing culture, but they are entwining with the culture. I remember, my little sister, the youngest in the family, told me, “My first day in Kindergarten, I seen a lot of kids skipping, so I just started skipping with them.” I was like, OK, that's how I feel most of our teenagers are going into, not losing, but into that culture. There's positive things about that culture.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Noun:  A particular political or social setting, arena or condition.


    Noun:  1. A period of around thirty years, the average amount of time before a child takes the place of its parents.  2. A group of people who are of approximately the same age.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 551