This I Believe

Michael - Rolling Meadows, Illinois
Entered on May 11, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

Being from a different cultural background than most Americans, and not having been born in this country but having spent the majority of my life here, I believe in acceptance of other people and learning from different cultures. My parents came from Germany to Canada in the late 1980’s because of a better job opportunity and brought with them the aspects of German life and culture. Being raised by German parents in an English-French country at an early age had a large impact on my life. My brothers would go to a school and learn French while I stayed at home and learned German and some English.

Then, at the age of 6, my family once again moved to Chicago for another job promotion that my dad had gotten. Now, with my meager English speaking and a little better German speaking I was thrown into a new country, environment, and culture. My parents couldn’t speak English that well either but had to learn it everyday while teaching me German, English, and teaching my brothers the same.

Up until the 8th grade I still had a distinct Canadian accent while saying certain words because of the people I grew up around and the kind of English my parents spoke to me. Over the next few years school helped me learn American English so I did not stand out as much. People are always intrigued when they learn that I can speak German and are not very hostile towards me. However, in some instances in my life I have been assailed for being German because in doing history lessons or other activities that involve Germany or Nazi’s or things of that sort people sometimes associate me with my ancestors. This is unfair because I was not part of what happened during that time, and neither were my parents or their parents. Stereotyping in not the way to achieve a solution, it merely creates a larger problem.

Learning to accept who I am was not hard for me; I grew up in a French / English speaking country with a German background. This was as diverse as somebody could get, at least that’s what I thought. Ever since I knew everything about my past, I have accepted other people for who they are and not from where they came. Also, even if I may not support their cultural beliefs, I do honor them with respect, because I believe in acceptance of other people and learning from different cultures.