Adolescence and migration: Struggling to fit in

by Tomoka Adachi

Currently in global society, there is a comparatively broad definition referring to people who leave their home country and immigrate overseas as global citizens. An increasing number of transnational migrants have been challenging such concepts of the nation-state (Ohno,S 2008). The term immigration is not unfamiliar at all and has even been highlighted in recent years as more issues have been discovered.

Immigrants can be broadly categorized by generation, based on the period of time in their lives that they moved to the host country. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrived at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 generation, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut (Alba & Waters 2011).

Adolescence is one of the most significant steps in the formation of self-identity. There are  outcomes internally and externally for children who migrate at a younger age. In the first place,  immigrant children have to get used to the new environment in the receiving countries, while apart from other close family members, peers and friends in the home country. Homesickness may appear in numerous forms as the result of the diversity of language usage, diet, customs, school system, and citizens from different ethnic groups. All those features certainly depend on the culture and social similarity and differences between the receiving country and home country.

Nevertheless, the efforts immigrant children should take is because they are disadvantaged under many conditions. They are considering who they are and what they tend to be, whether to change or not in the receiving countries as heavily affected by the relation to their surroundings. While at the same time still requires the recognition from people around. Youth immigration demanded changes to the social identity and culture identity in the social and culture environment. The youth may cope with the psychological pressure produced by such dissonance by seeking to reduce conflict and to assimilate (literally, to become similar) within the relevant social context (Rumbaut 1994). However, the invisible pressure which forced assimilation may lead in another direction, in a  reaction of refusing to fit in. For the 1.5 generation, the possibility of segmented assimilation happens in most cases.

In addition, when it comes to 1.5 generation regarding to assimilation, children more or less have the concept of certain social and culture value of their home country, so that it becomes  more of a challenge to define self-identity in the receiving countries. The border and notion of national identity in relation to citizenship belongings blurs.

Furthermore, the reality is that the mass of society tends to offer limited options to classify immigrants. Categories by questioning whether to belong to one culture or not, to socially belong to our culture or outside of our culture. Hence, the lack of social recognition for those who culturally maintained in the middle, such as the 1.5 generation, led those people to fill in the gap and to struggle to connect their self-identity to nation-state citizenship in order fit in the current social position.


Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Ohno, S. (2008) “Transnational Citizenship and Deterritorialized Identity: The meaning of Nikkei Diasporas’ Shuttling between the Philippines and Japan.Asian Studies 44(1):1-22.

Rumbaut, RG. (1994) The Crucible within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants. International Migration Review 28(4):748-794.


Brazilian immigrants children’s identities between expectation and reality

by Minako Sanda

“On the sports festival day, Brazilians were gathered and forced to dance Brazilian Samba. I hated it. While I was trying my best to assimilate to Japanese friends, being forced to dance with Brazilians felt humiliating. We studied about many countries, but there was no class that featured me (Japanese-Brazilian), but if any, I kept distance from or deleted those memories. Until I got into Junior High, I didn’t like to be seen as a Brazilian, in High School I started to think I don’t care, then in University I began to like it” (From an interview with a Brazilian immigrant, Amano, 2013)

The author’s interview with his Japanese-Brazilian friend sounded familiar to me because I have a friend in similar circumstances as this interviewee. I remember she had a hard time reading textbooks and had extended classes after school.

Nonetheless, I have known only a little about her feelings as a Brazilian immigrant as we spent a few years together in Kobe. I never saw my friend as someone different, except for what she knew about the different country where she had lived, and according to her—she belonged there. As a child I didn’t think ‘belongingness’ was something to ponder; we were in Kobe and that was where we belonged, at least I thought so.

Indeed, the feeling of belongingness is simple for those who lived in a culture and places where people speak a common language. The formation of self identity went along with the cultural environment. But those who have moved from one culture they know well to a foreign one, and then return to their home culture after assimilating to another environment, trying to identify themselves in multiple cultures suddenly starts to make them feel like their feet are off the ground, as if they were indecisive people in-between here and there.

Throughout our class, we have learned how some can choose to take advantages of an in-between lifestyle, for instance I now understand that I benefit by choosing to study abroad, knowing cultural differences, and assigning such advantages as part of my identity. However, for people who did not have choice—in the following contexts, children of immigrants—and therefore have had to struggle to identify where to call their home, the feeling of belongingness is not so simple.

I imagine this struggle is vivid in the case of children in lower grades of elementary school. Moving to another place when they may have just began developing solid identities does not simply mean the struggle of language acquisition. There must be an entire reconstruction of personality and identity in order to gain comfort ‘standard’, in other words, to be treated just the same as everyone else in host country.

According to Amano (2013), who interviewed migrant children, the parents of the interviewee (in the beginning of this paper) had a strong will to put him in Japanese education. Likewise, many immigrants recognize Japanese schools have better education than those in Brazil. This interviewee came to Japan with his parents when he was in grade 3, and studied in Japanese school till he graduated university.

I think this expectation puts a great pressure on Brazilian children who not only need to catch up with language but also learn the ‘standard’ level of contents. This was a serious task for them because they have to fight against the stereotype which tends to be easily put on individuals as ‘lazy’, ‘not serious’ Brazilian, despite the lack of adequate language support that matches the on-going contents of other Japanese children are learning.

“Japanese public education envisions an egalitarian and communal notion of citizenship, in which students become equal members of the nation-state and part of tightly knit, cohesive social groups. To this end, teachers strive to provide students the necessary skills. However, in the space between the school’s ideals and reality, many immigrant children are left behind in the Amigos Room to idly complete worksheets and play, as the years until graduation pass them by” (Moorehead, 2013).

Is this a failure of Japanese education system not providing tailor-made support to immigrant children? Even if they are giving special support to immigrants. somehow it ends up segregating the children from the average Japanese children’s learning contents? Or is it their parents who are putting too-high expectations on the children? Or, could it be, children who are really just lazy?

As a result, children stand between their parents’ expectations and reality. Their parents expect their children to grow as ‘successful Brazilians who got educated in Japan’, whereas in reality they are failing to identify themselves in neither a fully Brazilian community nor as well-assimilated foreigners in Japan.


Amano, Masato. (2013). Study of the Actual Condition of the Foreign Student in Japan by Interview ―The Importance of The Degree of Expectation and The Identity―. インタビューを通した日本の外国人児童の実態に関する研究 ―期待度とアイデンティティの重要性について―, Departmental Bulletin Paper. Aichi:Japan.

Moorehead, Robert. (2013). Separate and Unequal: The Remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project. The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3. Retrieved July 26, 2014 at

Is multiculturalism really a “failure” in Germany?

by Michelle L.

In our class we came upon the quote of the German chancellor Angela Merkel: “multiculturalism has utterly failed”

Unfortunately we did not discuss about the backgrounds and the deeper meaning of this quote. In this post I would like to take a closer look on this topic.

Germany‘s migration image has been changing tremendously since the end of the second world war. As of 2011, 19.5% of the German population had some sort of immigration background, meaning either being born in a foreign country as a non-German citizen or born to a foreign-born parent in German with or without German citizenship. Nowadays, the largest share belongs to the Turkish community (18.5%), followed by Polish (9.2%).

After the second world war, Germany was in need of labour to rebuild the country. People were encouraged to come to Germany and work there. This applies mostly to Turkish immigrants to former West Germany and Vietnamese immigrants to the former GDR, as for being a fellow communist nation. The government did not invest in language training or did not provide any service to make it easier to adopt for the migrant workers, since they were only seen as temporary cheap labour or so-called Gastarbeiter. Gastarbeiter is a German term for immigrant workers who came to Germany between the end of the war and the 1970s. Literally meaning “guest worker”, it refers to the temporary contracts after which the immigrant workers were supposed to return. In recent times this word got quite a negative connotation.

However, many people stayed and brought their family to Germany or married a German spouse. The government was not prepared for this. Since there literally was no effort in integrating the immigrants, those people were tolerated but not integrated in society. This continued for quite some time and the government somehow missed the turning point of Germany becoming a migration country.

Whereas other cities have a “China Town”, parts of Berlin seem like a Turkish parallel world. Even though some families are staying in Germany for the 3rd or 4th generation, many of them keep close ties to their home country and mixed slangs developed.

However, I do not think that multiculturalism has failed – it is the government who failed in creating opportunities to integrate immigrants into German society. It was only in 2005 that Germany introduced compulsory German language courses to immigrants, in case that the do not have sufficient knowledge of German to work. Moreover bilingual primary education only focusses on languages like French, Spanish and English. Most immigrant children therefore attend a regular school, where teachers are not prepared for them. This creates an environment where it is difficult for them to adopt. Since some districts in Berlin have a very dense immigrant population, people are more likely to stay in there national group.

I see Germany, my home country, as a multicultural society. Growing up in Berlin, I shared my class room with people from many different backgrounds. 24% of Berlin’s residents have a migration background and events in Berlin like “Carneval of Cultures” attract thousands of peoples. This percentage is still quite small compared to cities like Frankfurt (am Main), the heart of Germany’s financial sector and the most important international airport in Germany. The city is home to 42% of residents with immigration background.

Nevertheless, many “native” Germans are hostile towards immigrants. As of 2008, a survey found out that 53% think that “Germany has too many immigrants” and 50% think that immigrants like to stay along their fellows. In recent years, attacks on refugee homes increased and the National Democratic Party of Germany (a far-right German nationalist party) still manages to get many votes by promoting to “send all foreigners home”. Even though they were not able take part in any federal government, they are still active on a local level.

Recently, realizing the problem of demographic change (aging society) and the lack of high-skilled workers marked a shift in Germany’s immigration policies. However, it seems like the government is always only approving of immigration if it is in need. I hope that this attitude will change and Germany’s growing multicultural society will be seen as a benefit of our country.

1) BBC News. “Merkel says German multicultural society has failed”. 2010.
2) Abalı, Oya. “German Public Opinion on Immigration and Integration”. 2009.
3) Statistisches Bundesamt. “Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund – Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus”. 2011.

Immigrant problems in the US, Japan, and Germany

by Noriyuki Tanaka

There are many immigrant problems in America, for example the Flores family, whom we saw in the documentary The New Americans, had hardships from being immigrants. At first, Pedro worked hard for his family to live in Mexico. He earned money in America to support his family, but their family wanted to live with their father. This is a love of family. This is only documentary video, but there are many immigrants who cannot live with their families.

For each country, receiving immigrant has big merits and demerits. The merit is that a public estimation from various countries become good, so many immigrants want to go to the countries and the level of the country, as one state rises because the country tries to deal with the problems of increasing foreign people, for example language education, labors, and taxes. On the other hand, a big demerit is that a country leans to ignore original people in the country. Like an unknown man coming in your house, increasing immigrants in own country makes original people anxiety. They may lose jobs, the security may become bad, own culture may be reigned by immigrant cultures.

I am going to think about specific countries according to immigrants. Japan isn’t positive to receive immigrants or refugees because Japanese people consider Japanese carefully. Of course, it is also important that people treat own countries importantly, but important to live with world people. I think that Germany has good measures to protect immigrants and original people. Germany had many Turkish immigrants after World War Ⅱ. The German government received immigrants positively, so now the percentage of immigrants in German is 19%. However, there are many problems because immigrants are not German, for example difficulty of employment of people who cannot speak German, incidents by immigrants, and women problems. The German government reflected these problems with education. It improves language education, and Germany doesn’t have enough laborers that have special knowledge. By raising the level of education, it tries to solve the difficulty of employment. Plus, to avoiding conflicts of national citizens, the German government made sport activity active to improve sportsmanship, which is the spirit of helping each other. I think these solutions to immigrant problems by German are good. Japan should receive immigrants and think original solutions.