Jack and Jennifer, Chinese immigrants who arrived in the Pasadena area five years ago, initially grappled with limited English proficiency.
In their daily lives they encountered significant challenges adapting to a new culture.
But their new neighborhood offered multiple opportunities for communication in their native Mandarin and provided a comfortable environment for them to settle into as their English language skills gradually improved.
Pasadena, renowned for its diversity and opportunities, is viewed by many as an ideal destination for Asian immigrant families seeking to maintain their roots while embracing the prospect of a new homeland.
Among these newcomers are Chinese parents like Jack and Jennifer who face the challenge of maintaining balance between preserving their cultural heritage and acclimating to American life.
Fresh off the Plane
“When we first came to America, we didn’t really know what to expect,” Jack shared. “In China we all think of America as one of the top countries in the world; we had this image in our minds that everything would be luxurious, shiny, and prosperous. When we stepped off the plane into Los Angeles we realized it wasn’t the perfect city we had imagined,” he explained.
“However after trying to navigate with very limited English we realized that although the whole city wasn’t all shiny and luxurious, the people were so friendly and patient,” recalled Jennifer. “And we were happy to find many shops, parks, and companies that had mainly Mandarin speaking staff!”
Preserving Culture Through Community
Jennifer’s involvement in a local Chinese dance group, which participates in various community events including the Lunar Festival, enabled her to stay connected to her culture and provided a platform for sharing and teaching Chinese traditions through dance.
“I was so happy when I found this dance group. I felt like I could be connected with my culture even in a new country,” Jennifer said. “And it felt good knowing we could perform at the Lunar Festival in front of not only Chinese people but people of all different backgrounds. We can share and teach about our culture through dance; I feel as though I can contribute to this community that has helped me in so many ways.”
The Next Generation
The Pasadena area offers a wide variety of cultural centers, educational institutions and language programs that benefit the children of immigrant parents, facilitating their learning beyond the confines of their homes.
The Pasadena Unified School District boasts the World Language Department, which includes five different levels and courses for Chinese speakers and learners. These courses not only focus on oral and written learning, but business and cinema as well, allowing students to engage beyond a textbook.
“We believe that this city can provide so much for future generations,” Jack noted. “I think the schools here are really good. They offer Mandarin language classes, so while children are learning vocally at home they can be proficient in writing as well.”
“Since more and more Chinese people are immigrating here, that means more connections and community for future children. We feel very lucky to be where we can really get in touch with our culture, and we know there is a bright future for our grandchildren one day,” said Jennifer.
The greater Pasadena area bridges the gap between preserving their heritage and embracing the potential of a new homeland.
One well-known organization in South Pasadena is the South Pasadena Chinese-American Club (SPCAC), which provides scholarships to schools, holds cultural events and involves the community in many different ways. Clubs like SPCAC reach the youth of many Chinese immigrant and Chinese-American children.
Community-driven clubs spread awareness to youth while providing comfort to immigrant parents, who can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their children have support and education about their heritage.
For Chinese immigrant families like Jack and Jennifer’s, the greater Pasadena area bridges the gap between preserving their heritage and embracing the potential of a new homeland.
With its many Asian communities, language inclusivity and diverse cultural events, Pasadena continues to be a place where immigrant families have the opportunity to preserve their roots while reaching for a brighter future for themselves and their children.