‘This is what it’s like to be a first-generation kid’

I was born in the UK to Iranian parents


I was born and bred in England to Iranian parents, and so I know all too well the daily struggles of suffering an identity crisis. Whilst our immersion within a bilingual environment has provided us with unique perspectives on life and culture, our household was, although loving, far from democratic.

Nevertheless, our parents’ migration from one country to another has undoubtedly shaped us to the people we are now, and it is for these very reasons that us first-gen kids wouldn’t have it any other way.

Your family is fucking massive

The moment your mum hands you the phone and forces you to say hi to your relatives overseas is always problematic. Having family scattered across the globe means that you don’t see them often, so contact is relegated to monthly phone calls – which can be pretty awkward when you’re put on the phone to relatives that you didn’t even know existed. It’s even worse when their English isn’t great, so it’s basically like, “Hello, how are you? I’m fine, I miss you, when are you coming to visit us? I love you, I love you, LOVE YOU SO MUCH I’D DIE FOR YOU.” 

Honestly, us first-gen kids have so many relatives that we’ll periodically meet a totally new family member. They don’t even have to be blood-related: your dad’s classmates from school are referred to as your “uncle” anyway.

We were different to other kids

Foreign families basically have their own healthcare system. Sure, my parents have always taken me to the doctor if needed, but why take Nurofen for your stomach cramp when rice and yoghurt will cure it right now? And when you cry in despair that it’s not working, clutching your body in pain, sapped of energy, you’ll get screamed at for disobeying their judgement.

Your friends could never understand your home life either. Having to explain why you have evil eyes scattered across the house, and answer questions to which you have no real answer (“why do you have a watering can in your bathroom?”), is the norm. I guess you could say that our interior design is…unique.
Your parents' attempt to style their children went something like this

Your parents’ attempt to style their children went something like this

Your parents are fiercely patriotic and weirdly suspicious of everyone else

No word of a lie, your parents think everyone comes from their country.

“Ah yes, Rehaneh.”

“Rihanna isn’t Iranian, mum.”

Sleepovers were often met with hesitation. Growing up in a predominantly white suburb, we were often forced to refuse our friend’s sleepovers for no valid reason whatsoever. Honestly, it’s just one of those western things that foreign parents will never understand. You always had to tell your friends you couldn’t go and never knew the reason behind it. Probably because our rents thought our friends’ parents were axe murderers.

No one could ever pronounce your name

Growing up, I was, and still am, often forced to explain myself by saying things like, “my name is basically door with an N”. Registers in school are unpleasant memories: your friends would crack up as a struggling teacher attempted to pronounce a name that hardly resembles your own. Still, at least our rare names make us unforgettable and unique xoxo

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People ask you A LOT of questions

“Do you even celebrate Christmas though?”

“Where are you FROM from?”

“OMG SAY SOMETHING IN YOUR LANGUAGE”

We have it so. Much. Harder.

It is impossible to talk back to your parents. Break a rule? Prepare for a broken leg, bitch. As a result, you were awed by friends who could easily tell their parents to shut up or go away, seemingly without fear of repercussions. THE SASS. What would happen to us if we did the same? You don’t want to know. Your parents barely praised you for getting straight As in school, because – after all – “A is not A plus”.

Obviously, we’re expected to pursue something establishment and lucrative, like becoming a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer. Oh, a photography degree? What a cute joke.

Visiting the motherland x

Constantly having a sort of identity crisis

Now this one may sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. You always felt like – and still do – the “British one”, the “westerner”, whenever you visited family in your parents’ home country. Doesn’t matter how well you speak the language or know the cultural customs, being born in England meant that you were viewed on some sort of next level.

But in England, people don’t see you as British. It doesn’t matter how many times you patiently explain to people that yes, you were born here; people still ask, “okay, but like where are you from?”. It has you shifting between two identities – one, your independent self, the other a “daughter”. First generation kids cannot avoid the stereotypes: you’re forever encountering people who think they know where you are from, and then attempt to speak to you in that language. Before getting to know you, most will assume you’re religious when you’re not, or that English is your second language when it isn’t, and it’s all because you look “different” to them. The struggle is so real.