We were lucky enough to visit two villages in Thailand: a Hmong village in Chiang Mai and a Karen village in Chiang Rai. Looking back on these two separate occasions, I really admire the preservation of their cultures while being away from home. In both cases, the villagers lived in the mountains and were surrounded by people of the same culture. Seeing these villages made me understand the struggles of what it could be for a culture to immigrate and start acclimating into another culture.
The Hmong culture originated from China and they are now having to adjust their life in thailand while keeping their traditions alive. It was interesting to hear how in both villages, the villagers are worried about the younger generations. It’s typical for the younger students to go the university in the city in order to get an education that can help them earn money in a job. It was really cool hearing the perspective from the elders because they are scared the younger generations won’t come back to the village and therefore lose their primary culture/tradition. Yet, I was interpreting that the reason the children leave is to help support their families back in the village. I took this as contradictory viewpoints. It seems like there is a lot of pressure on these kids to acclimate to Thai culture while still staying true to their home culture. I really clicked with visiting these villages because I was comparing my grandmother’s experience when she immigrated and how it was for my mom to balance these two cultures. My grandmother spoke only in Greek to her and expected her to work with my grandpa at his restaurant, yet my mom wanted to venture out and explore other things like sports, for example.
While these scenarios aren’t the same, the balancing if cultures really stuck out to me. Seeing two of my Hmong classmates interact with their native culture in Thailand., made me really appreciate those who integrate two cultures. I think it’s so important to stay true to who you are, but it’s also so impressive to see how these people manage these expectations from both sides.
I think this resonates with current immigrants in the US. Immigrants who come to the US are already expected to know some English and completely acclimate to the western culture but also want to keep their native culture alive while being in the States. It really is such a difficult thing to accomplish: the balance. Seeing these villages made me appreciate how much they hold onto their native culture because there is a huge push to westernize or to conform to the country’s culture. I loved seeing their traditions and daily life rituals that makes their native Hmong or Karen cultures so powerful!