Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Educated Immigrants

There is a very big difference between working class immigrants and immigrants who arrived with a College Education in the United States. I happen to know many immigrants who had a middle to upper middle class upbringing in their country of origin and who decided to move to the United States because of better opportunities, higher salaries or less crime. Some of them came with their parents who were diplomats, military personnel or post-graduate students.

The interesting thing is that these people have a harder time living in the USA than those who were really struggling in their countries. The reasons are listed below, and it does not apply to everybody as usual. Just some food for thought:

1) The USA is a “do it yourself” country. Many immigrants with privileged backgrounds were raised with maids who did everything from making their beds to pressing their clothes. They have difficulty with sometimes simple tasks as putting together an IKEA piece of furniture (ok, it’s not that easy…).

2) These foreigners still have the class system frame of mind. They still see themselves as “superior” to the working class folks. Therefore, when they are treated the same as everybody else, they resent it. They are used to being “respected” and getting their way.

3) At work, they feel they are “above” certain menial tasks and expect others to do the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively.

4) They don’t really belong to any groups. They are shunned by the working class immigrants from their countries who see them as too “snobby and classy”, they are shunned by white Americans who see them as too foreign (even if they happen to be Caucasian) and they are shunned by other ethnic communities that are more closed off. They end up having a few European friends or other few upper class immigrants from their own countries.

5) They have a more hedonistic nature that does not bode well in former Puritan America. Working hard is not something they are very used to, and they miss the long vacations and perks they used to know in their countries. They don’t understand why Americans only seem to work. Their favorite theme when with their friends is bashing America and Americans.

However, they don’t go back. And if they do, they come back once more. Why? Because deep down they know their country’s big class gap also means that there is more poverty. And they can’t stand seeing poverty and economic injustice anymore. When they go back to visit, they are appalled by inefficiency, lack of urban planning, dirty streets. Furthermore, they might have lost the connections they had when living in their country, and they fear not being able to have the same quality of life as in the USA. One of the ways for immigrants who came from a privileged background to feel good in America may be to either stay within their own cultural and class group or to become as Americanized as possible, shunning their accents & customs.


April 11, 2011 - Posted by | Difference between cultures, Lifestyle


  1. If only we Brazilians had the same work ethic that Americans do, may be there would be less poverty here. We inherited the worse of Portuguese Colonialism, the idea that work is not dignifying.

    Comment by Fernanda | May 1, 2011 | Reply

  2. i had to laugh a little about this because it’s apparent this isn’t unique to “expat” brazilians in the USA. i’ve lived in asia (in various countries) and, with small variations here an there, i can envision asians having the same gripes about how life is here relative to there.

    Comment by Frank | May 15, 2011 | Reply

  3. Love this blog.thanks

    Comment by bella | May 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Thank you Bella, that makes me want to be less lazy & write more 🙂

      Comment by Brasilmagic | May 17, 2011 | Reply

  4. I do not think Americans are necessarily exceptionally industrious. Compared to most east Asian people, Americans do not work that hard. For example, the average workweek in South Korea is 55 hours, whereas in the US it is only 42.

    Comment by Lena | May 31, 2011 | Reply

  5. well said

    Comment by bamabrasileira | February 21, 2012 | Reply

  6. I remember the first time i realized that construction workers drove to work in the first world. It´s not that i thought myself superior, but never ocurred to me the gap until i saw it. Also, because public schools in USA are better, people of white collar and blue collar backgrounds have more contact while raising up and have more clues that should be no diferences. Now i think that the social class gap is a lot more troublesome than racism, a middle-class white brazilian has a lot more closeness to middle-class afro-brazilian than a working class white brazilian.

    Comment by Hebert Magno | December 22, 2012 | Reply

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