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Transcript - Amna Khan

(Compiled April 17-19, 2006)

Interviewee: Amna Khan
Interviewer: Mark Roberts
Interview Date: March 29, 2006
Location: Chicago, IL
Length: 20 minutes

MR: Third interview. Today the topic is you as an immigrant getting acclimated
to the American culture. The structures of the questions are the same as before, such as
we are going to talk about your feelings, and like what other people thought about you for
not being born in the U.S. This is the first question.
AK: Okay.
MR: Number one, after you arrived to the United States, were there ways in
which you felt different from others?
AK: Yeah, in some ways I felt different others because over there [India] is
different form here in cultural aspects. I used to feel some difference from them
[American people].
MR: What were the differences between people here and the people in India?
AK: Its a cultural difference. Since I have been here for a long time -- like thirty-
four years now, I have changed a lot too. I became more Americanized.
MR: Can you give me examples of how?
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 2
AK: Like you know the people over here, the kids especially, they dont have
respect for the elders. Like back home, we had a lot of respect for our parents, our elders,
and teachers and so on. If our parents said something, we never used to give back
answers to them. When the teacher entered the classroom, we used to stand up and greet
them like good morning and good afternoon whatever it is, and then when the teacher
used to tell us to sit down, then we used to sit down.
MR: So, you used to stand up, when the teacher used to enter the classroom?
AK: Yeah. We used to [interruption, the phone rings].
MR: So you were saying that you used to stand up when the teacher entered the
AK: When the teacher used to enter the classroom, we used to stand up and greet
the teacher and when the teacher told us to sit down, and then only did we sit down. We
had a lot of respect for the elders.
MR: Any other examples like food?
AK: Like food?
MR: Yeah.
AK: Food is the same.
MR: That is basically it?
AK: I mean yeah. The people who are here are the same like India. Everything is
the same. I felt that there were a lot more respect over there [India] to our elders, like our
parents. We used to not give back answers to them. There was a lot of respect between
the older and the younger people -- even nowadays. There was no eye to eye contact with
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 3
our parents. Whenever our parents used to say something, we used to say okay, even if
we did not like it, we still used to say okay [laughter]. Sometimes it was not good.
MR: So you had a lot of respect for the elders?
AK: Yes, a lot of respect for our elders.
MR: In your opinion, what do you think of the American culture? Did you
actually feel the need to acclimate into it?
AK: Yeah, it is a very good culture. The people are free and they are open hearted
and you know -- I like it.
MR: Did you feel the need to acclimate into it?
AK: Adopting it you mean?
MR: Yeah, adopting it.
AK: Yeah. Some of the good things, I like to adopt it. Like to be free and then
whatever you want, you open your heart and tell it -- what you like and what you dont
like. Just to be free and then, what else here the people are open minded and in other
countries I did not see that.
MR: What do you mean by open-minded?
AK: In this country we have all kinds of people form all over the world -- from
Japan, the Philippines, from south Europe, from India and Pakistan; people dress what
ever they want -- they dont care and they still respect you and talk to you. They are very
open-minded people. I like about it.
MR: So you can do whatever you want to do?
AK: You can do anything over here -- what ever you want.
MR: Nobody cares?
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 4
AK: No body even cares. Thats the very good thing over here. I dont see that
kind of things in other countries. When you go over there, they look at you and they dont
want to talk to you. Over here, everyone is open-minded -- I love this.
MR: So contrasted with the culture you lived in, do you think this culture is better
or worse.
AK: Compared with the culture in India?
MR: Yeah.
AK: I think that the American culture is better.
MR: Better?
AK: Yeah.
MR: In what ways it is better?
AK: In many ways because -- like over here, we respect work.
MR: Uh huh.
AK: Like what kind of work you do. Any kind of work is work. Everyone is
respected -- like our garbage man. We respect everybody. We dont care even if they are
the garbage man or you know -- anything.
MR: ( )
AK: In India, back home they dont do that. They look down at those people. This
is very bad, I dont like it. Because work is worship, they are not begging you, they are
not stealing anything, they are working hard for money, and it is their right. Everyone is
equal, we should not make these kinds of differences between people -- I dont like it.
This is a great country, and because of these kinds of reasons -- I like it.
MR: In what ways are you different today than you were back then?
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 5
AK: I am more open.
MR: Everyone is equal?
AK: Yeah. Everyone is equal and I respect all kinds of people. I am not ( ) or
MR: So youre like more open?
AK: I am more open and I dont look down upon other people or anybody. That is
what I like.
MR: Were there any dietary restrictions that made it hard for you to eat what ever
you desired? Like dietary restrictions?
AK: Like what?
MR: Dietary restrictions, like kosher and that that kinds of things.
AK: Dietary restrictions means food right?
MR: Yes, eating.
AK: Eating yeah it was sort of hard since me as a Muslims have to eat halal
foods; but we get halal food over here.
MR: Uh huh.
AK: Now there are so many stores here, I can eat kosher foods too.
MR: You can?
AK: Yeah, I can eat kosher foods. It is easy -- it is not that bad.
MR: Not that bad?
AK: No, because they have so many stores right now that you can but -- like in
Devon Avenue there are so many stores and everything, eating is not a priority. Even if
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 6
you want to eat out you can try other restaurants. Yesterday we went to Fridays
Restaurant, I ate fish. I ate fish and chips over there. Its not that bad.
MR: Not that bad?
AK: No.
MR: So what qualities do you have that makes you an American?
AK: I am proud to be an American.
MR: Like good citizenship skills?
AK: Pardon me?
MR: Good citizenship skills. That is like keeping America clean, helping the
others and also smaller things like paying the taxes and caring for this country.
AK: Yeah, this is a very good country and it has very good people.
MR: Uh huh.
AK: Lot of opportunities, and I do not want to go anywhere else. I spend more
than half of my life over here -- spend thirty-four years [interruptions].
MR: That is like seventy percent.
AK: Yeah no I spend eighteen years in India -- that is it. I was eighteen when I
came here and now I am fifty-two. I spend thirty-four years over here. I love being here
and this is my country and even my kids -- like my oldest son is like thirty-three years old
and he has his own kids. They all think that this is their country because they are born
and raised here and they dont want to go back to India.
MR: Okay.
AK: They think that this is their country. Since I am here for a long time, there is
no one in India. That country is a foreign country for me.
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 7
MR: There are more relatives here now.
AK: No relatives, no family, everybody in here, my kids are here, the kids kids
are here, my brothers and everybody is here -- this is my country now. We go and visit
sometimes, but I cannot think of living over there. I am used to being here.
MR: Uh, huh.
AK: Thats why.
MR: Did any American person say anything to you that you might perceive as
being discriminating?
AK: No, no everybody I know [interruption].
MR: Was welcoming?
AK: Was welcoming, you know because I have a day care here.
MR: Uh, huh.
AK: I meet all kinds of people -- all American people, they love me a lot and I
love them a lot too.
MR: So, they are not discriminating?
AK: No, no they love me so much and the kids love me so much that they call me
MR: [laughter].
AK: So I consider them as my own kids. So theres no difference between us --
MR: So what would you say was your biggest challenge while settling here?
AK: The biggest challenge for me -- because you know I came from a different
country, everything was different for me when I came here.
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 8
MR: Uh huh.
AK: And then slowly, slowly I got used to this countrys everything; it was not a
challenge for me.
MR: How was buying the house and everything like that?
AK: I dont know -- yeah we worked hard -- me and my husband.
MR: Hard work?
AK: Very hard work! It was very hard to make some money, but we got it after
some time.
MR: So it was not that challenging?
AK: It was not that challenging, but still you need a lot of work -- lot of hard
work and you have to same money. You should not spend all your money. If you do that
you will have nothing, so we work hard, I work hard, my husband worked hard and we
took care of our kids and saved some money, and then bought our house.
MR: So it was not bad?
AK: It was not bad. It took a lot of hard work though.
MR: Thats good.
AK: Yeah.
MR: So, how secure do you think that you are financially, since this society
literally revolves around money?
AK: Financially?
MR: Yes -- like are you okay?
AK: I am okay.
MR: The social security system.
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 9
AK: Yeah it is very good. I am secure with the social security -- I pay my taxes.
[Laughter]. I do not get any social security or rents or nothing.
MR: But you will when you reach the certain age.
AK: Yes, but I till then, I have to work very hard.
MR: So when you retire, how sound do you think you are financially -- the social
security system?
AK: The social security system -- thank god.
MR: How long did it take you to find a good job, or are you happy with your
current job?
AK: Because when I was working in St. Francis Hospital, I was doing well
because I worked in the night and it was nice for me. I made some money because I did a
lot of overtime there too. I used to sometimes work twelve hours -- five or six days a
MR: All night shifts?
AK: All nights shifts. Then my husband got sick because he had diabetes and
also an open heart surgery so he needs help at home -- so I had to quit my job, because he
needed help at home. Then I said why shouldnt I go back to my daycare business and
then I applied for the license and then I started a daycare and slowly, slowly ( ).
MR: It did take a long time?
AK: Yeah. Took me like two or three years to settle down.
MR: That is really not a lot of time.
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 10
AK: Yeah, then it became successful; since I am doing this for like ten years, a lot
people like know me. I also have my telephone number in the action of children
MR: Yeah.
AK: They have my number, so if anybody needs help for the kids, they call me
and they come here. So it is okay now -- not bad -- but it took two, three or even four
years to settle down to get good kids and everything.
MR: Do you consider yourself being pretty happy?
AK: Yeah, I am happy.
MR: Even with all the working and everything?
AK: I love to work and I love to take care of kids. I am happy. All my kids have
now grown up -- I am also a grandma to three grand children [laughter].
MR: So what were your worse experiences getting acclimated into the American
culture -- as in adapting it?
AK: Not -- not any worse experiences.
MR: You did not have any?
AK: No, I did not have nay worse experiences -- thank god. Everybody was nice
to me and my situation was nice too. Definitely nothing bad happened to me.
MR: So what are you most favorite experiences?
AK: Favorite experience is -- what should say? [Interruption].
MR: Well, how people were nice to you as you already said before.
AK: Yes I love all the parents with their kids because they love me and when
nine eleven happened -- remember that time?
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 11
MR: Sorry, what happened?
AK: Nine eleven -- September eleven!
MR: Oh, yes, yes.
AK: At that time, the people were so ( ). The kids moms and dads were so used
to care about me that used to tell me: you know you dont go out to buy the grocery or
anything -- this we will get for you.
MR: [Laughter]. They were so nice.
AK: Yes, they also said that we dont want anything to happen to you. They used
to care about me so much! Even now, if I need something because I cant go out --
because I have kids -- they say whatever you need, what ever you want just tell us, we
will go and get it for you.
MR: Really?
AK: They are very helpful and they used to take good care about me because they
love me so much. I love all those things.
MR: Do you think that you are done adopting the American culture, or have still a
lot way to go, or a little to go?
AK: I dont want to adopt the kids!
MR: No, no, no! Like the culture.
AK: Yeah, I adopted a lot of the culture. I like this culture a lot.
MR: What are the reasons and are you fully done with it?
AK: Yeah. I am done -- I love all the good things. I like it.
MR: You still respect the elders?
Amna Khan transcript, March 29, 2006 12
AK: Yeah. That is something that I cant change. I taught my kids the same thing
though. When they were born here, I said no, because whatever good things, we should
adopt it. Whatever bad things not do that.
MR: Yeah, that is good.
AK: So I taught my kids the same things. Their teachers, even though they are in
colleges like my kids so much because they respect them. That is what I want them to do,
because we should have respect for others and especially the elders because we cannot
disrespect them -- it is bad!
MR: So you just take the good things?
AK: Yeah, I take all the good things. Whatever is good -- in whatever country I
like it, I adapt it.
MR: So do you think that there is something that I missed which you would want
to add?
AK: No, there is nothing else.
MR: Okay then, thank you very much!
AK: That is fine.
MR: Again, thank you very much for your time.
AK: Its okay.