Sample Essay on Ethnographic Interview- Immigrant Experiences

An ethnographic interview is a kind of qualitative research that combines a one-to-one interview and observation that can be made over a period of time (Mai 1). The report presents an ethnographic interview conducted between the ethnographer and a first generation African immigrant in the United States. It is aimed at highlighting their personal experiences while adapting to the culture, values, beliefs of the host country. The interview conducted lasted one hour and contained ten open-ended questions. The interviewee was abitunsettled at the beginning of the interview. However, to make them comfortable, the interview was conducted at the nearby hamburger restaurant to give a sense of less formality.

The participant’s name is Stephen Mulozi Oletutus- apseudonym to protect his identity as requested. He was born in South Africa in the land of the Zulu- a great South African ethnic tribe known for their prowess in war during the colonial era. He was born on September, 21st of 1988, two years prior to South Africa’s independence as stated. Stephen is currently a supermarket manager, a position he has held for the last three years. He has worked at the supermarket for a total of five years and started out as a cashier. The individual has a profound educational background with an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Capetown and currently pursuing a master’s degree in Finance. At home, he has two brothers and a sister, a retired  South African army major as a father and a wife who is a teacher at a local high school in Capetown. He reveals that growing up in South Africa was a hard endeavor, especially during the government transitions. The father being in the military meant they were always on the move from barrack to barrack and has had no long-term friends back in South Africa.

The participant quotes that living in South Africa is generally hard. The salary of their father could only afford them a basic living although they were not poor as compared to other families in the country. However, it was sad seeing the deplorable conditions other South Africans lived in, and the high rates of crime and immorality perpetrated by the general poverty that affected its citizens.South Africa, he says, is a corrupt country and many the youth there are unemployed and turn to crime to earn their bread. He quotes Soweto as a large slum dwelling where he wouldn’t wish his worst of enemies to live. The acclamation suggests harsh economic conditions in the developing country in Africa.

Stephen denoted that he migrated to seek greener pastures and further his education. He admitted to wanting to relocate his whole family to the country as part of his future plans. He came to America through his savings and a little assistance from his father. The decision to migrate was his idea with the support of his wife who is also anxious to come to the country. However, he confesses it has not been easy to try to bring her to the country due to a large amount of bureaucracy and a personal decision to establish himself before he invites anyone of his family members to the States due to his first experiences.Stephen first arrived in the state of Texas where his cousin lives with his family. At the onset, it was tough financially as his savings were not sufficient for the whole six months he remained without a job adding to the fact that the cousin who had received him had a large family to cater for with his meagre salary. The job agencies assisted him in finding a job at the supermarket and is currently the manager. He acclaims the fact that the working conditions at his place of work are good since he is the one in control. However, he deals with a lot of pressure from the employees who he fearsto disrespect him and make fun of his South African Zulu accent. He affirms that his family is well settled in South Africa, and when he can, he remits some of his savings and salary to them. He boasts of having built a house for his father in his home country where his nuclear family now currently lives. Stephen is of the opinion that  the standards of living in the United States are high especially the price paid for accommodation. He lives in a small studio apartment.

He denotes that he only has one friend who is Nigerian in descent, from his masters class. However, he does not often see him due to their conflicting schedules. He admits to having no white friends and only has associates and the customers he interacts with on a daily basis. He does not deem these individuals (regular customers and employees) as actual friends. He recollects experiencing a queer situation in which he would term an ethnical confrontation with his landlord ( African-American). He was late in paying his rent,and as was the norm, the landlord would slide a note through the door. It was an act to remind him of his arrears.However, on this particular day, he found the owner on the porch waiting for him. In the midst of the conversation about payments, in a rude manner, the ownerdeclared that he should actually return to where he came from and  OHoweHosuggested that the native Africans were responsible for their suffering in the United States. Stephen highlights that he has never gotten along with any of the African-Americans, and remarked they were harsher than the whites. He stated that it was easier interacting with the whites than the African American as they are bitter people and very obscene. Stephen denotes regardless of the dominating culture of the United States; he still tries to preserve some of his beliefs and cultures.

One of his objectives is finding another wife from the United States, which to him suggests pride. He indicates the fact that children and folks in the United States lack respect for authority and order. He quotes this as one of the reasons he does not quite get along with his employees completely. He asserts that authority is beneficial as it brings order in a society and remains critical to preserving a hierarchy. He gives an example of thedisrespect shown by teenagers to the elderly in the community and the contempt the small children have for their parents. The diverse nature of the United States has enabled himto respect the opinions and identities of individuals. He admits it was first, a culture shock to him to see people with different sexual orientations walk into his supermarket. He did not discern how to respond because it is an issue that is frowned upon and elicits a lot of disgust and stigma in Africa.However, with time, he came to realize the fact that America is a democratic country that was built by individuals from a multiplicity of backgrounds. He ideally stopped victimizing the mentioned persons and appreciated them fully. However, Stephen denotes that he will never see himself as American, and Africa will still remain at heart. He utilizes the quote, “ East or West, Home is best.” Stephen has accepted the situation of things in the country and indicated that he would want his children to come and settle in the country. However, important to him was that they learn their African culture first.

Stephen being an African and in addition, an immigrant does not value himself much in the American society. He believes in God will provide and lives under the mercies of the actual citizens of the country- whites. He denotes that if one day the authorities would wake up or make a decision to have him go back to his country of origin, he would not have a choice. He views the African-American as more “ American” than him since he has been in the country for long and have continually suffered to make the country a better place  to live in. He feels that America is a good country with a rich democratic history as compared to his country of origin. He denotes that his country is characterized by corruption and dictatorships that disregards the basic needs of the common citizen. The leaders in his country are driven by greed and power. Therefore, not a safe place to raise once children properly. There is limitedfreedom, and hence, they cannot find their way easily. He reiterates that American children are exposed to a myriad of activities before they become of age. He compares this to the myopic nature of African parents who view education as the only key to success. He quoted, “ in another life I would have wanted to become a professional boxer.” He indicates the lack of freedom for the children in the African nation- South Africa- impedes their cognitive growth and promotescollectivism (mob thinking ) and hence, the rise of criminal gangs.

He denotes that before coming to America, he believed it was the Mecca of financial freedom and civil liberties as portrayed through the media. He also suggests that his coming to the country was the dream that  he would actually have peace of mind in terms of protection and provision of the basic amenities. However, the realities on the ground changed his perception completely. He asserts that this is the land of the hard-working and competitive man. In the country, sleep is your enemy. He quotes it is hard for both the men and the women. He highlights that it is only in this country that he has seen people splitting cheques in a date and the woman taking half the responsibility. He indicates that women in Africa, view the man as the provider, and when you cannot pay fully for a meal, you do not deserve to be called or termed a man. The police are brutal when it comes to handling immigrants as compared to the United States citizens. The independent culture of every individual creates the notion of asking for help or assistance is ‘illegal.’ No one requests for help in the country unless it was a matter of life and death. The pressure to succeed in the country is high, with every individual African or not chasing after the American dream.

Therefore, the United States is very competitive with every person wanting to outperform the other in every circle. The employers take advantage of the immigrants due to their immigration status. However, Stephen denotes he was lucky since it only took two years for him to acquire full American citizenship as compared to his cousin who stayed for more than five years. The situation made him work odd jobs and work for extended hours to cater for his family. Stephen denotes that his feelings have progressively transformed. However, he connotes that the situation is way better than in his home country South Africa. Stephen believes that the most meaningful event of his life is when his American social security number and his driving license was acquired. Stephen felt that he now fully belonged. He denotes that he would want the African demography not only in his home country to develop a work ethic as he has seen in America. He recommends that children in Africa should beassisted and not coerced into the paths their parents have planned out for them since they were born.

The participant dreams of a future where his children will have a home both in America and South Africa. He also believes that he will able to adapt fully to the American culture and also learn their accent. America respects religion, sexual orientation, opinions and this is the perfect recipe for a democracy and a haven to rear children. However, he highlights that some of the African cultures such as respect and its patriarchalnature can foster respect among the young American generation that is taking a direction towards a reckless and irresponsible life.


Works Cited

Mai, Jacqueline. Ethnographic Interviews- Interviewing and Observing Users. 20 October 2009. 2