Look around the USA and you’ll see Asians are among the fastest growing immigrants to the USA. And while the average American citizen might see Chinese nationals out and about doing business, how many Americans can say they’ve made friends with any of them, and no, we’re not talking about neo-American “cowboys” who went out for a stint to China, or on an online chat room safari for a Chinese wife–totally different story there. There’s definitely a “them” and “us” feeling that arises from this observation that begs the question that asks why  Chinese stick together?

Most people–besides the few of us who enjoy the exotic and extreme cultural adventures–like to be around the company of others who are like minded, etc.. Look at your own friends? Do they differ radically from you in the way you think, do things, etc.? On top of a strong bedrock of cultural familiarity (same language, customs, general societal beliefs on child rearing/education/work, norms, etc.), you can explore special interests together, which are often extensions of cultural norms. So, the question about why Chinese stick together, can easily be flipped: why do foreigners stick together?

But, for the sake of keeping this article moving, let’s look at two examples. First, go to China, and you’ll see that China is not nearly as accommodating to minorities (though there are over 50 different ethnic groups there), and many wonder how America could ever accept a president from the minority! (Read this post from Seeing Red in China for more on that). But then you’ll notice the expats. Are they fully integrated into Chinese society? And, it must be said that many try very very hard to make friends, learn Mandarin, everything. And still they are rejected, and often give up. China is too different they surmise. The “Chinese stick together”!

Well, what do you think happens in the USA? We know Chinese who have equally spent countless years working on their English, and trying to make friends, even when they are extremely uncomfortable with the vast cultural divide between Chinese and Western cultural norms. The end result: Chinese stick together. In larger cities, they live in China town, though many second, third, generations do move away (and the stats. show more Chinese are feeling better about moving out of China town enclaves)…but where are they moving? Urban flight takes root in sub-urban neighborhoods where, again, the Chinese stick together! They carefully shop neighborhoods with the best schools where it is no accident that Chinese children of those parents attend the same schools.

One Chinese businessman discussing the Chinese community in Atlanta explains that there’s no need or motivation to mingle with foreigners when all it takes is a good bilingual lawyer and accountant to do successful business in the USA. Sure, it’s giving up, but then it perpetuates the idea that the Chinese stick together.

The Chinese sticking together is more a matter of practicality than despising the American culture (in many ways the Chinese emulate/parallel America’s capitalistic ambitions), but to a suffering majority of Americans living in a tough economy, it’s a tough truth to swallow, that the Chinese living in the USA don’t want to mingle–especially when the Chinese as a singled out group begin to not only defeat America in State economic viability, but also in average salary earnings on the home turf.

What’s worse is that Americans have an infatuation with cultural match making that simply doesn’t accept the fact that some people might prefer to stick together. But, one thing is clear: the longer Chinese stay in the country, the more they are likely to slowly integrate into the system, just as expats who settle down long-term do anywhere else. Though for the Chinese to integrate, it is a long process, especially when cultures like the Chinese carry a strong history and unflagging element of preservation with them wherever in the world they go.

Ultimately, this idea that the Chinese stick together (who else can they understand and trust?), is but a snapshot over the course of several generations of an immigration journey.

What are your thoughts on the subject?