Nickson Hatvngimana: Burundi

Adapting in a New Place

Burundian refugees had to adapt to United States culture quickly in order to be successful in their life; but the cultural differences present a huge challenge. For example, many Burundians prior to entering the US had been living in large camps in mud huts without indoor plumbing, and only a small percentage had any formal education. Some had never flipped a light switch, operated a stove or opened a bank account. It is not a big deal for Burundians to be late for their appointments because they value friendship more than time which is the opposite of American born people. In the beginning most Burundian missed their appointments because of this attitude; they are not used to appointments or the value of time. This becomes challenging for Burundian refugees in Spokane because everything is done by appointment here in America.

Community resources are available for low-income families in Spokane. However, Burundian refugees do not benefit from them because of confusing paper work needed to be completed before you get a service. Less formal education and limited English proficiency are the contributing factors. All things called community resources or support may be useless for Burundian refugees in Spokane, who either are not aware of the effective use of them or where to get them. Teaching Burundian refugees about American culture will benefit them. I also cannot forget to mention the struggle Burundians have regarding parenting. Their kids learn English faster and want to take control of the family because parents will need interpretation or translation from the kids. The weather, housing and grocery stores are new for most of them and care of carpets gives them a hard time because they are not used to it.

There are many challenges while adapting to a new life, some of which are due to unique issues refugees from different cultures inevitably face when resettling into a very different country. It is easy to emphasize the issues and barriers, but it is also useful to acknowledge the many successful support systems that are in place.

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