What Is A First Generation American?

Do you want to know what a first-generation American is? Find out what makes a first-generation American, where they came from and read about one first-generation immigrant’s journey to America.

✍🏻 Written by Dr. Laura Whitman from MemoryCherish

first generation american

Do you want to know what a first-generation American is? Find out what makes a first-generation American, the history of immigrants in the US, and read about one immigrant’s journey to America.

What Makes A First Generation American?

A first-generation American is someone who was born outside of the United States and moved to America in order to live there. However, in some cases, those born to at least one foreign-born parent are referred to as “first generation.”

First-generation Americans can still feel and understand what it means to be an outsider in a country that is not their own. They often have first-hand experiences of what outsiders face, such as different customs or lack of acceptance from others who may look down upon them because they are new to the area. In addition, first-generation Americans may speak more than one language, which is an asset when it comes to learning about various cultures.

What Does A First-Generation American Look Like?

First-generation Americans can come from any country and have a wide variety of backgrounds. It is more about what they bring to the table rather than where they are coming from. In other words, first-generation American’s who grew up in poverty may have been able to teach someone else how to get out of that situation through their own experiences. Most First-Generation Americans, however, come from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Are You A First-Generation American?

You would be a first-generation American if you were born outside of the United States to foreign parents. While first-generation Americans can come from anywhere, there are a few exceptions that people should know about before making assumptions. For example, Canadians and Mexicans may be first-generation American’s, but they are not immigrants because neither country is considered an immigrant nation by US immigration laws.

First Generation Vs. Second Generation American

The difference between a first-generation American and a second-generation immigrant is that first-generation Americans are born outside of the United States. In contrast, the term second-generation is used for people born in this country but whose parents emigrated from another place or country before they were born.

The Journey Of A Japanese First-Generation American

To illustrate the first-generation American’s journey, here is the real story of one Japanese immigrant to the United States.

Minato was born in 1947 in Tokyo when Japan was still recovering from war.

He first arrived in the United States when he was fourteen years old, and that is where his journey began as a first-generation American.

Minato became an American citizen at eighteen; this made him one of the first Japanese citizens to do so after Japan’s defeat by America during World War II.

Minato had dreams of becoming a famous musician, but the only way to achieve them would be through attending an American university. He was always inspired by his father, who was a famous musician in Japan.

Minato first attended a small liberal arts college, where he studied music and majored in Japanese literature; however, after two years of attending this school, his father fell ill and could no longer pay for Minato’s tuition. 

He then transferred to Arizona State University (ASU), where he graduated with an Associate Degree in music production. At age 30, Minato released his first single, “Firebird,” which reached first place on the Local Radio Charts. He passed away in 2009, but his legacy has inspired many first-generation Americans.

Closing Thoughts

With first-generation Americans making up 11% of America’s population, it is important for us to understand their culture and customs so we can show them respect when interacting with them or learn from them what other traditions are lacking in our lives. If you want to trace your family history, first-generation Americans might have some interesting first-hand accounts to share with you.

This blog post is brought to you by MemoryCherish, the first stop for restoring first-generation old photographs. We are an industry leader in photo restoration services and can restore any first-generation family photos back to their former glory so they can be passed on from generation to generation.

About The Author
Dr. Laura Whitman | MemoryCherish
Dr. Laura Whitman | MemoryCherish

Dr. Laura Whitman is the Head of Education at MemoryCherish, the #1 photo restoration company in the world.

With a PhD in Art History and a specialization in photographic preservation, she brings an unrivaled breadth of knowledge to her role.
Over her 19-year tenure in the field, Dr. Whitman has become a respected authority on topics ranging from photo restoration techniques to historical context and genealogy.

Her work has been recognized by major media outlets such as ABC, NBC, and FOX News, and she has been trusted with collaborations by Adobe. As an educator, she has developed numerous 'how-to' guides and tutorials, making photo restoration accessible to millions.

MC Icon

Restore Your Photos Now!

Done By Our
Restoration Experts

$99 $38


More Articles From MemoryCherish


7 Tips to Clean Old Photos

Did you know that you can clean your old photos with just a little bit of time on your hands? With our simple tips, your old family pictures will look as good as new. Here are some tips to help you restore those precious memories.

Read More »
faded photo 1

Faded Photos: Is My Faded Photo Forever Gone?

Do you have a family photo that’s been faded? I’m sure you have at least one. You get your hands on some old photos from your grandparents or parents and they’re all faded out, the colors are dull, and the pictures are in terrible condition.
So what can be done? Can these beautiful memories ever be restored to their former glory?

Read More »

What's the best way to cherish the past?