Do All Immigrants Love the Suburbs?

What is it with people trying to generalize and ascribe their own (quite freaky, I might add) experiences to others. Look at this individual who thinks he can speak in the name of all European immigrants:

“The suburban dream house is the idealization of every immigrant’s Dream — the vassal’s dream of his own castle,” wrote Italian-born immigrant Edgardo Contini. “Europeans who come here are delighted by our suburbs. Not to live in an apartment! It is a universal aspiration to own your own home.”

I’m a European who came here and I’m horrified with the suburbs. It’s all just empty streets, huge garages with tiny houses attached to them, and sprinklers watering the asphalt where nobody ever walks. The only entertainment is going to the mall and to the movie theater that only shows crappy comedies and weird cartoons. You can’t get anywhere without a car, everybody is dressed horribly, the food is really unhealthy. For people who want to raise children, suburban America is a nightmare.

Oh, what wouldn’t this immigrant give to live in an apartment in one of the great American cities! Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, maybe Seattle. That’s where life is. Culture, civilization, opera, people who read, travel, and debate. Hell, maybe even good coffee if one is very lucky.

I have no doubt that this Contini individual indeed dreams of being stuck in a suburb and good for him. However, there are many Europeans who find the suburban lifestyle to be intolerable.

8 thoughts on “Do All Immigrants Love the Suburbs?”

  1. When I first moved to the US, I felt I would never be able to live anywhere but in a big city and owning a house was very alien to me. Of course I could only live in an apartment in a cosmopolitan city, as I did before I emigrated, anything else was out of the question!

    But then little by little I got “broken in”. I am not sure what happened, but suburbs started to make sense, and owning your own piece of land and trees and a house and a manicured lawn started to make sense … The big cities stopped looking like vibrant sources of culture and life and instead started to mostly look dirty and noisy and crowded. Maybe I am just unusually susceptible to propaganda. But I live in a nice, clean, medium-size city and the suburb is a 15 min drive from the downtown (did I mention I LOOOOOOOVE driving? I never drove back in Europe). I love my neighborhood (where you can walk, and people do) and the fact it’s really safe and that the public schools are decent. Maybe it’s the fact that I have kids now, but having a big house and yard and trees that make a shade where we can chill in the summer feels really good. Now, when I travel back to Europe, I feel really cramped and miss all the space…


  2. hmmm the only thing I can think of is that if you are a poor immigrant then you may live in a location you don’t like out of economic necessity and then see the ‘burbs as paradise. I think that my in laws saw it that way. They got out of that “first stop” urban neighborhood in one of the best cities in the U.S. as quickly as they could for what I consider a yucky ‘burb.


  3. Mr. Contini probably isn’t Jewish. After seventeen years in America, my grandparents were very wealthy, and could have easily afforded one of those big huge suburban houses, but they chose to stay in the city they’d settled into after leaving Poland. Why?
    Because living in a city gave them the comfort and security of having other Jews to interact with, rather than being the only Jews in the suburbs and facing anti-semitism and attempts to have them removed from the neighborhood.
    I feel the same way as my grandparents, but also, the restaurants tend to be very bland and generic in the ‘burbs. I’m too much of a foodie to ever live there.


  4. I’m European, and just the thought of living in the suburbs horrified me when I came to the US. It still does, empty streets, no stores or cafes around, not knowing your neighbors… a nightmare, a horror movie! However, not everything that is considered suburb is like that. I live in the suburbs outside St. Louis in a place that have people, cafes, restaurants, even record stores that are so hard to find lately. In fact, it is the closest you can find to a really urban space around here, but I guess it is an exception!


  5. In 1998 we hosted an exchange student from northern Italy, I sent her some photos of our our home and our rural neighborhood. The only thing she could see, other than our house was apple orchards and hayfields. She was terrified. No people! No townhouses! No cars! She was afraid that she would be robbed and raped due to the low density population. She agreed to come after I sent her the FBI statistics on the nearby town which showed it was in the bottom 1% of serious crimes in the nation and the last serious crime, a burglary, had been committed 10 years prior. We are not exactly the suburbs, much to dense for me, but she was horrified by the lack of people, cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, stores, etc. The day after she arrived she called her mother and had her send her a “rocket” coffee maker and some Lavazza. She ended up loving our area, and several of the boys as well.


    1. I also tell people who live around here that I love the area. 🙂 In all honesty, I think it would be easier for me to understand aliens from another planet than people who actually choose to live this way. In all probability, people just don’t have a choice and they accept whatever exists and try to be positive about it. Just like me. 🙂


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