DH = Dear Husband
As a Canadian, I probably have no business saying it, but I’m nervous about the prospect of President Trump. I’m anxious about the possible rise to prominence of an ethnocentric subculture in the U.S. – one that looks with suspicion upon anyone who isn’t white. Is that too simplistic? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s the media portrayal of Trump and his supporters that I’m exposed to.
I grew up in a very white-bread community, and as it diversified over time, it became richer – in the best sense. As I see it, there are many advantages to multiculturalism:
- Food: Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Lebanese, and East African dishes are delicious!
- Clothing: African wrap dresses; Indian saris; Japanese kimonos . . . They add welcome splashes of colour to our Western scene.
- Languages: It’s fun to learn basic words and greetings in different languages. Here’s one for you: “Subax wanaagsan” (pronounced subah whanaxen) is Somali for “Good morning.”
- Frugality: So many immigrants have to manage on very little. If you open your eyes, you can get a crash course on frugal living by taking in the way of newcomers. I have come to observe that if what I am doing is also done by immigrants, it’s a wise, frugal thing to do.
Here are two of the frugal habits we’ve adopted that line up with this way of seeing things:
DH and I used to grocery shop with hardly any care about price. But when the high-tech bust happened, and we were living on one income – mine – our grocery strategy changed. We started getting almost everything at a no-frills-type store – and at first I didn’t like it. It was drab. No care was put into the displays of food. Lighting was dingy. But since our primary motivation in shopping there had nothing to do with lighting or aesthetics, we went – and we saved so much money!
One thing I noticed almost as soon as I first set foot in the store was a distinct demographic mix that I hadn’t seen at other grocery venues in the neighbourhood – the ones that were artfully appointed and brighter. There was more diversity in the no-frills store than there was in the community outside its doors, and many of the customers were clearly fairly recent immigrants.
DH and I are no longer living in the financial stranglehold of his years of under-/unemployment, but we still grocery shop at that store (which has actually become more attractive over the years). In our journey out of debt, we know that the purchase of frugal food is one of the most effective means available to us to spend less – and to free up money to put against debt. We keep shopping where our community’s immigrants shop – because it’s a wise, frugal thing to do.
Two Saturdays ago, the weather was perfect, and DH and I wanted to step out. In the old days, we might have taken a walk to a nearby ice cream place – or perhaps a restaurant – but on this day, DH suggested a bike ride. There is a big public park by the water just over 11 km (7 miles) away. We’d cycle to it and toss a frisbee for a while.
It was a gorgeous bike ride, and the park was beautiful – as you can see above. (That’s a tiny DH with the frisbee. Can you even see him?) Hundreds of people were enjoying the day – walking along the water, gathered at different picnic tables, or playing at the play-structure.
With DH’s home business being as demanding as it is, we can’t often take a day together at the cottage or house-in-the-country of friends or family members, but we can steal a few hours at the public park. And it costs absolutely nothing. Again, we always notice a greater diversity among the people in that park than in the community outside of it. And again, we’ll keep going to public parks – like the immigrants of our city – because it’s a wise and frugal thing to do.
My grandparents were immigrants
My dad’s parents were both immigrants. His father left the family farm in Ireland to sail across the ocean on his own at the age of 16. He sailed back again and fought as a soldier of The Great War a few years later, and when he returned as a war veteran, he had the option of accepting a tract of land in the prairies. He encountered some fear, resentment, and prejudice in his new country – and he brought some with him from his homeland. My grandfather was an Irish Protestant, and he had nothing good to say about Catholics. He and my grandmother, a woman from England, worked hard, made each penny stretch, lived a DIY lifestyle, and raised a family through the Great Depression in their adopted homeland. I didn’t know my grandfather well. I remember being vaguely fearful of him. He seemed short-tempered and distracted. In hindsight, we’re pretty sure he suffered from PTSD. He had lived through the horrors of years of battle and life in the trenches – about which he never spoke.
Fiercely independent, yet poor; admirable, yet imperfect; building a new life, yet scarred by his past . . . In many ways, my grandfather was the quintessential immigrant.
The next U.S. President?
Whatever the outcome of the American election later this year, I hope that my neighbours to the south don’t build too many walls. “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me / I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” America has reaped a bountiful harvest from that offer and promise over the generations.
Not least among the benefits of the open “golden door” – in the U.S. and in Canada – have been the lessons that newcomers have always had to teach. As DH and I continue in our journey out of debt, we’ll keep taking cues from some of the most frugal people out there: immigrants.
Have you ever learned a frugal tip from immigrants? Do you know stories of frugality of the immigrants in your own family tree? Your comments are welcome.