Fleeing for Freedom: Get Prepared and Get Serious
Part Three of a four-part series
Citizen Member Editorial Board
All of our foreign-born citizen neighbors interviewed for this series said coming to America is a serious endeavor and you need to be prepared. Two, for example are Ekkehard Grampp, born in Germany, and Luis Bernal, born in Colombia.
Ekkehard Grampp, born in formerly East Germany, is very direct about it. Grampp, honored last year by Collier’s
Elections Supervisor Jennifer Edwards as among the ‘Gatekeepers for the Democracy’ for his outstanding volunteer work as an elections precinct clerk manager for the past four elections during the last 10 years, retired here after running working for a German subsidiary in the USA New York and Boston for 20+ years. “I was searching for a warm place for retirement,” Grampp said, “after years of long and cold winters in the NYC/New England region. I came to Naples at a mature age and love it.”
“But, you must be prepared for living in the USA. I found it much different than Europe/Germany,” Grampp says. “Money plays a bigger role and drives almost everything here,” he says. “The population mix, the size of the country, distances, one currency, brutal competition, overall lots of friendliness, different cultures immigrants from all over the world, made my adjustment initially challenging.”
“I was taken aback by the dynamic contrasts,” Grampp says. “America is a nation where simultaneously there is top education… more Nobel Prize winners in the USA than in all other countries combined!…at the same time, at the bottom of our society, there also exists virtually no education at all. America’s general quality of life is high yet there also is social inequality all over the place,” he says.
“Even workplace customs are dramatically different. For example, all employed Germans have 6 weeks’ paid vacation and have had health insurance for everybody actually since 1883!” “As an executive of a German company employing Americans, I was at first perplexed,” Grampp says.
“But, at the same time, the USA is a small business paradise! It is relatively easy to start a small business here. There are lots of potential investors and much more opportunity than in other countries. ….But to succeed, you must prepared,” Ekkehard Grampp Luis Bernal, like Grampp, came to Naples because he wanted to, but not to retire. Rather, able to work from almost any location, Bernal came here for love of his wife and son. His wife is a specialized physical therapist who was recruited to Florida. She encouraged Luis to relocate with her. Our nearness to several airports with international connections allows him to simultaneously manage overseas projects as an economic development consultant, to be civilly active in Naples, and even pursuing his Masters Degree which he recently got in Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts.
“Moving to another country is a serious endeavor. When you have the opportunity, you take the chance…and you get taken by it. Regardless of your reasons for coming -whether to escape hardship or to seek opportunity-…you must have a serious plan for flourishing” Bernal says. A recent candidate for the Collier County School Board, Bernal thinks: “You must also really be willing to be loyal to America, adapt your self-consciousness, and identity to love America, and work honestly for the good of your new country; my way of doing so is by getting involved in volunteerism and public service.”
Rey Pezeshkan, sent by his parents to study in the USA before the Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Shah, agrees. Rey’s older brother Fred, major developer, entrepreneur and civic philanthropist in South Florida, was at Ohio State University. Rey went back to Iran until the revolution occurred. It was difficult for kids over 16 to leave the country. Yet opportunities for college education in Iran were scarce. His dad was finally able to get the family, Rey, his mother and four sisters out of Iran to Columbus, Ohio to reunite with Fred.
Pezeshkan says all foreign-borns who immigrate here face serious obstacles that, if they wish to make it here, they must work to overcome. “You must work consciously to assimilate. You must leave cultural stuff aside and embrace the American way of life,” he says.
“Too many amazingly bright, well-educated people come here and become ghettoized because it is easier for them to do so. Their progress…towards citizenship, towards personal stability and family advancement …becomes slowed down because they don’t make the effort to mix-with everyone else,” Pezeshkan says. “Those who work hard to grasp the new culture, lifestyle and opportunities they present, typically flourish,” he says.
Aysegul Timur, Hodges University Professor, born in Turkey, agrees. She tells foreign-born professionals who want to come to the United States that “First must expect very hard work! It is not easy to change your country…Just imagine…You are choosing to change your origin country…but this is your decision and choice. You need to commit what you want to do. Ask yourself why you want to come to the United States and be clear about it.”
“You must understand the culture, history, people, and here in the United States and be willing to engage, respect, and blend in the culture without forgetting who you are and where your roots are,” she says. And, once you are here, fully understand: America is now your new “HOME” and you now professionally serve in your new home, work and play in your new home. If you don’t call it home, you should rethink about your decision. Again, you should never forget who you are and where your roots are because you are now part of the diverse U.S. culture,” Timur says.
Read the rest of the Series –