You're supposed to take care of your parents.: Becoming Minnesotan

Female silhouette.
  • Name - Maryan Del
  • Age at interview - 26
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 06.21.2004
  • Women at Somali wedding, Minneapolis, July 2004.  Minnesota Historical Society.

    Culture Clash, Family, Somali

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In Somalia, extended families are normally very close.  In fact, it is common for grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins to all live together in the same house and become very involved in each other’s lives.  Because of this, it is also common for families to care for aging grandparents in the home.  The extended family members provide support for one another during good times and bad times. The extended family networks that are so important in Somali society, however, may not exist in the U.S.  Many families have been broken up—some members have immigrated to the U.S. and some remain in East Africa.   Often both parents are working outside the home, so there is no one to care for the small children or the elderly relatives during the day.  The loss of the traditional family support system is something many Somali immigrants struggle with.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Maryan Del 7
    1:45 Minutes | 1.68Mb


    Narrator: Maryan Del (MD)

    Interviewer: Andy Wilhide (AW)

    MD:  What are negatives about America? Okay, number one, the most one is nursing homes. I absolutely…putting your parent in nursing home? That’s totally a no-no. Because...think of it. Your parent raised you. They carried you nine months. They were there with you the bad time, the good time. When they’re unable to take care of themselves, you just shovel them somewhere. To me, a nursing home, I consider you’re throwing somebody in the garbage. Because your parent is not getting the love and the care and nutrition that you’re supposed to give them. They’re not getting that from the nursing home. At a nursing home, the person who is there is getting paid by hourly. Really, they're just there to do their job.

    AW:  What’s going to happen with a lot of Somali elders now? Do you see them being taken in with their families or are they being sent to nursing homes?

    MD:  I only encountered one elderly lady who had been put in a nursing home. I don’t know what the situation of that was. It might have been she didn’t have family, I’m not sure. But, I advise that, “Please, Somali people, don’t put your elders in nursing home." Because it’s not fair. It’s not our culture.

    AW:  What typically happens here, and in Somalia what would happen?

    MD:  You’d take care of your own until you die. The daughter will take care of mom. She lives with her until her time is to go. That’s what you’re supposed to do; you’re supposed to take care of your parents. I hope that the new generation that’s coming up, who’s going to come up now and who’s going to be born later, I hope that they’ll reserve that part of Somali because that’s a very important part.

    AW:  That’s part of the respect for elders?

    MD:  Yes, absolutely. Yes.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Noun:  An older person or an older member, usually a leader, of some community.


    Verb:  To stumble upon; to find accidentally.  (encounters; encountering; encountered)


    Noun:  1. A period of around thirty years, the average amount of time before a child takes the place of its parents.  2. A group of people who are of approximately the same age.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 543