Tag Archives: immigration

Lithuanian Knock Knock Joke (Pun)


Speaker 1: Tuk Tuk

Speaker 2: Kas ten?

Speaker 1: Česnakas 


Speaker 1: Knock Knock 

Speaker 2: Who’s there?

Speaker 1: Garlic


IZ is a 20 year-old college student from Lisle, Illinois, living in Los Angeles, California. Both her parents’ families immigrated to the United States during World War II and remain connected to their Lithuanian roots through strong immigrant communities in the US.

IZ described this joke as a “Lithuanian take on American knock-knock jokes.” The punchline comes as a pun that requires an understanding of Lithuanian. “The ‘who’ is omitted because it’s part of the word for garlic,” IZ explained. “See how ‘kas’ and the end of ‘česnakas’ are the same?”

IZ first encountered this joke at Camp Dainava, a Lithuanian camp in Manchester, Michigan, which she has been attending “ever since I was in my mom’s stomach.” They would often sit around a bonfire — here IZ emphasized the importance of bonfires in Lithuanian culture — and share jokes and skits. For IZ, the camp provided a way to bond with other people of Lithuanian background, and share language, culture, and folklore.

IZ added that the camp was founded by an organization with the aim of helping Lithuania declare independence by getting American international recognition.


This is a classic example of a knock knock joke as it is found in many cultures and languages around the world. It is interesting that IZ sees it as a take on American culture, since, in true folklore fashion, determining the origin of a joke style is more complicated.

It is notable that this joke was shared in a multilingual setting at IZ’s Lithuanian Camp, since it requires knowledge of the language to understand its pun. This type of folklore, as it is shared around the bonfire, would be the most difficult to understand if someone had limited knowledge of the language. Skits and other more performative jokes could be grasped through context, but this one is purely linguistic. Thus it may have served an interesting function of encouraging fluency and establishing a measure of belonging to the cultural group.

Lastly, the context of IZ’s Lithuanian camp and its history provides an interesting example of how institutions can preserve folklore and culture in the interest of nationalism — even outside of the country itself. Further study could examine which immigrant cultures within the United States have the strongest folklore preservation and why.

Authentically Filipino

“I always tell you that the true way to test if you’re American or Pilipino is to pinch you.  If you yell “ouch!,” you’re American; if you yell “aray!,” you’re still Filipino.”

Background: The informant is a 48 year-old Filipina immigrant whose daughter experienced childhood in the Philippines but adolescence in the United States.  Therefore, she often tackled issues of her child becoming “Americanized” and losing her identity as a Filipino.  This piece is a joke, but it highlights issues of what an individual with multiple cultural identities “is” at its core. “Aray” is the instinctive Filipino equivalent of saying “ouch” when one feels pain.

Context: This piece is something that has been told to me often growing up, but for the collection project the informant shared this with me at the dinner table in our home.

This is something my mom always told me as I spent more time in the United States and constantly faced scrutiny for “losing” my Filipino culture.  We choose to pinch people to get their reaction in order to catch them at a time where they are not expecting your presence or to feel pain.  Therefore, their reaction is authentic and they don’t have the time to mask their behavior to go one way or another.  It’s indicative of how Filipino-Americans need to be tested to see if they are “Filipino” enough, as being “whitewashed” is something that many young adults get taunted about.  Anyone who was only raised in the United States or in the Philippines would have no need to see whether they are more one or the other; this is applicable only to the community of individuals who have both (if not more) ethnicities as parts of their identities.  It, unfortunately, promotes the idea that one has to be what the person is at their core, and they cannot coexist at the deepest level in one’s identity due to the binary nature of one’s reaction to being pinched.

La Migra

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant.

Informant: So when I was in 6th and 7th grade, the kids at my school would play this game during lunch called “La Migra”, it means ‘immigration’ in Spanish. Basically it’s like tag, whoever is the ‘catcher’ would run around and try to catch people. If you do catch someone, you yell “La Migra” and the one who got caught becomes the catcher, and so on.

Interviewer: Were the students participating in the game mostly Latinx? Or did kids of all ethnicities join?

Informant: I went to a really Mexican school, so everyone was pretty much Latinx yeah. I’m not sure if someone who’s not Latinx could even play this game, because so much of it is like, self inflicted harm (laughs).

Interviewer: Can you describe that further?

Informant: We were all very much around immigration and ICE and stuff our whole lives, like whether that be someone in our family or just someone we know. All that stuff, boarder patrol and whatnot, is just something that’s always present in our culture, and it’s really fucked up that it is. I think this game was kinda created because of that, for kids to like process this messed up reality into like a lunchtime game. Or maybe it was jut middle school kids being stupid and edgy as they all do, I don’t know.


My informant is of Latinx descent, and currently resides in Santa Ana, Orange County, a city where majority of the population is made up of Latinx people. The city of Santa Ana also has had city-wide protests against the mayor for failing to provide a safe environment for undocumented immigrants, as ICE raids increased and the city police provided aid to ICE during these raids.


The conversation took place on the phone, and the informant was in her room by herself.

My thoughts:

Middle schoolers can be really dark for the sake of being dark, it’s something about that age and puberty starting that makes everyone gravitate towards being ‘edgy’. But I think this game is more than just being provocative, I think it shows the very reality of children growing up in a hostile environment, coping with such stress by making a ridicule out of it.


Main piece: Schuhplattler is a traditional style of Bavarian folk dance that includes lots of leg movement, stomping, clapping and slapping. The male performers wear Lederhosen and the female performers wear Dirndls. Modern performances of Schuhplattler can be seen at Oktoberfest in Germany, where many in attendance of the wear Dirndls and Lederhosen – a very good look. Schuhplattler dancers may also play the accordion in their performances, which is a nice addition.  

Context: The informant (BB) grew up in Schlesien (Silesia), Germany and immigrated to the United States when she was 24 in August 1960. BB and her husband, who was from East Prussia (now considered a territory in Poland), started a family of 3 children in Orlando, Florida and ran a greenhouse business until their retirement. BB is a devout Christian with Lutheran roots. She is fluent in both German and English. Our conversation took place by the fireplace in my home in Atlanta. Interestingly, the informant never practiced, performed or watched Schuhplattler in her youth, since the Bavarian dance was more popular in the Southern part of Germany, and she grew up in the Northwest. However, when she immigrated to the U.S. and began attending the American-German society, many young German people were practicing Schuhplattler and putting on shows among their friends. So, she sent her three kids to Schuhplattler practice every weekend and accordion practice for 5 years (and they hated it). BB admires the dance because it was a tradition she wouldn’t have really been exposed to if she had stayed in Northwestern Germany.

Personal thoughts: There is definitely some irony in the fact that immigrating to a new country taught her more about her own country than living there, in some small ways. It goes to show the ways in which folk adapt traditions to new cultures, locations and time periods. Additionally, the Schuhplattler dance is a perfect reflection of the German people and their mindset – disciplined and refined, yet still lively and fun within those constraints. For external reference, see “Kolb, Alexandra. “The Migration and Globalization of Schuhplattler Dance: A Sociological Analysis.” Cultural Sociology, vol. 7, no. 1, 12 July 2012, pp. 39-55. ProQuest 5000. Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.)

The Highland Fling


A man in Sacramento, California recounts the traditional dance known as the Highland Fling and a legend passed down by his Scottish ancestors. The practice of the Highland Fling originated in the early 19th century grew in popularity throughout the next hundred years. According to my source, when his ancestors immigrated to America, his great great grandma was so excited to see Elis Island, she broke into this traditional dance and captivated onlookers both on and off the boat.


Below is an example of the dance being performed:

Source: “Scottish Highland Dancing: Highland Fling.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 July 2006, www.youtube.com/watch?v=emCIxAJCe2g.


My interview with my source, R, went as follows:

ME: Could you tell me about an instance where you’ve witnessed the Highland Fling?

R: I can’t tell you a time when I saw it live but I can tell you about a story of it happening.

ME: Yeah that works too.

R: Well my great great grandmother, her two brothers, and their parents all sailed from Scotland to New York at Elis Island. I’ve been told that my great great grandma was so excited she began to do the Highland Fling. Now she was only 5 at this time. I guess the people around thought this was very cute. Soon enough she’d drawn a crowd.



The legend that’s been passed down compliments this traditional Scottish dance. I set out to get more information on the origins of the dance itself but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually had some heavy significance in my source’s family.