Short Stories About Immigrants, Migrants or Culture Clash

These stories have characters who have moved to another country or become immersed in another culture. Often, we see the difficulties or opportunities they encounter.

In some stories, there is tension or conflict as a character has to balance the demands of two cultures.

In the science fiction or fantasy stories, the difference in customs could be between humans and another species.

Culture clash short stories
A big anthology about balancing the demands of two cultures

The Arrangers of Marriage | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A woman from Lagos arrives in America to join her new husband. She discovers the reality of her new life, getting to know her husband, living situation, and American customs.

“The Arrangers of Marriage” is the first story in the Amazon preview of The Granta Book of the African Short Story.

Rules of the Game | Amy Tan

Lindo is a mother and a Chinese immigrant. Her daughter, Waverly, is American born. Their mother/daughter relationship is explored as the daughter learns to play chess and progresses from her first tournament at age eight and continues as she becomes a stronger player.

This is the second story in the preview of Growing Up Ethnic in America: Contemporary Fiction About Learning to Be American.

“Tom” by Paul Cornell

Earth has been visited by the Carviv, a species with an affinity for the water. The females are comfortable on land, as well, while the males stay submerged. Many of the females seek work as guides on the Great Barrier Reefs, and the company’s are glad to have them. The narrator was one of the first to become acquainted with a Carviv woman, Swav. Because of the different customs, the narrator had an unusual experience that was confusing for a time.

This story can be read in the preview of Solaris Rising 2: Book of Science Fiction.

“Lingua Franca” by Carole McDonnell

Mist leaves her shop and goes to the market where traders sell exotic foods from across the galaxy. On the way, she sees locals signing about the Earthers, who talk with their mouths rather than their hands. The Earthers are offering ear and throat implants to the locals. Opinion is divided on the subject.

This story can be read in the preview of Fantastic Stories Presents: Science Fiction Super Pack #1(45% into preview)

All the Colors of Goodbye | Nafiza Azad

The narrator, seventeen, has to say goodbye to everything in her home village in Fiji. She’s moving to another country. Five months ago, there was a military coup in the capital city. It’s not safe anymore. She’ll be leaving many people behind.

“All the Colors of Goodbye” is the first story in the preview for Come On In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home.

My Dead Brother Comes to America | Alexander Godin

An immigrant family arrives in New York at Ellis Island. The father had already come to America and he is waiting for his wife and four kids.

Read “My Dead Brother Comes to America”

The Tenant | Bharati Mukherjee

Maya Sanyal has just found an apartment in Iowa with the help of her friend, Fran. Maya is an Indian immigrant who broke with tradition, having married an American man and lived in the country for ten years. Her husband left her, leaving her on her own in America and still isolated from her Indian family.

Read “The Tenant” (scroll down)

On Discovery | Maxine Hong Kingston

A Chinese explorer, Tang Ao, discovers The Land of Women. He is captured and forced to undergo a grooming process so he can meet the Queen.

On Discovery is an allegory of Chinese immigrants’ experiences in America and of the treatment of Chinese women, or women in general.

Read “On Discovery”

The Underground Gardens | T. Coraghessan Boyle

Baldasare Forestiere is a thirty-two-year-old Italian American immigrant living on seventy acres of California land. He tries to grow his own vineyard, but the land isn’t fertile. He works for other people to make some money, and starts digging more rooms in his underground home. He eventually meets Ariadne, giving him a new goal—to get her to marry him.

A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf | Lara Vapnyar

Nina goes vegetable shopping every Saturday morning while her husband sleeps in. She’s been in this habit since she came to America two years ago. She plans on cooking them over the weekend, but they always go bad. On Saturday nights she goes to parties with her husband with other Russian immigrants. Nina’s sister says that she was her husband’s ticket to America.

Read “A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf”

Simple Recipes | Madeleine Thien

The narrator relates some memories from his boyhood. He learned a special way of cooking rice from his father. His mother worked at Woodward’s. His older brother is more distant with his family. They immigrated to Canada from Malaysia before the narrator was born.

Read “Simple Recipes”

America and I | Anzia Yezierska

Despite wanting to live a life of creativity and self-expression, an immigrant encounters disappointments and injustice in America.

Snow | Julia Alvarez

A young girl is attending Catholic school her first year in the United States. She learns some English words, eventually becoming aware of the communist threat.

Read “Snow”

In the American Society | Gish Jen

Callie Chang’s parents are Chinese immigrants who started a successful pancake restaurant. Her family is adapting to American business standards and society.

Two Kinds | Amy Tan

The mother of a young Chinese American girl believes that people in America can be anything they want. This mother has high hopes for her daughter. One night while watching the Ed Sullivan Show, she figures out what her daughter should do.

Read “Two Kinds”

America! America! | Delmore Schwartz

Shenandoah’s mother tells him the story of the Baumann family. Mr. Baumann, an immigrant, was successful in the insurance business, having a sociable personality that attracted clients. His wife loved all things Jewish. Their children set out on their own paths with varying degrees of success.

Neighbours | Tim Winton

A young couple moves into a neighbourhood with many European migrants. The husband stays home and writes his thesis. The wife works. It takes them a while to adjust to the neighbourhood noise and interactions.

Read “Neighbours”

Immigration Blues | Bienvenido N. Santos

In San Francisco, two Filipino women go to the home of Alipio Palma, a Filipino widower. One of the women, Mrs. Zafra, is the wife of an old friend of Alipio. While having lunch together, she tells the story of how she was able to stay in America by marrying her husband, an American citizen.

A Ride Out of Phrao | Dina Nayeri 

Shirin, an Iranian, runs into financial difficulties while living in America. She joins the Peace Corps and moves to a village in Thailand where she teaches English to children. Her grown daughter, Leila, lives in New York and quickly adapted to American life. Shirin had difficulty with this. They had a falling out.

Read “A Ride Out of Phrao” 

New Year for Fong Wing | Monfoon Leong

Fong and Lee, restaurant workers, get paid. Lee wants to gamble, but Fong is worried about what his wife will think. Fong’s sons were killed in wars, and now he has no male heir. Feeling depressed, he agrees to go gamble with Lee.

Mrs. Spring Fragrance | Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton)

Mrs. Spring Fragrance is a Chinese woman who’s lived in Seattle for 5 years. She has adapted quickly to the English language and American customs. Next door lives a young woman named Laura, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Laura’s parents want to follow tradition and have her marry a man she’s never met, but Laura is in love with an American man. Mrs. Spring Fragrance wants to help.

Read “Mrs. Spring Fragrance”

A Horse and Two Goats | R. K. Narayan

Muni lives in poverty in a tiny village in India. While Muni is out grazing his two remaining goats, a well-off American stops his car and approaches. Neither speaks the other’s language, but they try to converse.

Let’s Tell This Story Properly | Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Nnam’s husband Kayita has died. They lived in Manchester. He had two children in Uganda before he married Nnam. Arrangements were made to hold the funeral in Uganda. Kayita’s relatives in Uganda are a bit uncooperative.

Read “Let’s Tell This Story Properly”

Migrants | Elizabeth Tallent

Sissy, a high school student, lives with her father, a salesman, in a rented farmhouse in Colorado. Her mother ran off with a man to Los Angeles. Sissy is unhappy—she’s lonely, misses her mother, and doesn’t like where she lives. While she’s riding her bike one day, a caravan of Mexican farm workers drives past her. She’s glad something new is happening.

The Jade Peony | Wayson Choy

The narrator, a Chinese-Canadian, remembers when his Grandmama died at 83. The family is waiting for some kind of sign, according to their tradition, that her life had ended well. He relates some experiences with her during her later years, including how they would go hunting in the neighborhood for glass fragments and old jewelry.

Read “The Jade Peony”

Seventeen Syllables | Hisaye Yamamoto

Mrs. Hayashi is a Japanese immigrant living in America. She writes haiku, but her daughter, Rosie, can’t read Japanese, so they don’t connect through her poems. Rosie is attracted to Jesús, a Mexican boy at her high school.

The Admiral and the Nuns | Frank Tuohy

Stefan is a Polish laboratory assistant working in South America. His wife, Barbara, is English. Barbara misses her former life, and is lonely. She’s isolated from the other women in the area. The mood is far removed from her upper-middle class background.

The Loons | Margaret Laurence

Three generations of the Tonnerres live in shacks outside Manakawa. They are outsiders. Piquette Tonnerre, a Meti girl, is ill. Dr. MacLeod thinks she should join his family at their cabin so she can recover. His daughter, Vanessa, hopes Piquette will love the lake as she does.

Read “The Loons”

American History | Judith Ortiz Cofer

A fourteen-year-old Puerto Rican girl, Elena, lives in a rundown apartment building in New Jersey. A new family moves in to the house next door, including Eugene, a boy that Elena wants to get to know. He’s from the south, and gets nicknamed “the Hick” because of his accent.

Read “American History”

Story of the Warrior and the Captive | Jorge Luis Borges

The historian Paul the Deacon records a notable incident in the life of Droctulft, a Lombard warrior. During the siege of Ravenna, he left his own attacking force and died defending the city. Borges parallels this incident with another—an Englishwoman who was taken from her people.

Read “Story of the Warrior and the Captive”