Extending a Sense of Home: Social Life

Community is also built in less formal ways, through socializing and visiting. This socializing includes informal tea and coffee drinking, cooking and eating together, and attending each other’s weddings, baptisms, and funerals. When communities congregate, they also like to listen to music from home. This music, whether old favorites or new popular recordings, may be bought on trips back to Africa, or at special shops in Philadelphia, New York, or Washington D.C. Dances are also very popular, and they are always a joyful event, recreating through familiar music and movement the home atmosphere. People often comment nostalgically after such events that they “felt just like being back home.”

Groceries are not only places to buy familiar foods and other products.  They become gathering points for conversation about politics and people at home. Since most immigrants continue to eat African dishes, they buy ingredients either at African groceries (Nigerian, Sierra Leonean, Liberian, or Ivorian), or other "ethnic" groceries, such as those run by Asians or South Asians. Video and music stores, as well as restaurants, also act as meeting points for community members.

North and South Sudanese at a Sudanese Society picnic, Fairmount ParkSome groups have taken to very American kinds of socializing. They may have picnics in public parks, and swimming and ski outings with their children.  Some families, such as the Sharif family from Tanzania, have begun to observe American holidays with other immigrants, such as the first Thanksgiving in Philadelphia they celebrated with Iranian friends. The Kenyan Women’s Investment Club meets regularly to make group investments in the stock market and to provide a social outlet for its members.