The Rapidian

Immigrant Heritage Month Profile: Meet Amer Gerzic

In celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month, this series features profiles of community members who have immigrated to Grand Rapids.
Amer Gerzic

Amer Gerzic /Allison Bannister

Underwriting support from:

For Immigrant Heritage Month, I asked several friends and connections who immigrated to Grand Rapids to share a little about their heritage. The goal of this endeavor is to help educate and inform myself and others in the community about the rich cultures of our neighbors. And, to celebrate the ways that these individuals have contributed to what we know as American culture today. I asked each of them the same questions and their responses are all featured here in the Profile section of The Rapidian. 

Amer Gerzic is President of Extend Your Reach, a Grand Rapids and Lansing company specializing in direct mail solutions. He was born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and came to Grand Rapids in 1999. I was connected to Amer through a friend and former colleague who also immigrated to Grand Rapids from Bosnia and Herzegovina. That friend now lives and works in the Detroit area through the Teach for America program and is also pursuing her Master’s. When I asked her who in Grand Rapids might want to participate, she immediately got me in touch with Amer—who immediately agreed to contribute.

I asked Gerzic: What is an important part of your culture/heritage that you want to preserve in your life and also want to share with American culture? And, what in American culture do you embrace?

Gerzic said: "I have never thought about specific cultural traits that I would like to preserve. It seems like we are trying to teach our kids our language (which, by the way, is not going really well), as well as where we come from (perhaps some history).

And, of course, food.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country (around 4 million people) and it does not help that it was formed in the early 90s as a consequence of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Most of the folks have never heard of it, and sometimes confuse it with Boston (Massachusetts). So, generally, I try to educate folks about where the country is located. And of course food … food is always a great way to communicate because food (much like art) reveals historical influences on a culture."

What in American culture do I embrace?

"Being fortunate or unfortunate to have the opportunity to live in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in the U.S., I tend to think that I have the opportunity to (perhaps as objectively as possible) compare and contrast those cultures. Of course, I formed my opinion on my personal experiences.

I believe that the most powerful part of American culture is that it is “loosely” defined. I use the word “loosely” in positive sense. This allows other cultures to fit in and assimilate, while preserving their own culture. I am not particularly big fan of the word “assimilate” (I prefer “well-functioning part of society”) but here I feel that you can assimilate in a different way than in Germany, for example. American culture is more accepting than other cultures I have experienced. I believe that speaking with an accent (which I certainly do) does not influence your personal or professional success."

You can read more about Mr. Gerzic and Extend Your Reach here: Business Spotlight: Extend Your Reach.

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