Cultural Assimilation

Cultural assimilation usually takes place when one moves to a new country and it can be a frightening experience. Often, your surroundings will seem incredibly foreign, with unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, customs, and rules that all must be learned and assimilated. One common reaction of new immigrants is to hole up in their own sheltered world, operating within a sub-culture of other immigrants hailing from the same homeland. While this can be comforting and bring a sense of the familiar, it can also be quite limiting, and eventually become a handicap.

The other extreme is just as dangerous. While it is healthy and necessary to embrace your new adopted culture, it is important not to do so at the expense of your native culture. Your home country and customs are what make you who you are—a unique person with the opportunity to experience the challenges and joys of cross-cultural interchange. It is essential to find a balance between assimilating into a new culture but also holding onto your cultural birthright. Some customs are trivial and can be exchanged without causing a loss of identity, while others are integral to who you are as a person. At the same time, compromise may be necessary in order to become a fully functioning member of your adopted community. Work to find a balance between maintaining the culture of your birth country and embracing that of your adopted home.

One of the biggest deterrents to successful cultural assimilation into a new host country is the language barrier. Children are actually much more adept at learning a new language than adults, and this is largely because they are less afraid to make mistakes and be seen as uneducated or foolish. Children will go out of their way to try out new words and phrases, while adults will do the opposite, avoiding opportunities to speak a new language for fear they might make a mistake and look stupid. When moving to a new country, one of the first things you should do is take steps to learn the local language. Take classes, study independently, and avail yourself of every opportunity to speak with the locals. Communication is fundamental to human interaction, and the sooner you can communicate with your new neighbors, the sooner you will stop feeling like an outsider.

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