Elizabeth Malcolm MEd, LPC.
Current international trends almost dictate that we make an effort to understand the differences in each other, in order to foster a climate of acceptance and peace.
Many people are wounded because they are “the other” and different. Different is at times seen as being distasteful, foreign, dismissible, not in our social class or less than. Different is “not like us” and so we cannot understand “them” and don’t bother to try because “they” are foreigners,
disabled, poor, Arab, female, gay etc.
In a country that was built by “different” immigrants, how much do we really know about Culture
Culture has been defined as the attitudes, habits, norms, beliefs, styles, customs, rituals and artifacts shared by group members and passed on over time.
Culture does not only apply to people from a country. It can refer to people from a particular state, town, company, group or ethnicity.
Acculturation refers to the meeting of 2 different cultures. It has been thought of as an individual’s socialization into a different group’s ways. It is referred to as a second – culture acquisition.
Through Acculturation individuals take on some of the manners, speech patterns, dress, values and tastes of the culture to which they are exposed, while maintaining some of their original culture’s expression and norms. It has been noted that the majority culture also adopts elements of the minority culture which is why we enjoy Texmex, Chinese food, pizza etc.
Each year many people leave their country of origin and make the decision to migrate to another country in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families.
Being an immigrant in any country can be daunting. It requires strength, resilience and tenacity in order to succeed. As an immigrant myself, I have lived through this challenging process, which can be ongoing.
According to studies, there are many ways that immigrants navigate the acculturation process.
Some immigrants place very little importance on maintaining their original culture. They prefer to be absorbed into the new culture and no longer identify with their original culture.
Others maintain their own culture and do not embrace the new culture. This is common in racially segregated societies.
There are immigrants who place no importance on maintaining the old or adjusting to the new culture and these people often become marginalized by society. This is seen in cultures which make integration difficult.
Many immigrants who live in multicultural societies have opted to retain their original culture yet embrace the new culture and they navigate comfortably through both.
There is yet another method of acculturation where there is value placed on both the original culture and the new culture. In this process, the cultures are fused and a third culture is created.
Despite the method used in the acculturation process, moving from one country to another is not as easy as many envisage. The excitement soon wears off and is replaced by reality. Many immigrants never discuss their struggle with the loneliness they endure when they leave lifelong friends, family and support system behind to move to a country where they know no one and the lifestyle and customs are different. They never openly acknowledge their fears, apprehension or anger they feel, when they are judged as “different” and sometimes ostracized because of the way they look, dress or speak. These acts of unkindness and rejection increase the daily challenges that face many immigrants.
Each day every one of us has a choice. We can choose to be different and improve the quality of our interactions with the people we meet and make a difference in their lives.
Some ways we can do this is to:
Be aware of your prejudices and make an effort to challenge them when they surface.
Be cognizant of how your own culture impacts your choices, values, biases, manners and privileges.
Be comfortable with cultural differences.
Realize that each of us has a duty to question the status quo, to examine the morality of power and to work to make every society more just and equitable.
Let’s all strive to create a culture of inclusivity, so our children can live in peace with each other.