Cultural Integration versus Cultural Assimilation for Expats

When expats and their families move abroad, they are recommended to integrate or to assimilate the culture of their host country. Recommendation or not, the sole process of facing a new culture would end up in assimilating that culture or integrating into that culture or both -one after the other-. But what does that mean?


Cultural integration involves learning and absorbing without antagonist feelings the culture of the host country or the predominant culture. In this scenario, expats accept the “new culture” but keep their identity. They accept harmoniously the new rules, laws and traditions but do not renounce to their identity or they “DNA”, so to speak.


Cultural assimilation implies learning and absorbing the host culture, while giving up one’s own culture or modifying it to become acceptable in the new environment. In this scenario, nomad individuals renounce to some of their features and traditions and are somewhat absorbed by the predominant culture.


Most expats try to integrate well into the culture of their host country, keeping their traditions and individuality. They accept the new culture and learn it in a respectful way, without losing their identity. Long term expats, constant nomads and Third Culture Kids are more likely to end up, even inadvertently, assimilating their new destination’s culture or naturally going from integration to assimilation.


At the end, the process of integrating or assimilating the host culture, should be a natural one, where expats do not feel forced to do or think like the locals, but where they can take elements from the “new culture” and nurture them/adopt them as needed and as wanted in order to smooth and enjoy the international journey.

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