Emigration results in many life changes that happen at the same time – not only the place of residence and people around change, but the whole linguistic and cultural environment is different. In this way emigration forces emigrants to function in a completely new role because of the “new” socio-cultural reality in the host country.
Such a situation may be a very difficult experience for many emigrants, and in a long time it may have a strong impact on their life abroad. Adapting to a new environment involves learning about the culture of the host society. The processes of acculturation and adaptation take place both on an individual (psychological) and group (sociological and cultural) level.
In analyzing the strategies of acculturation, the attitudes of emigrants against the culture and language of the country of residence are compared to their attitudes againsts their own cultural identity. On this basis, we can distinguish four acculturation strategies (Berry, 1997):
1. Separation – avoiding host society culture and cultivating only the relationshipwith one’s native culture. It often takes the form of avoiding everything that is linguistically and culturally “foreign” – as far as possible, when living abroad.
2. Marginalization – living in isolation. It manifests itself in the lack of interest in both indigenous culture (there is often a rejection of one’s own ethnic identity) and the culture of the host country.
3. Integration is the preservation of the cultural and ethnic identity of the emigrants, while at the same time their desire to know and maintain contact with the culture of the host society. So they use their language, cultivate the customs and traditions of their homeland, while enjoying what is happening in the country of residence and the local society.
4. Assimilation – rejection of one’s native culture and identification with the culture of the host country. It’s about hiding one’s origins, rejecting their language and avoiding everything related to their country of origin.
At home – where?
Adaptation is usually a long-term process that takes place at the individual level (psychological adaptation) and socio-cultural level as well. At different times of emigration, we evaluate and discuss integration issues differently. Usually in the beginning of emigration there is a phase of delight with the country of residence. Sooner or later it turns into resignation. After some time this period is also passing and more or less colored “gray everyday life abroad” begins.
The initial results of the study entitled “Second language acquisition and native language maintenance in Polish diaspora in Ireland and France” (Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin) showed that 63.5% of respondents declared that Polish culture was more important to them (than Irish culture), while 34.3% responded that they are trying to combine elements of both Polish culture and Irish culture. At the same time 88.8% of respondents perceive themselves as Poles, while 6.3% as “Irish Poles”; 95% of the respondents declared that it was very important or important for their children to be bilingual.
The results of the study “Polish Community in the United Kingdom. Integration, Social Participation and Psychological Wellbeing of Poles” conducted by the Polish Psychologists’ Association in the UK show that 70.6% of respondents feel “at home” in the United Kingdom, while 36.7% feel so in Poland. A total of 62.8% of the respondents answered “yes” or “rather yes”, and 37.2% said “no” or “rather no” to the question “Do you feel part of the local community?”
Integration involves some knowledge of the culture and traditionss of the country of settlement and the ability to use that knowledge in everyday life abroad. Also, our plan for future play significant role in the process of adaptation. Are we planning to return to our country of origin or not? Usually, the longer we stay on emigration, the more we become comfortable with our place of residence and get used to the local reality. It does not mean that we stop missing or we forget about our homeland. What is more and should be beard in mind is that for children who were born abroad or were raised there from early childhood, the whole situation looked different. What parents call ‘returning home’ may be actually ‘imigration’ for them.
Is it worth integrating?
I think it is worth it. Integration is the desire to explore the country in which you are currently living. Everyone can get to know culture by participating in local events, traditions – it does not mean that anyone have to abandon their own cultural and linguistic background.