Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants
In a perfect world people can adapt to a new culture remaining true to their original cultural values. They maintain that perfect balance between old and new, and, in a way, assimilation is painless and enriching for those people. In real world, however, there is always a trade-off. There are a limited number of non-contradictory values and behavior codes for one person to encompass, no matter how open and flexible that person is. If you’re, a as product of assimilation, a strong believer in individual freedom, for example, you can’t at the same time make your children study computer science just because you think it will be right for them.
So, speaking in economic terms, what’s the opportunity cost of assimilation?
Have you ever heard that immigrants of the same origin tend to hate each other? I’ve seen it numerous times and I’m still wondering why. My friend from El Salvador told me that many Spanish-speaking immigrants are very alienated. In his opinion, the switch from collaboration to completion is what makes Spanish speaking communities in the US less successful than they could otherwise be.
Russian immigrants are even more illustrative in this respect. It’s hard to find a group of immigrants that can be so extreme in its ethnic self-denial. I would divide Russian immigrants into two major categories:
Clearly, there are more types and subgroups, but the mere existence of those pro- and anti -Russian attitudes within Russian communities is fascinating.
Same tendency can be traced in many other immigrant cultures. How come representatives of traditionally collectivist cultures come to the USA and walk away from each other? Is that a stressful adjustment process and a simple survival technique? Or is it the influence of American culture? I believe it is both.
An immigrant from an X collectivist country is trying to assimilate. He/she wants to be accepted in the society and succeed professionally. Most Americans that the person knows are self-reliant, independent, etc. It sounds reasonable to follow their example, because for a new immigrant that might seem the key to success in the US. Here comes the trade-off, because a part of his/her native culture has to be sacrificed. Saying in other words, you cannot remain the same, when you adjust to a very different culture.