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Discussion: Melting Pot or Tossed Salad: Assimilation and Acculturation

: The image depicts several kinds of vegetables falling into a wooden salad bowl.Unfamiliar cultural situations can create stress for many individuals. People encountering new environments must decide how to act and communicate without being able to rely on acquired knowledge and skills. In new cultural climates, people must adapt knowledge and skills to meet the demands of the new environment. Environmental adaptation can take the form of acculturation or assimilation.

To illustrate the difference between acculturation and assimilation, consider the metaphors of a melting pot and a tossed salad. At the height of European immigration to the United States in the early 20th century, the melting pot metaphor represented a new, homogenized cultural identity. New cultural groups immigrating to America often took on the beliefs, values, and social practices of the culture they encountered to be functional in their new environment, otherwise know as assimilation. A more modern metaphor of the tossed salad recognizes the distinctiveness of each individual and his or her cultural identity adding to the flavor of the American experience; this version of adaptation is called acculturation.

In this week’s Discussion, you consider topics related to cultural adaptation – the extent to which an individual changes to fit into a new environment.

To prepare for your Discussion:

  • Review “The Ethics of Intercultural Competence” section of Chapter 12 of the course text. Pay particular attention to the stories of how different people experience cultural adaptation and what it means to them.
  • Think about the behaviors you would have difficulty giving up or changing if you were required to move to another country. Why would those be difficult for you? Now think about the behaviors you might be able to adapt to another culture, and why. If you have lived outside of your home country for any length of time, think about your own experience of adapting (or not adapting) your behavior to another culture.
  • Consider some of the challenges in adapting behaviors to another culture, especially when those behaviors may be in opposition to your cultural values. Can these challenges be overcome? Should they?
  • Reflect on how you would handle situations where someone from a different culture expected or imposed their cultural beliefs while visiting you. How could you use intercultural competence to help explain what is expected in your culture?
  • Select two countries with different cultures. Consider how much a person from one of the countries would be expected to adapt if he or she were planning a long-term relocation to the other country:
    • What behaviors should a person be willing to change upon moving to another country?
    • What behaviors should a person not be willing to change upon moving to another country?
    • Does the choice of the goal of assimilation or acculturation affect which of these behaviors someone would be willing to change or not change?

Post a 2- paragraph description of the expected behaviors an individual might change because of a long-term relocation to another country. Explain how the choice to assimilate or acculturate might affect the choice of behavior changes. Explain how these decisions present challenges in adapting to another culture.

Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to at least one of this week’s Learning Resources. Additionally, you may opt to include an outside academic resource that you have identified.

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