Dealing with a multicultural identity isn’t easy. Multiculturalism, defined as having internalized more than one culture, often leads to clashes between the two cultures the individual belongs to. Sometimes, the values of the two different cultures seem to oppose each other in a way, that the person feels that he or she is living in-between two worlds. And that is a problem, because ultimately, that person might loose the sense of he or she really is. She is lost. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Multiculturalism can also be a highly enriching experience, with the migrant having a sense of uniqueness, and pride.
There are four different ways in which multicultural individuals construct their identity
Assimilation is when you completely adopt your host country’s mainstream culture
Integration is when you identify with both, your host culture and your original culture
Seperation is when you identify only with your original culture
Marginalization is when you identify with neither culture
Before you continue reading, I want you to answer for yourself: in which of these categories do you fall?
Most researchers agree that the most succesful method is integration. Assimilation often makes you feel like you neglect your true identity, seperation leads to you living in a parellel world where you interact only with people from your ethnic background, and marginalization… well, it speaks for itself. And yet, there are also different types of integration. Some people feel positively about both cultures, but see a conflict between them. They are, in that sense, switching between both identities. And in doing so, they may feel like they are acting against the values of the other. So, they are competent in both cultures, but still not happy.
Okay, so what kind of identity should I be striving for to be a ‘happy migrant’?
Your goal should be to identify with both cultures, and to create a ‘blended’ indentity. Take both cultures, mix them together, and to create ‘your own culture’. Obviously thats easier said than done. But that should be the goal we as immigrants should aspire to. Now, what this requires is that we see both cultures as compatible. Remember this: cultures may be different, but they don’t need to be in conflict with each other. But how you integrate these cultures, is totally up to you. You don’t need to do exactly as the romans do. But you also can’t just behave like you would ‘back home’. What it comes down to is asking yourself what feels right to you. Think deeply about this: what do you like about each culture, and what do you dislike about it? Then go and find ways to integrate both sides in a way that makes you happy.