The other day I found myself in the middle of a discussion with my Indian-Canadian friend and his Croatian and Colombian friends. We talked about how DC is a very diverse city and that by knowing 4 languages and by having lived in Namibia and Luxembourg you cannot impress anyone, because that is a bare minimum here. “Been there, done that, what else you got?”

Than the conversation took a turn towards the difference between assimilation and integration. My Indian-Canadian friend explained, that in Canada the word “assimilation” is akin to an insult. Apparently, all politicians in Canada avoid that word like the plague, and they use “integration” when talking about immigrants. Whereas in the American political arena the word “assimilation” is often thrown here and there.

So why is it so important to differentiate the two concepts and why should public speakers be cautious about using the two words? Just think about it: when you say “assimilation”, it means people coming from a different culture adopt the new cultural norms and making their own culture fade, become secondary, making the new one primary. You assimilate with it, replacing your background with the new norms. Rather, by saying “integrate” you mean the different cultures coexisting equally. When you integrate into the society, you adopt the new culture, but you also hold on to your own, making the two coexist. You do that naturally and it is balanced, and there is a place for respect for both.

Do you think there should be place for both assimilation and integration, or do you think that assimilation is necessary for successful immigration, and integration could even be dangerous to the society? Maybe there is just a place for respect for all cultures coexisting peacefully, if that is even possible? Just food for thought. Let me know what you think in the comments.   

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