The Intriguing Process of Acculturation Explained With Examples

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Acculturation Explained With Examples

Acculturation refers to the modification of the culture of a group or individuals due to its interaction with another culture. Find out more about this process through examples of acculturation in this ScienceStruck article.

Acculturative Stress
It refers to the reaction to the process of inter cultural contact or cultural adaptation. It is the stress felt by individuals while adapting to a foreign cuisine, language, behavioral patterns, beliefs, etc.

Adaptation to the surrounding environment comes naturally to humans. Getting along with a new social environment is also something that has been happening throughout human history of exploration, invasion, migration, trade, colonialism and the more recent globalization. Acculturation is thus, a similar sociological term that explains the process of people from different cultural backgrounds residing and settling together as one community.

Definition and Meaning of Acculturation

Acculturation refers to the process where members of one cultural group adopt beliefs and behavioral patterns of another cultural group.

The process may not necessarily be an act of compulsion, where immigrants must conform to the cultural practices of the new nation; however, it could be both preserving the indigenous culture and accepting the foreign culture simultaneously.

At an individual level or in a group, people living in the same geographical area learn to absorb the beliefs, value systems, and lifestyle of the other culture. Acculturation is generally observed to occur in cases of direct or firsthand contact between two cultures. It is a two-way process; both groups can get influenced. It does not necessarily mean a drastic transformation in values, though values may gradually undergo a change. Children born in a foreign country, with a culture different to their native culture, tend to acquire the traits of the foreign culture from infancy.

Examples of Acculturation

1. In History

Acculturation can be seen as a gradual process of transformation that was initiated in the native Cherokee way of life. At the end of 18th century, accepting the proposal given by President George Washington, Cherokees changed themselves from the traditional hunting and gathering community to a cotton-growing community. They started imitating the whites in their dressing styles. They wanted to build homes similar to the whites and live a life like them. Missionaries helped the natives to acquire Christian beliefs and faith. Schools were started, and Cherokees were eager to learn. The Cherokee syllabary (of 86 characters) was compiled in 1821 by the Sequoyah. With the help of this, the New Testament was translated later by Elias Boudinot. Further, the Cherokee nation adopted its Constitution in 1827.

2. Acculturation in Immigrants

A huge number of Hispanics reside in the United States. The grandparents of the young Americans born in Hispanic families would have refused to acculturate, but it is not the case with their grandchildren. Changing attitudes towards getting good education or opportunities for higher studies, dreaming of a big career, earning a good salary, unlike the traditional attitude of working hard for a low pay, or ignoring education for a quick job, or a generally satisfied with what-I-have attitude is nothing but a transformation due to the exchange of cultural aspects.

3. Languages

English becoming the lingua franca of the world highlights acculturation. Hanzi, or the logographic characters of the written Chinese language, were adopted by Japan as kanji, Korea as hanja, and by Vietnam. A European working in China may, after a considerable period of stay, learn to converse in Chinese and also encourage his/her colleagues to learn German or French for instance. Another instance is that of the various versions of Pidgin English (a mix of English and the local language). This developed primarily for the purpose of easy communication between traders belonging to different cultures. The use of terms, words, or phrases borrowed from other languages also indicates that two or more cultures can be intertwined or linked as a necessity.

4. Cuisine

Urban areas or metropolitan cities in every country experience a uniformity among its dwellers, despite their diverse ethnic origins. Acculturation progresses gradually in terms of exchange of food items. Restaurants in cities serve different types of cuisine like Chinese, Mexican, Italian, East Asian, Indian, etc. This develops among people a taste for new delicacies. Peanut butter sandwich has become habitual for nearly all Americans, irrespective of their ethnicity or native cuisine. Similarly, for a young teenager of Mexican origin both a traditional recipe (like Gandule rice) and a hamburger could be favorites. Also, people from cultural groups that are strictly vegetarian may try non-vegetarian foods after socializing with a different cultural group.

Acculturation in India

Being the largest democracy of today’s world, it may surprise many, what makes a developing country like India sustain such a diverse population through a democracy. Acculturation could be the possible answer. India speaks hundreds of languages, and not just dialects. States in India are divided on linguistic basis. Every state has a different cuisine, dressing style, language (many have different scripts), housing patterns, traditions and festivals. Indian culture largely is a mix of various cultural influences like, the British, Arabic, Islamic, Portuguese, and others. Acculturation here is reflected from the concept of Indian nationalism that exists and keeps such a group with diverse backgrounds bonded as a nation.

Dressing patterns undergo a change rapidly; especially among the younger generations. Acculturating to a fashionable dressing style or as a norm of a foreign land could be an example. Music is another important factor exhibiting acculturation. Music composers, singers or rock bands mix up sounds and rhythms from different places to compose a fusion. There can be several other facets of life that can be viewed as examples of acculturation across countries.

It could be a forced process, like in case of refugees or the ancient slave trade. Cultural exchange programs held across different nations or even tourists adapting to a different lifestyle for fun can come under the umbrella of acculturation.

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