Assimilation and Integration VS Segregation and Elitism?

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What is an expatriate?

An expatriate is a person who lives outside their native country. Many have referred to expats as immigrants which may be seen as negative connotation; however is this how the locals view expats?

According to the foreign and common wealth office Over 12 million British nationals travel to Spain each year and an estimated 800,000 British nationals live and work here for all or part of the year. This is just a small number compared to the overall, government estimated figure of 14 million British citizen that move abroad and become expatriates. It’s always fun to broaden our horizons and venture out into the wider world but what impact do expats have on the communities in which they move to? Relocating to a different country is a decision that involves uncertainties. While many obstacles can indeed be overcome, others are more difficult to deal with. One of the constant worries linked with a supposedly happy new beginning is how to master local etiquette. Do expats create assimilation and integration? Or do they form a negative ideology of segregation and elitism?

Segregation and Elitism

A poll was recently conducted by the Europe-Brussels Liaison Office to gather information and invaluable insight into the opinions of the locals of Brussels who reportedly think that the expat community is unfriendly and unwelcoming. The survey respondents supported and upheld the longstanding supposition that expats do not like to be around others in the community apart from other expats. Now any hopes of banishing the stereotypical ideologies of expats, seems a tad bit impossible for the locals of Brussels.9, 000 European expats provided startling feedback when asked if the image of the Brussels expat who lives on an elitist island actually reflects the truth and apparently, the overall answer was yes, with almost three quarters (74%) admitting that they kept themselves to themselves and actively avoided interaction with Brussels native residents.

Up to four fifths said they had few Belgian friends or acquaintances, although this does drop to three fifths when we discount expats who have tread Belgian soil for less than two years; they actually stated that they had no Belgian connections whatsoever.  Somewhat surprisingly, the same is true of 6.6% of Belgium’s expats who have spent a decade in the Western European federal monarchy. In a survey conducted by shelter offshore a resounding 100% of the British expats surveyed said that they felt connected to their fellow British expats in their new nation – but only 23% stated that they also felt connected to expats from other nations.

Assimilation and integration

Is it realistic to assume that all expats should try to integrate into their new nation? How can you be assimilated into another culture in anything less than a lifetime!  On the other hand, does this suggest that some expats are guilty of not even trying to fit in and adapt? I personally believe in happy coexistence rather than complete assimilation or any labels at all for that matter. To me, integration means having a high level of tolerance through your hosts and learning a thing or two from them, too, whilst not unduly trying to interfere in how they manage their everyday affairs. Reversely, I do demand respect for how I myself arrange day-to-day matters. Tolerance is a give and take that requires certain diplomatic skills, but where better to acquire them than being abroad or living in a multicultural community back home?

A survey by shelter offshore revealed that the vast majority of our expatriates (87%) had the intention of attempting integration when they moved abroad – but only 63% felt confident that they would succeed before they moved. The number one barrier to integration cited by those who admit failing to achieve assimilation was cultural, the second most common barrier was the language barrier, and the third most commonly cited reason for failing or struggling to settle in was feeling unwelcome in their new host nation. The good news is that the majority of expatriates did feel they had achieved some level of acceptance and integration (72%) – with only 5% stating that they had achieved no level of integration at all.

Have you lived in a community with expats? Do you feel the create assimilation and integration of segregation and elitism? We want to hear from you.

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Lilian Oke |  25.02.2014 | Strike-Jobs Journalist

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