In the era of globalization, it is difficult to find societies with the monolithic population, who would not be influenced by cultures of neighboring nations. Moreover, the digitalization has had an increased effect on the communications and cooperation; it has led to the mixture of beliefs and behavioral patterns of different cultures. This phenomenon is known as multiculturalism, and the majority of Western societies are characterized by multicultural community relationships. Immigrants, who come to such countries, often represent minorities, who choose one of the paths in order to become similar to the population of the host states. These processes are known as the integration and assimilation. These notions are often confused or considered identical; nevertheless, there are some significant differences between them.
The integration process is characterized by a two-stream interaction between the culture of the majority and minority. Both cultures influence each other to some extent. This process implies the acceptance of laws and behavioral patterns of the host culture by minorities without sacrificing own beliefs and rules. The integration is known to take place in societies, in which there are no hostile attitudes between integrating cultures. Therefore, individuals that represent different ethnic or cultural groups accept each other’s viewpoints for the purpose of the peaceful coexistence. However, the integration process is marked by a larger acceptance on the part of minorities, which later become a part of the multicultural society.
The assimilation is another process that is observed during the interaction of various cultures. Immigrants that join a new society are known to be absorbed by the majority of the host culture. The assimilation is a one-way process, which supposes that minorities learn customs and traditions of the host country; they are required to give up some of their traditions, as well. Thus, the immigrants’ identity is altered in one or another way. The assimilation is considered a negative phenomenon due to the necessity of minorities or immigrants to give up some of their inherent values.
In order to illustrate these concepts in a modern context, the paper studies the integration and assimilation of Turkish immigrants in Germany, as well as how the government addresses issues that are associated with the integration of the minority. In addition, the Polish diaspora in the UK is discussed with the view to exemplifying a different integration or assimilation process. Finally, the conclusion compares and contrasts these two cases.
Turkish Immigrants in Germany
It is a well-known fact that one out of three babies born in Germany is from an immigrant family. At the same time, today, it becomes obvious that many of these families are not completely integrated or assimilated into the German society. Recent studies indicate that Turkish families do not succeed in integrating into the national culture. Therefore, these immigrants are believed to be isolated from the mainstream multicultural society and tend to have poor prospects of obtaining a quality education and decent jobs.
Foreigners, who came to Germany from Poland, Baltic countries, Russia, and Turkey, in particular, have problems adapting to or assimilating into the German society. It is true even for people, who possess the German nationality. In addition, studies show that after fifty years of residing in the country, immigrant families have not integrated yet. In other words, immigrants do not assimilate even if having lived in Germany for generations. This trend proves to be disturbing. It is clear that the country needs immigrants as Germans have a low birth rate; however, those who do not integrate into the society may become a burden rather than a promise. It is so due to the fact that unintegrated minorities tend to be uneducated so unemployed. Unemployed people rely on government subsidies; in this way, they are costly to the society. The Bertelsmann Foundation evaluated the cost of failed immigrants to the society, which was $20 billion (Bagdoshvili).
Germany has relied on the Turkish labor for decades since the country has had to meet both domestic and global economic demands. The fact that the Turkish community is the least integrated into the German society is the consequence of government’s failure to integrate its members. Therefore, the unsustainable welfare pressure on the country’s economy may be observed today. In addition, alarming xenophobic attitudes are widely spread because of unfavorable working conditions for the Turkish immigrants. Some steps have been recently undertaken in order to address the problem. First of all, the National Action Plan is being revised. Besides, many governmental and non-governmental structures are involved in the process of investigating how the Turkish labor forces are integrated into the local market. Finally, anti-discrimination strategies are being developed, as well (Bagdoshvili).
After the World War II, Germany signed an agreement with Turkey and started to rely heavily on the Turkish labor. However, the German government did not plan that the immigrants would move to Germany for a permanent residency. Therefore, officials did not develop a plan for the integration. This failure has resulted in the current situation when three generations of Turks are unintegrated. Most workers recruited in that period were either unskilled or semiskilled. The German government was encouraging them to leave after their employment period. Meanwhile, the Turkish side preferred them to stay in Germany in order to reduce the unemployment in the native country and ensure a constant influx of money, which was sent to the Turkish family members.
Today, in the turbulent economic environment of the increased global competition, Germany needs both a stable inflow of the workforce in the form of the immigration and integration of such minorities. Unlike German families, Turks tend to have more children and a larger proportion of the younger population, which evens out the country’s economy.
Solutions to the Current Problems
In order to address the mentioned issues associated with the integration of the Turkish diaspora, some legal regulations were enforced. The governance was centralized due to the fact that the problems are of the nationwide character. The first step towards meeting the needs of the German economy was issuing the Immigration Act of 2005 (Bagdoshvili). This legal document sets the integration as a primary objective and intends to tackle problems associated with the integration of the Turkish diaspora by means of increasing the cooperation at all government levels.
The National Action Plan for Integration was developed with the help of the Turkish NGOs. In such a manner, more than ten forums were organized with the aim of addressing such topics as educational services, entry into the labor market, and pursuing the immigrants’ career. Such an approach allows tackling the problems at different levels, including the state, federal, and municipal ones.
Another method that is employed by the government for increasing the integration of the Turkish population in Germany is the promotion and support of self-employment opportunities (Bagdoshvili). First of all, the self-employment is meant to reduce unemployment rates. It provides income not only to those, who establish a business, but also to prospective employees. Since Germany has a well-developed economy, it has been attracting a great number of businesspeople from Turkey. On the other hand, becoming a self-employed person in this country is associated with a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork. Besides, Turks have to apply for the self-employed residence permit and get the approval. This process is complicated, and many people are discouraged from going through it.
Finally, Germany has taken steps in order to prevent Turkish immigrants from suffering any discrimination as this issue is one of the biggest hindrances on the way to the successful engagement of Turks in the German labor market. Despite the fact that Germany has signed a number of treaties and other international legislative documents, the country plans to issue local anti-discrimination acts. In addition, the Turkish NGOs and labor unions are encouraged to contribute to the creation of the favorable environment. It is obvious that the integration of the Turkish population into the German society is a complex process and requires an integrated and centralized approach, involving both governmental and non-governmental structures.
Reasons for the Poor Integration
A number of factors influence the level of the integration of immigrants into the foreign society. Some of them are related to the frugality of the host country. Nevertheless, the integration level depends on the desire of individual communities, as well. Both the majority and minority have to be willing to coexist together. Another important aspect is the religion, which plays a crucial role in the Turkish-German interactions.
The first wave of the Turkish immigrants came to Germany as guestarbeiters, which means that they arrived purely for the purpose of earning some income. These individuals did not plan to become a part of the German society but expected to return to Turkey after some time. Even though it did not happen, the immigrants’ attitude did not change. As a result, the immigrants were not contacting Germans and remained living in a parallel world. This fact has exacerbated the situation for next generations of immigrants, who found it even more challenging to become a part of the local culture. It is a well-known fact that the majority of Turkish children cannot read adequately upon graduation from the elementary school. Such situation is especially alarming in metropolitan areas with high density of the immigrant population.
Besides, the Turks’ unwillingness to integrate into the German culture, Germans themselves contributed to the separation of people within their society. The natives also expected the guest workers to return to their home country; therefore, they did not plan to provide immigrants with the proper education and language acquisition. Moreover, it is much more difficult for Turkish immigrants to gain the German citizenship. However, some officials believe that Turks have to decide on their own whether they want to become Germans or not. Nevertheless, this decision is complicated by a number of external factors, including xenophobia. Many Germans think that there are too many immigrants living in the country today, and they often form own communities that are free from immigrants.
Among the reasons for the poor integration, researchers highlight the difference in religion. Most Turkish families are Muslims, and the conservative rules do not allow children to participate in the given society. Thus, many Turks do not take part in sport activities due to own beliefs they have or those of their parents. In addition, marriage practices of the two cultures differ greatly, and many Turkish women are forced into marriage; hence, they see their husband only on a wedding day. However, it is important to note that the majority of Turks are not orthodox Muslims and have more liberal views.
Among the reasons for the poor integration, sociologists note the desire to integrate. This desire should come from both the majority and minority groups as today, the Turkish population lives in Germany like in a parallel world. In addition, many consider the faith the major hindrance to this integration.
The Polish Diaspora in the UK
The immigration is always associated with the self-reflection, and people start to understand own identity much deeper when being exposed to a foreign society. Despite being a Slavic culture, the Polish culture is not drastically different from the British one, unlike in the case of the Turkish and German population that was discussed above in the paper. Therefore, the process of integration of the Polish immigrants into the British society has an own history of ups and downs.
Since 2004, Polish immigrants have preferred the United Kingdom as their destination to other countries of the European Union. The population of the Poles immigrants is the largest in Norway, and the UK takes the second place. Some demographical characteristics of Polish immigrants differ from those of the natives. Poles in the UK are younger than the British, even a bit younger than other groups of immigrants. The majority of immigrants are male, and most of them are the low-skilled workforce (Bakalar). The country does not provide free educational services to immigrants. On the other hand, there is a challenge that is associated with the acknowledgment of skills. It is clear that an occupation indicates a person’s set of skills; nevertheless, many college-bred Poles face the necessity to work at positions that require much a lower level of education. Many researchers agree with the fact that immigrants are more educated than the natives are; nevertheless, they are likely to occupy low-skilled positions. Another peculiarity of the Polish diaspora is the fact that it densely resides in the capital of the country. On top of that, there are some cases of racist attacks on these people in the UK. Thus, in 2007, about fifty attacks were reported by Poles (Kubal).
The above-described realia of the Polish immigrants in the UK contribute to the poor integration patterns of this population. However, there is evidence that Polish people are more integrated into the British society than Turks into the German society are. “The new generation of Polish children, who were born in Britain or came with their parents now fluent in both Polish and English often do not think of themselves as Poles anymore and do not sound Polish” (Kubal). In addition, some of newly arrived Poles report that the aim of their immigration is to experience multiculturalism and the ability to interact with people from various backgrounds. In Scotland, for example, the Interactive Writing Salon was established in order to serve those Poles, who want to write in English and to better integrate into the British society in such a way. At the same time, they preserve the own culture.
Besides, many cultural events, associated with the promotion of the Polish culture in the country, take place in the United Kingdom. For instance, the Polish Cultural Institute in London organized the Pole Position. A number of Polish writers have participated in the event. Another example is organized by the Project London Films, which introduced a new polish movie, You Are God, to the British viewer.
The fact that most Polish people are white explains the phenomenon that those individuals, who integrate into the British society, disappear. This trend has been the cause for the neologism of the invisible minority. This peculiarity characterizes the Polish population of the second generation. These people have equal education opportunities with the natives; their career advancements are improving in comparison to newly arrived immigrants.
New immigrants are exposed to the culture, in which they were not brought up. Therefore, these people “often anxious to prove themselves in their new surroundings, frequently got involved in the struggle to achieve better standards of living and work productively with eagerness and determination, often exceeding the customary production norms” (Kubal 59). This idea explains the fact that Poles become successful in integrating or even assimilating in the following generations. Unlike the Turks, the Poles are eager to integrate into the British society. In addition, both Poles and Brits are Christians; therefore, there is no additional hindrance in the form of religious beliefs. Finally, there is no strong opposition on the part of the British, who appear to be tolerant to these immigrants to some extent.
The era of globalization has triggered different processes that are related to the culture integration, which may be observed in the countries of the European Union. This supragovernment structure promotes the idea of the integration and culture export processes. The two cases addressed above demonstrate different practices and ways that the culture export management is conducted. These cases differ in terms of the cultural proximity/distance, the location of host countries, the faith, and the populations’ attitude towards each other. These differences explain why problems associated with the integration and assimilation are tackled in opposite ways.
Both the integration and assimilation processes are taking place in Germany and the UK. However, the majority of the Turkish population struggles in order to integrate into the German society, while many Poles, especially second-generation immigrants, assimilate into the British society. The reason for that trend is the difference in religious beliefs and skin color of immigrants and the natives in Germany.
Both countries undertake certain steps in order to assist immigrants to become a productive part of the society. The UK officials organize cultural events, in which Polish immigrants participate, in the process of the culture export. The German government has to take more active steps since the Turkish diaspora is much less integrated into society. Therefore, various educational programs and anti-discrimination acts are developed.
Both the British and German societies are multicultural; Polish and Turkish Diasporas bring changes. Some representatives of the native population oppose such changes; therefore, they form free-from-immigrants communities. It is especially true in the German context.
Even though the integration and assimilation are different concepts and theoretically, it is possible to draw a line between them, it is difficult to make the same in practice. In the light of the cases described above, it may be concluded that the Turkish population is trying to integrate into the German society, whereas the Poles often assimilate with the Brits. Nevertheless, there are still some Polish immigrants in the UK, who do not even speak English. Therefore, processes of the integration and assimilation occur at the same time.