When in Rome, do as the Romans do, people say. If the situation is not so simple as a vacation or visit to a country, but a more permanent situation as in a lifelong stay, there are two options. One can seek to stay closely associated with one’s “homeland,” which may impede the sense of security and unity one could attain by embracing one’s new world, or one can assimilate. Assimilation is adaptation to a new culture. Individuals who find themselves living in a culture that is not their own should strive to become fully active members of their new culture for their benefit as much as others.
Relating to economics, assimilation holds many benefits. Business people, especially those who choose to pursue higher ranks in the career world, must learn to communicate their intentions clearly and provide their company’s services in a non-offensive way. What may be permissible gestures and speech in one context may be unacceptable in another. Author Craig Storti puts it this way: “We have to adjust or get used to behavior on the part of the local people which annoys, confuses, or otherwise unsettles us; and we have to adjust our own behavior so that it does not annoy, confuse, or otherwise unsettle the local people.” (Storti 15)
The learning that takes place is mostly firsthand and through observance, and therefore nothing that could be learned from just written material. “A child may, on first sight, be able to identify a tiger from a picture, but he cannot learn from the picture whether to pat the tiger on the head or climb a tree. The immigrant is in much the same predicament with reference to many things in our life…he must come to know it first-hand before he learns how to conduct himself.” (Americans in the Making, 87) For example, in one culture, before even borrowing a stapler from a fellow co-worker’s office, one must first ask how the family is and if the little one’s birthday went well, etc. In contrast, countries where quantity of production is the bottom line, this chit-chat may be taken as a waste of time. When such mannerisms are heeded, the employee is seen as respectful and productive, increasing the probability of advancement.
Another benefit to the economy is the newly assimilated workers who may bring new skills. “By bringing new workers into the economy, immigration allows existing U.S. capitol, land, and technology to be used more efficiently.” (Hanson)
Assimilation brings social benefits. One such way is that assimilation allows one to feel unity with the new land. In the Christian Bible the topic of displaced people brings forth the concept that a new land brings new experiences for personal growth and life enrichment. While the book of Hebrews in chapter eleven speaks of people looking for a heavenly country, the same principle applies in earth’s context. “And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.” (Hebrews 11:13b-14)
When a family moves they are likely to tell you that they were looking for a better life, more opportunities both for jobs and education, and sometimes just a new cultural enlightenment.
“If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country.” (Hebrews 11:15-16) If they were still longing for the “Old Country” in a very strong manner, they could not function, much less prosper, in the country in which they now reside. While it’s natural for people to desire to fit into their new society, it isn’t easy, (Storti i-xiv) yet perseverance in assimilating builds a strong sense of unity. We work hard for the things we want most.
Assimilation can better the community socially. “It is the immigrants who have maintained in this country their simple village religious and mutual aid organizations who have been most able to withstand the shock of the new environment.” (Americans in the Making 83)
When people support worthy programs, and seek to play an active role within their community, they generally are looked upon as representing the views of many, and being part of the whole.
In addition, assimilation provides educational benefits. One advantage educationally is that assimilation can broaden one's thoughts. Assimilation can bring forth “Knowledge, attitudes, and skills which presumably lead to a better educated citizenry and ultimately to improved international relations and global understanding.” (Students Abroad 57)
Also, assimilation can strengthen one's identity and advance one personally. On the scale of temporary visits it is noted that people are set free to view, whether to criticize, or hold high, their normal ways and beliefs in a new light. (Students Abroad 92) This new perspective is essential for strengthening convictions about what is right and wrong, which is the basis for everything we do. To put it another way, Storti writes, adaptation: “helps to keep our trials in perspective and not take them too seriously…Some of our trials are new, the result of our changed environment and circumstances, and may require original solutions. But many others are simply old trials turning up in new places.” The result of controlled and supported assimilation is personal confidence and a new skill for being able to relate to people who are different with ease. (Students Abroad 93)
Because of the benefits of assimilation for the community as a whole and the individuals as well, new members of a society should assimilate into their surrounding culture. So when in Rome, do as the Romans do.