Processes of Culture Change Acculturation

The culture of a work place, a field of science, a society or individual is always subject to change and growth. The appropriation of part of a culture into another culture is acculturation. The process usually proceeds from the dominant into the minority and from the new into the old cultures. An old teaching method or scientific perspective is gradually intruded upon by a newer method or perspective with the eventual blending and combining of the two. A minority’s culture is gradually affected and changed by the dominant culture’s

It is difficult for a minority not to absorb aspects of the dominant culture and incorporate them into their own culture. The inevitability of first hand contact between diverse cultures will force a cultural “rubbing off on each other,” although the cultures will remain distinctive. This is not the same as assimilation, where the dominant culture is adopted by the minority, although it often leads to and becomes the final result.

While the emphasis is on the changes that takes place in the minority culture, the dominate culture can and does to a lesser degree absorb some parts of the minority culture as well. The English language has many foreign words and concepts that were absorbed by groups that immigrated to America or other English speaking countries.

The primary component of acculturation is that when a tradition, practice, or food is absorbed it is changed by the culture adopting it. Americans love Chinese food that tastes nothing like what is served in China, and they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in ways foreign to the Irish in Ireland. Americans bring together customs of Christmas from multiple cultures to make what they consider an “American Christmas”; the Christmas tree from Germany, hanging stockings from Holland and Santa Claus from combining Father Christmas of England with Holland’s Sintirklass.  

For some, cultural appropriation is viewed as being tantamount to “cultural theft” because of the change the music, traditions, dress etc. may undergo when it is adopted by the dominant culture.

When an individual is immersed in a foreign culture they experience what is called culture shock and go through four stages of acculturation.

Elation: The new country, idea or culture is exciting in its differences and newness.

Resistance: The newness wears off and everything about the previous culture or method seems better and more comfortable. In a way there is a “home sickness” for what was, and a desire to cling to the old way.

Transformation: The new isn’t so new and disconcerting. What before seemed strange now seems more comfortable.

Integration: The old and the new are equally acceptable and in some ways merge to become something different from either the old or new.

Although many of the examples given here pertain to both individual and group acculturation, the term transculturation is specific to individual acculturation. Acculturation can be viewed as the way humans adapt to an environment, but in this case the environment is intellectual or social in nature.