Like the US, Europe is suffering growing pains when it comes to its immigrants. Coming from an immigrant family in a nation of immigrants, I like America's “melting pot” approach. I think it works best for all if newcomers embrace their adopted culture, learn the local language, and melt in.
But the European scene is a bit more complex. While I'm a fan of melting in, I also celebrate the cultural diversity and survival of Europe's smaller ethnic groups. If diversity is such a virtue, what's wrong with immigrants wanting to preserve their home cultures? Is it hypocritical to celebrate the preservation of the Catalan language, but expect Algerians to learn Dutch? Should Europe's famous tolerance extend only to indigenous European cultures?
While I'm glad I'm not a policymaker who needs to implement immigration laws in Europe, I'll be honest about my take on this dicey issue: I favor indigenous diversity (policies favoring European “nations without states”), but policies facilitating immigrant laborers and their families (from outside Europe) to embrace local cultural norms and assimilate.
Am I wrong to wish that a Muslim living in Denmark would become a Dane? Am I wrong to wish the US would speak only English, rather than Norwegian or Spanish as well? Am I wrong to lament districts of London that have a disdain for all things British?
Immigrants energize a land — but they do it best (as is the story of the US) when their vision is a healthy melting pot. Melt, immigrants...treasure your heritage while embracing your adopted homelands. But it's more than just an “immigrant issue.” Europeans (like Americans) fearful of encroachment, change, and differing hues of skin need to show tolerance, outreach, and understanding. From what I've seen, with these attitudes, it works better for all involved.
About This Entry
You are reading "Immigrants, Treasure Your Heritage...and Melt", an entry posted on 24 August 2009 by Rick Steves.