You don’t have to live in China to experience a little of what it is like to live in China, you can go to any number of China towns around the world where Chinese people have set up their own little versions of China for themselves to enjoy and live in. You don’t have to go to Africa to experience what it is like to live in Africa, you can go to any number of suburbs or urban areas in the world where African immigrants have made little versions of Africa; this is true whether they are South African or African. You don’t have to live in Ireland to live in Ireland, you can go to major cities like Chicago and New York and live in areas where there are so many Irish immigrants it is like living in Ireland, in smaller measure. This is what many immigrants do all over the world. They take their way of life with them. Most of them do not assimilate to the culture around them, they change part of the society to look like their place of origin.
I often find Australians will get offended at this suggestion, but just think about the heritage of our own nation, which was founded by the English. The people who are probably the most prolific at changing wherever they settle anew are the English. Wherever you go in the world where English people have emigrated, you can see England in one variety or another. From Canada, to South Africa to the dry land of Australia, you will see the impacts of English immigration. If any people does not assimilate more than any other, it is the English people. As this example from the Daily Mail highlights,
“A new documentary is lifting the lid on how Brits starting a new life in France aren't always greeted with the warmest of welcomes from their French counterparts.
The series, which airs on French and German channel Arte, is called Little Britain in the Dordogne, and follows the journeys of Britons who've moved to towns and villages in France's South-West - now dubbed 'Dordognshire' - to enjoy a taste of the Gallic life, and cheaper property prices.
The show shines a light on the tensions that have crept in between locals and the Brits who have snapped up country estates at bargain prices.
While the French locals are apparently bemoaning the infiltration of British culture - including the arrival of English butchers and barbers in their rural villages, the cultural differences are also felt by the ex-pats moving in.
One former Norfolk handyman, Graham Parker, airs his frustrations with the local French workers he's tried to employ to work on his £1million 18th century gite - saying they take two-hour lunch breaks and return to the job 'half-drunk'…
…Although they've tried to learn French, they operate the stall in English and most of their customers are English, they say. Their meat comes from locals French farms.”[i]
I laughed for several reasons when I came across this article. I laughed because I have been to France and I have seen how the French respond to the English. It’s fascinating, and good on them, it is their country after all. While I was there we stayed with some American missionaries and they played us a TV show they had which was all about this English couple moving to France and then trying to come to terms with the ways the French did things. Getting trades people to come was one of the hardest things they found they had to deal with, along with many other differences. I also laughed because I remembered that show.
And herein is the point, people of different ethnicities are different, and because of this we create different kinds of societies. French people create one type of society and English people another. And though someone looking in from Asia might think that they look almost the same, for the Brits and the Franks, the differences are stark. English people like certain things done a certain way, they like their tea, their bacon, their cottage pies, they want their tradesmen to come on time, and they think that drinking wine with lunch is a wild extravagance and irresponsible. The French see things a little different again. I was amazed to see how long lunches with wine were just part of French culture, at least where I stayed in Paris.
Because people are different, even though they may like the idea of living in another country, they will also find themselves congregating with those who are like themselves in that new country. Very few immigrants actually assimilate. If they come in in very small numbers then they will assimilate over time, by the time their kids have kids they are part of the society. Some immigrants work really hard to assimilate as much as they can, and some can even pass for a native of their new land. South Africans can blend in very well in Australia. But if you talk to people from countries like South Africa, even if they have been here since childhood, they will talk about how different Aussies are and they think of themselves still as South Africans. The same is true for many Brits, or Yanks, and others.
Immigrants change the place they go to, because those changes are the result of their impact on the environment. And it is not wrong for the locals to not appreciate all or some of those changes,
“A trader selling French baked goods at the stall next door to the Robbins admits that the locals in Eymet aren't all enjoying the impact on their village the new residents have had…Another villager expressed frustrations at the Brits' reluctance to try and learn French, saying: 'They learn French slowly. They would need more lessons but they keep to themselves. So we have to speak English or there is no sale.'”[ii]
It is not fun to have to live like a foreigner in your own land. People think of things like a “Little Britain” as an oddity, because they think of people from other ethnicities doing this sort of thing. But if you step back you can see that Canada, Australia, NZ and other countries really are just big “Little Britains”. The language, culture, legal traditions, and much of the rest of these societies have the stamp of Britain all over them. The British have changed every single place they moved to. But then so do other peoples.
But, again, the point is people are different and because of this they create different kinds of societies. People, on the whole, don’t really assimilate. And sometimes this works out ok for a time. Cultures that are generally similar to each other, or neutral to each other can succeed for some time in this situation as long as there is prosperity for all to share. But what happens when the good times start to come to an end? History is very illustrative here. The history of the fall of Rome, or Byzantium, or other empires shows that when times get tougher people tend to coalesce to those who are more like them. We live in an era of ridiculous and unprecedented prosperity. But if this prosperity goes, how will all of these divisions work out?
List of References
[i] Jo Tweedy 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/british-ex-pats-in-dordogne-offend-french-by-opening-english-shops/ar-AA1hkG2Y?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=26ccc9aa57c146f6b5384146f13ebde4&ei=12#image=1