NEWS

Foreign residents who feel more like Greek citizens

A large percentage of immigrants in Greece feel that it is their second homeland. Two-thirds of immigrants who live here say they feel assimilated into Greek society, having abandoned their own national identities; no group was found to feel left on the fringes of society. As a result, it appears unlikely that there will be islets of desperate people likely to engage in violent protests. According to a survey by the psychology department of Athens University for the Institute of Immigration Policy (IMEPO) under a program for the World Bank, 46 percent of immigrants have accepted Greek identity without rejecting their own, 21 percent have become completely assimilated into Greek society, abandoning their own ethnic identity, 25 percent have decided to reject a Greek identity, and 8 percent say they feel equally at home in both societies. There does not appear to be any group that has chosen to remain on the fringes of society. The most adaptable groups come from the Balkans (mostly Albania) and other parts of Eastern Europe. The least adapted come from Arab and mostly African nations. According to the survey, titled «Acculturation Strategies of Migrants in Greece and their Relation to Socio-Demographic Parameters,» Ilias Bezevengis, a professor of developmental psychology, and Vassilis Pavlopoulos, a lecturer in intercultural psychology, more women assimilate to a greater degree than men, who tend to dissociate themselves. So it is no coincidence that the majority of those from the Balkans (apart from Albania) and the former Soviet states who adapt the best are women. Most of those from Arab and African states who reject assimilation are men. Those who have reached a higher educational standard are more likely to choose a double ethnic identity or full assimilation, and this includes more immigrants from Europe than from Arab, Asian and African countries. Dissociation from Greek society is not usually a long-term decision but usually an initial reaction to the difficulties of settling in. That is why it is important to differentiate those who dissociate themselves in the first six months in a new country and those who are still in that mind-set after 12 years or so. Seeking the company of one’s own kind for support is a valuable psychosocial tool used by the new arrival to deal with the many effects of culture shock. However, if this type of behavior persists for a long period, the person will not be able to acquire the skills needed for adaptation (learning the language, dealing with bureaucracy, finding work). That is why the longer one stays, the more quickly one can move on from this stage. So the average length of stay for an immigrant from Albania who has accepted Greek identity is 9.4 years; that for immigrants from Asian and Latin American countries who dissociate themselves is 1.7 years. The exception are Arabs, who, although staying for an average of 10.4 years in Greece, choose to dissociate themselves for reasons that probably have more to do with the cultural differences between their countries of origin and their host country. Usually, the better one’s socioeconomic status, the better the psychological adaptation. Sometimes these do not go hand in hand, however. For example, there could be a lack of communication with family members, abuse, a sense of losing one’s skills. Researchers note that the psychological dimension of assimilation should not be ignored, even when immigrants’ financial status is assured, since it can make them vulnerable. This is related to the way the host society behaves toward them. «It is important to realize that the adaptation of immigrants is not solely the result of their own actions and choices,» say the researchers, «but is linked to the way the host society behaves at the level of institutions at the level of daily interactions, that is, it is everyone’s business.» The four degrees of assimilation There are four degrees of assimilation by migrants: In tune with Greek society. About 46 percent of immigrants have chosen to maintain their ethnic-cultural identity while opening up to Greek society. They maintain equally good relations with their compatriots and with Greeks. They use both languages equally, were relatively well off in their home country and want to stay in Greece. These people have the most positive indicators of psychological and socioeconomic adaptation. The average immigrant in this category is from Albania, has a tertiary education and has been in Greece from five to 10 years. Assimilated into Greek society. About 21 percent have chosen to abandon their ethnic identity. They prefer to associate with Greeks than with their own compatriots, and use Greek more than their own mother tongue. They are usually of the same high educational standard as those in the previous category and were financially comfortable in their country of origin. They usually want to acquire Greek citizenship and their children to study in Greece. Usually well adapted psychologically and socioeconomically, they are often women from the Balkans (apart from Albania) and have been in Greece for more than 10 years. Separate from Greeks. A quarter of immigrants prefer to retain their own ethnic identities and distance themselves from Greek society. They use their mother tongue either because they have no opportunity to learn Greek, or by choice. There are more men in this category, usually from African, Arab, Asian or Latin American countries. They usually have a basic education, are young, unmarried and have been in Greece for a short time (less than five years). Separate from Greeks and their own compatriots. About 8 percent do not have close relationships with either Greeks or their own compatriots and use both languages. They are chiefly interested in adapting on an individual level, independently of any ethnic group, that is why they use both languages equally well. The typical immigrant in this category is from the former Soviet bloc or Eastern Europe, is older than the typical member of the other categories and is of a high educational level and has been in Greece for some years.