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When people move to another country, some of them decide to follow the customs of the new country. Others prefer to keep their own customs. Which do you prefer?

Start: 19:40
End: 20:10

Whenever people migrate to another country for whatever reason, they are often expected by the host country to become just like its citizens; to take on the beliefs and customs of the dominant culture, wear the same clothes as everyone else, eat the same types of food. While these expectations are justified and understandable from the point of view of the natives, it is also unrealistic and indeed unfair to demand that new immigrants shed their old belief systems, lifestyle choices and cultural habits in order to blend into the predominant culture in that country. Hence, I believe that migrants should aim to strike a fine balance between assuming the host country's customs and keeping the customs they grew up with in their native countries.

We currently live in a world where the prevailing mindset in the general population of most country is to fear competition from the outside word, and thus the tendency to support xenophobic ideology. This could range from ground-level discontent about the perceived increase in foreigners in the country, to governmental policies that strive to strengthen national borders and prevent the influx of immigrants into the country. Unfortunately, this worrying phenomenon does not seem to be simply isolated in one country or region. For example, one of the major issues of contention during the current US Presidential Elections is the issue of migrant policy regarding Muslim refugees and Mexican immigrants. Meanwhile, in Singapore, an affluent island-state that prides itself for being among first-world countries, there is an ever increasing perennial anti-foreigner sentiment among the populace that does not always tally with government policies. On the other side of the globe, members of the European Union are still embroiled in heated debates about the collective approach the continent should take regarding war refugees. There are many reasons for this global xenophobic trend. For some countries, it is ingrained in their culture to be isolationist, such as Japan, a nation which has for centuries shunned foreign contact until the arrival of the Black Ships in the 1800s. For others, it is a response to a perceived threat of foreign competition that has caused whatever hardships the general citizenry in the country might be facing. And then there is the justified fear of foreigners in the previous colonies of superpowers who have taken advantage of the these countries' past hospitality. Regardless of the reason, the indigenous population often expect incoming migrants to assimilate into their dominant culture, and would disapprove of any habit of custom that seems to deviate from their own.

Nevertheless, no matter how wilfully determined migrants might be in clinging onto their old habits and customs, even the most unwilling migrant would be forced by circumstances to follow some of the customs that are observed in their new country. Most of the time this is through aggressive coercion, as seen in how many Muslim women in the US stopped wearing hijabs post-September 11 terrorist attacks in order to avoid becoming targets of Islamophobic violence due to their adherence to religious customs. But sometimes, this is simply because each country runs in a certain manner that even its new inhabitants would have to comply to its rules. I have experienced this myself when I migrated to Germany six years ago. Previously I have always had problems with punctuality, but ever since I got into some problems due to tardiness attending to German bureaucratic procedures, I was forced to change my habits to conform to the country's attention to order and punctuality. Hence, it is obvious that following the customs of the new country is mostly a wise decision, because it allows migrants to blend into their new society instead of sticking out like a sore thumb, and it also ensures that current systems in place in the host country are not disrupted because of new residents failing to follow the rules.

However, I believe that losing one's own culture in an attempt to assimilate into the new culture is ultimately detrimental to the migrants' sense of identity and emotional well-being. For example, it has been shown that Third Culture Kids who spent much of their formative years moving around with their parents and living in multiple countries, and therefore were forced to undergo the process of assimilation many times, experience immerse grief from the loss of cultural identity and their ignorance about their parents' cultural norms and customs. Furthermore, I once met a Filipina lady at the embassy who has lived many years in Germany and thus eventually--whether out of choice, due to lack of practice or out of necessity--forgot how to speak her native tongue. This has led to her being unable to reconnect with her relatives left behind in the Philippines when she migrated for better job opportunities decades ago. Therefore, while it is beneficial for migrants to try and assimilate into the new society to some extent, it would be self-defeating to completely lose touch with the culture that migrants were born into.

In conclusion, it is important that migrants are able to assume the culture of the new country without completely leaving behind the old customs and traditions of their birthplace. The ideal goal of harmonious coexistence between indigenous citizens and newcomers would be integration, the creation of a true melting pot of cultures; not simply assimilation which expects the dominant culture to imply subsume the original culture in migrants' lives.

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