Difference Between Acculturation and Assimilation

Acculturation vs Assimilation

Acculturation and assimilation are two very important concepts in sociology and anthropology that describe cross cultural effects on both minorities as well as majorities in societies that are multi ethnic and multi cultural in nature. Assimilation is a broader concept as described by sociologist Jean Piaget and refers to the manner in which people take new information. There are many people who think of the two concepts as same and even use them interchangeably. However, this is not correct as there are subtle differences that will be pointed out in this article.


If you belong to a minority community in a country and retain your own culture but cannot remain isolated and are affected by the majority culture in such a way that you adapt to some aspects of the majority culture, the process is referred to as acculturation. It can be said that the individual, or for that matter, most of the members of this community are bicultural. It so happens that the original customs remain, and the members of the community accept customs from the majority community. In a multi ethnic society such as US, a person who is Hispanic or has Chinese roots remains attached to his own culture while adapting and accepting some of the customs of the whites.

Meeting of cultures is never a one sided process as many believe and, though a person belonging to a minority culture may begin to dress and speak like those belonging to the majority culture, he still retains the beliefs and customs of his own culture thus reflecting the process of acculturation. Acculturation process has many outcomes of which important ones are assimilation, rejection, integration, and marginalization. The importance of acculturation can never be overemphasized in the study of cross cultural influences and the ways peoples of different ethnic identities learn to adapt and accept the cultural traits of a majority community in a multiethnic society.


Assimilation is a process whereby people of a culture learn to adapt to the ways of the majority culture. There is a loss of one’s own culture as a person gives more value to the cultural aspects of the majority community in the process of assimilation. This has been the case in the United States that has been the centre of attraction of immigrants from many different countries. When the original customs and traditions of a culture get lost when it is influenced by the majority culture of a country, the process is referred to as assimilation.

Assimilation is the process that inevitably takes place whenever there are immigrants arriving in a country from a foreign land. Assimilation is a process that can be in degrees, and full assimilation is said to have taken place when it becomes hard to tell that the person belongs to a minority culture or is from the majority culture.

What is the difference between Acculturation and Assimilation?

• Meeting of cultures always produces results in terms of changes in both the cultures, and acculturation and assimilation refer to two important and different changes in these cultures.

• Assimilation refers to the process where some of the majority community’s cultural aspects are absorbed in such a manner that the home cultural aspects get mitigated or lost.

• Acculturation is a process where the cultural aspects of the majority community are adapted without losing the traditions and customs of the minority community.

• Minority culture changes in the case of assimilation whereas it remains intact in the case of acculturation.