Understanding cultural conflict among the new émigrés in the United Kingdom: a phenomenological study

Chapter One Introduction

Difficulties living within one’s own cultural milieu are not insignificant considering contemporary society’s myriad of woes such as inflation, unemployment, effects of global warming and the catastrophes in their wake. However, comparing these to the apprehensions of individuals struggling to assimilate a totally foreign culture and their consequent problems becoming comprehensible would probably be an understatement. The study on cultural conflicts is substantially abundant but a different way of looking at these events and situations is beneficial to the increased understanding of the melting pot that is now the United Kingdom.

This study attempts to examine personal meanings of experiences of individuals who have found the UK their home within the last ten years and piece together their stories of triumphs and defeats over their own encounters against language or communication barriers and other major obstacles that made their stay in the country significantly better or worse. It also examines the strategies they individually employ to surmount the obstacles they had encountered.

The United Kingdom is a picture of multiculturalism where near its boundaries different languages make its distinct mark making clear dividing lines between countries.

The term multiculturalism may mean differently to different kinds of people. Theorists like Bill Martin (“Theories”, 2007)and Will Kymlicka among the prominent ones have successfully stirred many followers to apply, if not all of their theoretical positions, the highlights of their arguments (Kymlicka, 2003). Countries like Britain and Canada celebrate diversity and they do these with fervor.

America is oftentimes called a “melting pot” especially today when the influx of immigrants and aliens have continued to come in unabated. Foremost in the minds of intellectuals however, is that whether the kind of multiculturalism that anyone in governance proclaim a kind of approach as understood and presupposed by a majority. Different theories in reality, propose a diverse kind of understanding and explanation of multiculturalism.

This term is to be appreciated in the context within a conceptual and a historical viewpoint. To apply this, connecting with a historical background, it is known that multiculturalism has developed in importance and distinction starting the 80s especially among the academic institutions or established halls of learning. These were reflected precisely from the ideas cultivated from courses such as social studies, literature and history as these are naturally, roots of so-called “Eurocentric biases.” This implies that absent here were obvious materials that were indigenous and to a greater extent ethnically diversified (Jay, 2002).

This study presupposes that hardships are natural in adjustments within a different cultural milieu. With multiculturalism, these hardships are expected to be multiplied. Conflicts are surely central to these difficulties in culturally diversified communities. The author expresses these variables essentially, based on the following definitions.

Definition of terminology

Culture - n.


a.         “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.

b.         These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.

c.         These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.

d.         The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

2.         Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.


a.         Development of the intellect through training or education.

b.         Enlightenment resulting from such training or education” (answers.com)

Note: This paper adheres to operationally define culture based on above definitions (1 through 3) as these are encompassing of how an individual is wholly moulded.

Émigrés – “One who has left a native country, especially for political reasons      (French, from past participle of émigrer, to emigrate, from Latin ēmigrāre)”


Phenomenological study/ies – “The examination of human experiences through detailed descriptions of the people being studied. The procedure involves studying a small number of subjects through extensive and prolonged       engagement to develop patterns/relationships of meaning” (Creswell, 1994)

Chapter Two Literature Review

Studies on Multicultural citizenship: Canadian Context

Canadian theorist Kymlicka argues concerning what he calls a “multicultural citizenship.” This is more understood especially that where Kymlicka is concerned, Canada is a picture of such typology. This country is known for its bilingualism and the adherence to the diverse ethnicity from within its borders. Although this is so, the country is quite strict where immigration is still concerned to a large degree.

They provide limitations to what can be accepted and who are likely to be admitted. At the outset though, no discrimination of race and culture might be felt (Jay, 2002). But critics say that the when a government puts restrictions whatsoever even on where a person may come from, this is a betrayal of the intentions for multiculturalism.

No matter the number of “members” within a group of minorities or indigenous peoples, they must be represented and their cultural identity equally be preserved: this is an implication of Kymlicka’s theory. In an organization, multiculturalism is inevitable; people come with a culture individually of their own. Hence, the drive to accept this reality is half the issue but a more positive stance with any person/s in leadership.

As such, any organization with these aspects present will automatically be complex and difficulties surely will arise. But when leaders accept that this is a fact and that everywhere in the world, any institution that exists rise on these complications and must thrive because of it and learn through it (Jay, 2002).

An organization therefore is characterized by a give and take of ideas; someone at times or oftentimes is monopolizing the lead roles especially if a number of them happen to be of the same persuasion. Depending on who’s dominant, and what the organization successfully follows as the “voice,” there the rest of the group eventually follows. What is seen here are, a plus and minus, pros and cons of multiculturalism.

Worldviews and their significance in cultural difference and conflict

Whether one is conscious of it or not, all have their respective worldviews. The way people view life in general and their approach to it is the worldview that control and guide them in every decision that they make – in the way they cope pressures, and even as they celebrate and enjoy good days. Since on a particular worldview a person stands or falls, it is very important to constantly check and evaluate one’s philosophy of life. “Which philosophy is the best philosophy?” The best answer that perhaps that one can come up with is, “Of course, the philosophy that encourages intellectual development.”

Christianity is a religion that has been compared, every now and then, to many philosophical persuasions; and most of the time, it was either mixed with other worldviews which were totally strange to it, or the proponents of other strange worldviews have attempted to enjoin Christianity to their philosophy, which inevitably have resulted in confusion and clever duplicity in individuals who follow and experiment into this game (Cheung, 2007).

For generations, people in different civilizations have become witnesses of how their fellows advocated multiple philosophical disciplines. In fact, today, if one would just observe closely, many hold a compound of various beliefs that got rooted and accumulated for years in the family via environmental conditioning. The by-product of this kind of influence is an individual who cope through the varying situations and circumstances of life with the competence of a chameleon. This kind of approach will not properly help in the development and growth of a person as he or she wades his/her way through college (Shelley, 1982)

On Work-life initiatives and importance to an individual’s adjustments to conflicts in the workplace

Work-life initiatives are strategies implemented by firms to reduce turnover and increase productivity and overall firm performance. Studies were made to examine the influence and effects of work-life initiatives on employees and the organization in general. Workplace diversity which incorporates the concepts of work-life initiatives does indicate that it is inevitable that when a company introduces work-life initiatives, there is a resulting increase in diversity.

Substantial evidence point to the effectiveness of workplace diversity hence, many institutions encourage and promote this in their particular milieu (http://www.cmdronline.com/workshops.htm). It is inevitable that juggling studies, work and family life will be one of a person’s demanding experiences. The rationale for having a job is not only to have a livelihood, finance one’s way to school, achieve personal satisfaction in the expression of his abilities and trainings, and receive his remuneration and perks on the side.

Preparation for family stability to be able to provide and thus create an atmosphere of care, for bachelors/maidens, is also the foremost and logical reason for having a job. However, the thin thread that separates between the two polarities becomes blurred, and there lies the tension that pulls a person in different directions. The Center for Mediation and Dispute Resolution opens its website with the following quote: “Our life is one giant balancing act (http://www.cmdronline.com/workshops.htm).”

On Parenting Styles, cultural and family values

There are cultural and ethnic variations that produce value systems which essentially direct parents’ manner and styles of parenting. Within authoritarian parenting styles, Chinese and European American families are premised from different sets of beliefs. With this specific root of family training, variations of effects are also seen.

In a highly individualistic society such as America, Asian American families living even in the U.S. promote a collectivistic pattern on the family. Termed as “control and restrictiveness” (Chao, 1994), the concepts, according to the researcher hardly captures its essence. For the Chinese families, Confucian tenets (e.g., chiao shun & guan) underlie training that is seen as strictness whereas the Protestant Christian values define strictness in the Biblical context (Chao, 1994).

In addition, because of these varying roots, the goals for the style or kind of training are starkly different. For Chinese American parents, the “training” that seems restrictive or controlling, emanate from the idea that children are not being controlled or dominated, and this is not the goal for such preparation, but rather to achieve harmonious relations.

On the other hand, their European American counterparts introduce the kind of training on their children. Familism refers to the emphasis by Asian American families to pursue the interests of family members and one’s obligations toward the collective unit more than the individual’s. Asian American families take time to inculcate to their children, the values and beliefs that their ancestors had ingrained to the former generations. Summoning members to do things for the family, instilling respect, devotion and loyalty as kinship values, where priorities are the needs of the family. The way families are knot together as a social unit is uniquely cultural in nature (Darling & Sternberg, 1993).

Moreover, European Americans in contrast, differ in the styles of parenting towards their children. In general, they promote more individualistic and independent thinking and nurturing styles that are vastly different from their Asian American counterparts. According to studies, European Americans emphasized self-esteem, “stressing the personal well-being in the individual” (Kim & Wong, 2002).

In the light of these differing and similar cultures, the families take on similar styles in parenting. Since the families coming from the Asian ethnicity origin are usually paternalistic or patriarchal in nature, the assumption is that parental authority is of pivotal and primary importance. Parents often demand subservience and/or sacrifice of oneself to the advantage of the whole. Considering this common scenario in most households, despite modernity, families from the Asian American group have their own specific sub-culture where they run their families according to their peculiarities and particular beliefs.

Asian Americans, with this paternalistic and deference to the ancestor approach or orientation, studies imply that they point to an authoritarian or authoritative leaning according to Baumrind’s model. The problem that is usually posed here is that the Baumrind and other parenting styles are more culturally western in terms of measures and concepts that it lacks the unique sensitivity of what is culturally appropriate in Asian or Asian American contexts (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

~Differing Practices

Both cultures appreciate education but Chinese American immigrants emphasize academic achievement more than the European American parents (Jose et al, 2000). The tradition of collectivism are also handed down to the children, this despite living in and assimilating Western ways. The use of time is vastly different between these two types of families. For Chinese Americans, time is limited where playing, watching television and rough and tumble play are concerned; the parents oftentimes are more seen as to encourage their children to spend time for drawing and music and even yet in preschool, parents prefer academic tasks for their children to aspire to(Jose et al, 2000).

~Disciplinary techniques

Studies show that more positive disciplinary techniques are reported as coming from Chinese as against European American families (Jose et al, 2000). In contrast, the latter prefer the use withholding privileges and time-outs as strategies in discipline. When it comes to positive reinforcement, Chinese American parents often use this method more than the European Americans. This is based in the Chinese belief that children are basically good and that firm and consistent parental discipline are instilled although less punitive in nature (Jose et al, 2000).

Levels of warmth between cultures are not much different between the two cultures. With the prediction that Chinese Americans are more authoritative than the European Americans, this is not seen in studies. Home learning environment then reflect significant differences towards children’s social competency and academic success (Jose et al, 2000).

Diana Baumrind (Baumrind, 1975) developed a very widely known theory of parenting which created a great impact on the idea of parenting styles that most parents adhere to and follow today. The main concepts include the authoritative, permissive and authoritarian models (Darling, 1999; Atkinson et al, 1993). The main idea concerns these styles and their impact on the resulting developing person. It is considered influential because it is perhaps the easiest to remember and where most parents or adults readily relate to in most cases (Darling, 1999).

Chapter Three Methodology

A phemenomenological study as defined in the preceding chapter (chapter one) makes use of individual experiences but of in-depth in nature, hence the tools for the study will be critical towards obtaining a substantive and comprehensive resource from the pool of subjects.

The participants will be purposely selected from an identified population of émigrés in the United Kingdom with the data gathered from the UK Bureau of Census and Statistics. Because of its research nature with the tendency to be highly subjective, a set of prepared structured questionnaire or interview roster will be pre-tested and subjected to reliability and validity tests to ensure that questions are thoroughly thought over and if possible, easily understood by the participants. A total of six (6) individuals are going to be selected from the target population. The Interview Questionnaire may include the following items among others:

Describe the family life cycle and its relationship to life satisfaction during early marriage, parenthood years, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. Examine three or four challenges that relate to your life such as: - Adjust to New Personal challenges - Balancing Commuting and house work etc


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Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. In P. H. Mussen (Series Ed.) & E. M. Hetherington (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Socialization, personality, and social development (5th ed., pp. 1-101). New York: J. Wiley. ______”Theories” Multiculturalism. Accessed June 5, 2008 file:///D:/Documents%20and%20Settings/alan/My%20Documents/multiculturalism%20order/Multiculturalism%20-%20Theories.htm Shelley, Bruce. 1982. Church History in Plain Language. Word Publishing.