The Hypocrisy of Integration. Brits Refuse to Integrate Overseas

In “The Hypocrisy of Integration”, Corben Neyland draws from his own experience living abroad in reprimanding the lack of integration for most British migrants in other nations, while they criticise foreign nationals in the UK who don’t embrace British culture. 

For a long time, immigrants in the United Kingdom have heard the same arguments from a minority of secular British citizens. We’ve all heard the arguments that foreign nationals should only speak English because they’re in the UK. Or that they should integrate and adopt British culture. 

But why is it that when the same British citizens go overseas, they surround themselves with other Brits, and fail to adapt and integrate into other cultures? Surely the same rules should apply to Brits who live overseas.

A relatively common answer to that question is that Brits don’t believe they should learn the language of other countries because everyone speaks English. However, it’s unfair to assume that just because someone travels to the UK, regardless of where they’re from, they should simply release themselves from their own cultural background to adopt British culture.

A key issue to this hypocritical argument is the generalization of immigrants. The argument is always phrased to generalize immigrants as one large body of people who are all the same when that is far from reality. The rhetoric regarding immigration in the UK is clouded by the extreme notion that all immigrants do not integrate. This is simply not the case whatsoever.

The rhetoric regarding immigration in the UK is clouded by the extreme notion that all immigrants do not integrate. This is simply not the case whatsoever.

Another example of hypocrisy in the integration argument is the terminology. When British citizens emigrate abroad, they are often referred to as expatriates or expats. However, when foreign nationals come to the UK, regardless of their circumstances, they are always referred to as immigrants or migrants. The differences in the terminology here show the clear bias that surrounds the immigration issue in the United Kingdom. The connotations attached to these terms carry a lot of weight.

The term expat suggests that someone is a skilled professional working outside their native country. However, the term immigrant often carries a negative connotation, because of the way it is used in society and the subconscious bias behind it acts to strip the rights and deny the importance of thousands of immigrants that act in vital roles in every sector of our society.

It is not easy for anyone to integrate into a society that may be vastly different from their own. A first-generation national from any nation overseas might find it difficult to integrate into a culture they know little about, the same way that Brits living overseas would find it difficult learning a new language or adopting new cultural tendencies. Whereas, someone who is a second or third generation, or who has lived most of their life in the UK, may find it significantly easier.

However, that does not mean they’re not free to speak their own language. The hypocrisy of the British integration argument is simple; Brits are in no place to dictate to immigrants about speaking English or following British culture when often Brits don’t apply the same rules to themselves when they live abroad. 

The hypocrisy of the British integration argument is simple; Brits are in no place to dictate to immigrants about speaking English or following British culture when often Brits don’t apply the same rules to themselves when they live abroad. 

This is a criticism of British nationals who choose to isolate themselves from another nation’s culture and surround themselves with people from their own cultural setting. Similarly, it is only a minority of foreign nationals in Britain who may choose not to integrate into British culture and society. 

In 2016, it was estimated that 761,000 Britons lived in Spain. That represents nearly two per cent of the Spanish population at that time. Yet only a small percentage of them are comfortable having a conversation in Spanish, or even learning the language to any proficiency. 

I grew up in different countries across Africa and Asia, and I’ve seen the way that Brits abroad interact with local cultures, and sometimes, how there is a lack of interaction. 

I grew up in a diplomatic setting, with embassies and amenities centres providing a space where British immigrants could experience a sense of their own culture in a foreign land. However, there were some immigrants who simply spent all their time interacting in that setting with a comfortable feeling of home.

There is nothing wrong with feeling comfortable in a setting where you express your own culture. However, there is a problem if those same people choose to criticise immigrants who do the same in the United Kingdom. 

There is nothing wrong with feeling comfortable in a setting where you express your own culture. However, there is a problem if those same people choose to criticise immigrants who do the same in the United Kingdom. 

At the same time, there were other immigrants who decided to explore local languages, cuisines, cultures and traditions, and personally, I believe that provides people with a more meaningful experience. 

I had friends from nations stretching from South Korea to Lebanon to Mexico. And all of us benefited from embracing a culture that was vastly different from our own, by learning languages that were unknown to us. 

Having had those experiences, I could not justify criticising a foreign national in the UK for wanting to maintain parts of their own culture or wanting to express their cultural background because, at the end of the day, that is what makes the UK a diverse country. 

Having had those experiences, I could not justify criticising a foreign national in the UK for wanting to maintain parts of their own culture or wanting to express their cultural background because, at the end of the day, that is what makes the UK a diverse country. 

Realistically, how can British citizens condemn immigrants from other countries when there are millions of British citizens overseas living in other countries? The rhetoric surrounding immigration in the UK needs to change. We need to understand the hypocrisy of that rhetoric and apply the same rules to our own citizens overseas. 

It is clear that a majority of British citizens appreciate the multi-cultural society that we live in, but there is still a minority who need to understand the hypocrisy of their arguments and that there cannot be one rule for Britain and a different rule for everyone else. 

Corben Neyland is an MA Media and Communications student at the University of Strathclyde.

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