Cul­ture shock doesn’t just affect immi­grants; the local hosts are greatly influ­enced by inter­ac­tions with new­comers as well. A new study co-​​authored by a North­eastern Uni­ver­sity researcher looked at the per­sonal net­works of immi­grants and local cit­i­zens living in Seville and Cadiz, Spain and in Boston to find out how the host com­mu­nity is being accul­tur­ated by their expo­sure to immi­grants in both coun­tries, and found that the expo­sure to the dif­ferent cul­tures has a pro­found impact on the values, atti­tudes, lan­guage, behavior and inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships of the locals.

There has been sig­nif­i­cant research con­ducted on the changes expe­ri­enced by immi­grants, but little is known about the changes expe­ri­enced by host indi­vid­uals,” said Dominguez, assis­tant pro­fessor of soci­ology at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and co-​​author of the study. “We focused on the role of the host cit­i­zens in the net­works of rela­tion­ships with the immi­grant pop­u­la­tions. We also studied the changes expe­ri­enced by host indi­vid­uals because of their con­tin­uous con­tact with immigrants.”

The two-​​part study pub­lished in the “Amer­ican Journal of Com­mu­nity Psy­chology,” first com­pared the per­sonal net­works of com­pa­triots in Seville and Cadiz, Spain to those of the host indi­vid­uals inter­acting with immi­grants from Argentina, Ecuador, Italy and Ger­many. The researchers found that host indi­vid­uals tend to have less cen­trality than com­pa­triots, showing an overall sec­ondary role within the per­sonal net­works of immigrants.

The second half of the study was con­ducted in Boston and exam­ined per­sonal net­works of the local cit­i­zens, specif­i­cally those who pro­vide help and ser­vices to the Latino com­mu­nity. The objec­tive was to ana­lyze the impact of the con­tin­uous con­tact between com­mu­ni­ties. The study found that the impact of the Latino pop­u­la­tion on the host pop­u­la­tion varied according to the amount of time the groups spent together. The researchers found that Latin-​​American immi­grants enriched and ener­gized the lives of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the dom­i­nant cul­ture and as such, point out the pos­si­bility that immi­grants could be a resource to other host communities.

Such inter­ven­tions would con­sti­tute an example of fos­tering diver­sity as a mech­a­nism to address social prob­lems,” added Dominguez.

Dominguez and her co-​​author also found that the level of change in accul­tur­a­tion over time cor­re­sponds to the level of expo­sure. They dis­tin­guished between “res­i­dents” (they have the same access to the same resources as immi­grants with whom they interact with every day), “trav­elers” (they belong to a more dis­sim­ilar social niche and can even­tu­ally con­tribute resources to immi­grants), and “fron­tier bro­kers” (they act as a bridge and channel resources between both com­mu­ni­ties), and found that the typology reflects the degree of accul­tur­a­tion found in the research.

The researchers con­clude that the impact of immi­grants on the host cul­ture seen in this two-​​part study could also hold true in other soci­eties where cul­tures live together, and is an example of how sup­port for diver­sity can become a mech­a­nism for con­fronting social problems.

Cul­tural diver­sity leads to oppor­tu­nity,” said Dominguez. “Inter­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties have the ability to col­lab­o­rate cre­atively and work together to inno­v­a­tively solve problems.”