Acculturation vs. Assimilation: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How to Read Body Language

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is Assimilation?
  • 1:18 What Is Acculturation?
  • 2:11 Examples of…
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
Assimilation and acculturation are both used to describe what happens when two cultures come in contact for extended periods of time. This lesson explains the difference with between these closely related terms and also gives examples.

What Is Assimilation?

Whenever two cultures come into more than casual contact, it is inevitable that they will both be changed. There are, of course, variables to this. Which culture is going to change more? How long will it take? Which of the cultural markers will change and how? Let's take a closer look at how these things work.

The most common cultural change when two cultures compete is assimilation of the minority culture into the majority culture. The minority culture gradually loses all of the markers that set it apart as a separate culture in the first place. Markers include things like languages, food, and customs. Eventually, the minority culture becomes almost indistinguishable from the majority culture.

However, this scenario leaves out the fact assimilation is usually a two-way process. Yes, the minority culture does change dramatically and loses cultural separateness, but the majority culture also changes during this process. It's a lot like cooking: when you add salt it quickly becomes invisible, but the final meal is changed as well. While the looks of the meal may not appear greatly changed by the addition, it is different after the assimilation in recognizable and important ways.

What Is Acculturation?

If enough of the cultural markers of language, tradition, and food from the minority culture are maintained for the members to be able to recognize themselves as a distinct culture, then it is said to have undergone acculturation instead of assimilation. This type of change is much more likely to happen during voluntary migrations or peaceful coexistence, rather than as a result of the conquests or forced coexistence that typically characterize assimilation.

Of course, acculturation is also a two-way process because both cultures will still change and be affected by each other. To return to the cooking analogy, acculturation would be akin to adding an ingredient that is still recognizable in the final meal: basil leaves into an omelet, for example. This ingredient can still be distinctly recognized in the final dish, but both the ingredient and the product are different than before the acculturation.

Examples of Acculturation and Assimilation

Any time two cultures come into prolonged contact, assimilation or acculturation will start to happen. Let's look at a few examples to give you a better idea of these processes.

Roman Empire and Greece

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account