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Brexiters wrong to view immigration as a threat


Brits who reject multiculturalism experience more stress and fail to fit into Britain's multicultural reality, whereas those who embrace it are less stressed, fit in and don’t lose their Britishness. That’s the finding of new research by Brunel psychologists.

Considering the rise of post-Brexit racist attacks, the study knocks on the head the notion spread by nationalist parties across Europe that immigration threatens conservative values by diluting national identity, traditions and beliefs.

Specifically – across two online studies, psychologists examined how adapting to immigrants’ culture as well as connecting to one’s national culture affects the daily life and well-being of nationals – that is, non-immigrants. A total of 837 people from the UK, USA, Germany, China and India participated in this research.

Across both studies, locals were able to connect with immigrants and their cultures without experiencing less connectedness with their national culture. Even more peculiar:  Europeans and Americans who adapted to other cultures and therefore embraced immigration were even more likely to have a strong connection to their national culture – and vice versa.

In other words, if a British local who celebrates Oktoberfest, speaks Spanish and sometimes feels part of a Chinese community in his/her neighbourhood – it has no or a positive impact on this British local’s likeliness to wear a Poppy Flower, speak English and feel part of a British community.

The researchers also found that if locals connect with their national culture it leads to higher well-being than if they don’t. Those who connected to immigrants and their cultures experienced the presence of immigrants less stressful but rather comfortable.

“Far right groups claim different cultures are a threat, globalisation is taking over and you either get sucked into it or separate yourself from it,” explained Dr Katharina Lefringhausen. “This shows from a psychological perspective that like migrants, nationals can simultaneously embrace their own culture and other cultures surrounding them in their own country.”  

This is the first study that examines how multiculturalism reshapes the cultural identity, beliefs and behaviours of people who stay in their home country and its impact on their daily life.

Regarding these findings, Dr Lefringhausen calls for a shift in focus: “Especially now in the light of Brexit and growing far-right movements across Europe, politicians, educators and the media need to support the integration of locals alongside the integration of migrants – people thrive more by having both.”

Both researchers stress that further studies should investigate how locals’ integration can be promoted in communities, universities and at the workplace.