Acculturation and Adaptation in First-Generation Immigrants to New Zealand

Published 2008. Contact: Colleen Ward.


This research examined Acculturation and Adaptation in 317 first generation immigrants in New Zealand. The research participants ranged in age from 15-86 and originated from 35 countries worldwide, although the largest groups were Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and Filipino. The research addressed three major questions.

  • How do immigrants live within and between two cultures?
  • How would immigrants ideally manage their intra-cultural and intercultural relations?
  • What is the relationship between how immigrants engage in intercultural relations and how well they adapt?


Research participants completed surveys that assessed real and ideal behaviours (similarity to members of original culture and similarity to New Zealanders), acculturation strategies (integration, separation, marginalization, and assimilation), intercultural relations (perceived discrimination and perceptions of New Zealanders) and adaptation (psychological and sociocultural).


The results revealed:

  • Immigrants report that integration is the most common acculturation strategy. This means that immigrants both maintain their original culture and adopt aspects of New Zealand culture. Relatively small numbers assimilate or separate, and very few are marginalized (i.e., relate neither to their original culture nor New Zealand culture).
  • Immigrants also prefer integration to the other acculturation options.
  • The major difference between real and ideal acculturation options is that some immigrants remain separated (maintaining original culture but not engaging in the wider New Zealand society) when they aspire to achieve integration.
  • How immigrants relate to and engage in New Zealand society is particularly important for their adaptation. Those who describe their behaviours as being similar to other New Zealanders report greater life satisfaction, better sociocultural adaptation, less identity conflict, less perceived discrimination and more positive perceptions in New Zealanders.
  • Those who integrate report fewer sociocultural adaptation problems than the assimilated, separated, and marginalized. Those who separate report greater discrimination than those who integrate.

View the presentation "Acculturation Orientations: What are we really measuring?" here pdf128KB.

View the presentation "Acculturation and Intercultural Perceptions: What I think, what you think, what I think you think and why it is all important" here pdf503KB.