Europe in former centuries was a continent of emigration, now it struggles with immigration. Immigrants today come from far distant countries, other continents, different history and culture. Integration in everyday life is one central issue.

Union patterns of immigrants in Europe

A study in the context of the “Famlies And Societies” project of the European Commission researched how immigrants adapt in their private life. The authors studied the union patterns of immigrants through generations in different European countries: UK, Estonia, France and Spain.

The immigration problems in Europe, though considered as problems of the European Union, are country specific. One can say: each country has its own typical immigrants. It depends on the localization of the state within Europe, on the former possession of colonies and the historical international relations. Thus, Estonia and the Baltic states had immigrants from Belorussia, Russia and the Ukraine; France, Netherlands and UK had immigrants from their colonies, from Maghreb, Indonesia or India, Pakistan and the Carribean region; Spain had immigrants from the Spanish speaking Latin American countries. The German speaking countries recruited mainly labour immigrants from the Southern European States and Turkey.

The researchers looked at one of the most private issues: union formation, marriage and cohabitation.

The main result was: the mating behavior of the immigrants resembles that of the country of their origin. This is not only true for the first generation of immigrants but also for the younger generation, though slight modifications could be observed. In Europe in the countries under research, except Spain, cohabiting is a common and an accepted form of first union formation. You might expect that immigrants adopt over generation. They do not; they rather show behavioral patterns according to their heritage.

If cohabitation is not practiced in their country of origin and is considered to be against social norms or might even forbidden, immigrants do not cohabitate, they marry immediately when leaving home. But, if cohabitation was a pattern in the country of origin you will find it also in the country of destiny, shown by the Russians, Belorussian and Ukraines in Estonia. Caribbean women have high levels of cohabitation in the UK as have descendants from Sub-Saharan Africa in France.

Now taking into account that migrants are not necessarily the typical representative of their home country – they left it, because they were looking for a career, they have a minority or a marginal status in their home country, or were persecuted – they still were socialized with country specific values.

Shortly put: traditional culture in the country of origin matters and is maintained through generations.

What does this mean?

The results show that you cannot get rid of the values and the rewarded behavior you learned in your family. However young and influenced by the culture in the immigration country you are, you will not avoid living the history of your place of origin. Certainly, changes appear, mainly due to economic and technological factors, but traditions are deeply rooted in the person.

This has to be respected. Don’t try to change values, try to offer livable infrastructure.



A Comparative Study on Partnership Dynamics among Immigrants and Their Descendants by Tina Hannemann, Hill Kulu, Amparo Gonz_lez-Ferrer, Ariane Pailh_, Leen Rahnu, Allan Puur, 2014.

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