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The Acculturation Process of Romanian Immigrants in the UK

Simona Andreea Pantiru[1] and Dr Ruth Barley[2], Department of Sociology, Sheffield Hallam University


The purpose of this study was to uncover the extent of the relationship between acculturation strategies and influencing factors of Romanian immigrants currently living in the UK. This study took a mixed-method approach by designing, conducting and analysing primary data from an online survey questionnaire. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with Romanian immigrants in Sheffield and London. Having surveyed existing literature, the article examines the different factors that influence acculturation strategies and how these affected the experiences of migrants. This study found that Romanian immigrants in the UK were predominantly using the integration strategy, which is considered the most positive strategy for adapting to the host culture (Berry, 1992; Nguyen and Benet-Martinez, 2013). The biggest factors that predicted acculturation were gender, being a parent, home media, plans for the future, attending Romanian church and having a prior network of friends, even if these were moderately associated with acculturation. The main contribution of this research is that it creates new knowledge on the acculturation process of Romanian immigration in the UK. It is recommended that future research expand on this exploratory study by using random sampling that would allow for the generalisation of findings.

Keywords: Immigration, acculturation, Romania, mixed methods, migrants.


This article investigates the relationship between the acculturation of Romanian immigrants in the UK and other factors, including the factors that best predict a positive acculturation process.

The experience of Romanian immigrants to the UK has not been widely investigated, though Fox et al.'s (2012) and Morosanu's (2013) work is beginning to fill this gap in relation to Romanians living in London. Building on these studies the rationale for this research stems from a general public lack of knowledge on Romanian immigration in the wider UK context. The little work that has been done with Romanians in the UK has focused on practical adaptation strategies. The current focus on the acculturation process therefore fills a gap in knowledge. Another difference is the use of a mixed-methods approach, with surveys presenting demographic information which is further illustrated by qualitative interviews.

The majority of EU immigrants to the UK come from the eight accession (A8)[3] countries that joined the EU in 2004. In 2007 two more accession countries (A2)[4] - Romania and Bulgaria - joined, increasing the number of accession countries from eight to ten (A10). While the rationale for this study stems from a lack of research in this area, it is also timely due to the seven-year transition period for Romanians in the EU coming to an end on 1 January 2014 (Olad, 2012). However, it is important to note that specific 2011 census data was unavailable at the time of writing. This timing makes this research relevant to current UK immigration policy, as this is the last year that the UK government can maintain employment restrictions (Lymperopoulou, 2011).

Literature review

Migration/immigration definitions in literature

Definitions of migration vary greatly across different literature sources, datasets and especially the media. Definitions can include distinction by birth, citizenship, temporary movement into a new country or long-term migration (Anderson et al., 2012, summarised from Table 1, p. 1). The definition of 'migrant' is not simply a technical problem, but has an important effect on migration analysis generated from such data, which in turn can have an impact on policy and eventually legislation. The confusion in public debate over the definition of 'migrant' can also affect data on the number of migrants in the country at any given time and the number of people moving into or out of the country. There is great variation between definitions of migrants in official statistics, and different datasets use different meanings. For example, the Office for National Statistics uses the term 'migrant' to refer to foreign nationals staying for less than one year who are subject to immigration control, whereas the Labour Force survey refers to foreign and foreign-born nationals who are subject to immigration control excluding those EU nationals.

Further, it should be noted that some public opinion surveys do not define their key terms, leaving respondents to answer questions based on their own implicit definitions.

Background to Romanian immigration in the UK

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, like all EEA nationals, have a right to reside in member states. Bulgarian and Romanian workers are required to apply for an Accession Worker Card (AWC) while highly skilled A2 immigrants, students, the self-employed or self-sufficient and their dependants can apply for a registration certificate (commonly known as a 'Yellow Card' ).

However, as Bulgarians and Romanians gained unrestricted rights to work in the UK from 1 January 2014, this situation could change as a higher number of A2 migrants are expected by the British government to take residence in the UK (BBC, 2012). The responses of UK government departments and the British media to these forthcoming changes are affecting the socio-cultural environment in the UK, potentially leading to negative acculturation strategies of new A2 migrants (Fox et al., 2012; BBC, 2013).

Fox et al. (2012) highlight how Eastern Europeans in the UK are often racialised by the UK media and politicians; this can spill over into wider societal racism and intolerance. In the case of Romanian migrants this is often exacerbated by the media's equating of Roma (and the negative stereotypes that are often ascribed to this group) with ethnic Romanians. This social stigma can have a profound effect on migrants' acculturation process.

Acculturation theory

Acculturation was first investigated as part of a major study in 1936 by Redfield et al. who defined acculturation as: 'those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous contact with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups' (cited in Berry, 1997: 7). A table simplifying the concept, based on Berry's acculturation strategies framework, is presented in Figure 1.

  Is it considered to be of value to maintain cultural identity and characteristics?
Is it considered to be of value to maintain relationships with other groups? YES integration assimilation
NO separation marginalisation

Figure 1: Berry's four varieties of acculturation.

The assimilation path is adopted when the person does not want to maintain either their own cultural identity or contact with outside groups; the integration path when it is of value to both maintain one's culture and maintain contact with others; the marginalisation path when there is little interest in maintaining one's own cultural identity or contact with others. If the respondent does not wish to maintain relationships with other groups but wants to hold on to his or her own cultural values, separation comes into play (Berry, 1992 and 1997). However, it is important to add that people do not always have the freedom to choose their own acculturation path due to the attitude of some countries towards cultural diversity (Crick, 2004: 1). Due to the UK's multicultural nature we can assume that Romanians in the UK should be able to choose their own acculturation style.

A different version of the general framework model is done by Ward (cited in Stevens, 2007: 3), who examines the variables that can affect the acculturation process, considering personal and situational factors. Ward's criticism of Berry's model is that it oversimplifies the phenomenon. One could argue that Ward' s model does not account for psychological factors when discussing the integration of Romanians in the UK as it only refers to cultural identity as something acquired in the home country. It also points to the fact that contact with other groups in the host country can affect the cultural identity of the individual, but does not give much detail on the particulars of the type of contact, length of contact, psychological details of the contact or even the socio-political circumstances surrounding this contact. Ward, on the other hand, believes that the acculturation process of the individual can be changed through a variety of factors outside Berry's simplistic model. Ward suggested that a socio-cultural (culture learning) and a psychological side (wellbeing) both influence acculturation. Figure 2 gives an overview of the complexities of Ward's model.

Societal level variables Individual level variables
society of origin characteristics of the individual
social factors Personality
political factors language fluency
economic factors training and experience
cultural factors acculturation strategies
society of settlement characteristics of the situation
social factors length of cultural contact
political factors amount of contact
economic factors cultural distance
cultural factors amount of life changes

Figure 2: Simplification of Ward's view of the acculturation process.


This study is based on 245 questionnaire responses and three semi-structured interviews from Romanian immigrants in the UK.

Mixed methods

By choosing mixed methods, a critical realist approach was used, as the way the researcher conceptualises something is a manner in which we can know that reality better (Bryman, 2008: 370). In other words, critical realism recognises the reality in the natural world as well as discourses in the social world, distinguishing between a reality independent of our thinking of it (Wikgren, 2004: 14). This epistemological position is linked to the ontological position of social constructionism, which highlights how social constructs are produced through social interaction and are therefore in a constant state of flux. This is especially true in the case of immigration where migration is constructed according to socio-historical circumstances together with the researcher's specific version of social reality.

Drawing on these philosophical underpinnings, Denzin (cited in Johnson, 1978: 116) recommends utilising mixed methods because 'the bias inherent in any particular data source, investigators, and particularly method will be cancelled out when used in conjunction with other data sources, investigators, and methods.' This approach allows the researcher to be more confident in the validity of results. Bryman (cited in Creswell et al., 2011: 62-63) noted that researchers need explicit rationales for mixing methods, developing 16 reasons for taking this approach (see Appendix 1). The reasons for using mixed methods in this particular research were the need for 'completeness' for a more comprehensive account, 'credibility' for higher integrity, 'illustration' of quantitative data through qualitative findings and 'explanation' of findings of one method through the other. An explanatory sequential design was used as it involved collecting quantitative data first and then explaining the quantitative results with in-depth qualitative data.

In the first quantitative stage, online survey data was collected to assess whether different factors relate to the acculturation of migrants. The second qualitative stage explored in more detail these factors with a small number of participants in the form of semi-structured interviews. The study therefore used a deductive-inductive circular approach.

Questionnaire design and sampling

A web-based survey was constructed (using Qualtrics software), facilitating access to existent online networks. The final form of the questionnaire contained 30 questions and took between five and 15 minutes to complete. As per Oppenheim (1992), a pilot test was conducted with four people with the same characteristics as the target group. A transcribed form of the online questionnaire is available in Appendix 2.

The sampling method used was a convenience sample due to the difficulty of locating members of the target population. The method used to locate participants was through an invitation to fill in the survey on social media groups.[5] As this study had an exploratory nature, the low possibility of obtaining a representative sample was counterbalanced by getting the points of view of as many respondents as possible.

Of the 245 questionnaire responses, 236 were completed (completion mean of 76%). The partially completed questionnaires were also included in the analysis. The only responses that were excluded from the analysis were those who responded negatively to the first question: 'I confirm that I would like to fill in this questionnaire'.


Variations from the original data took place throughout the data collection process due to continuous new findings in the literature review. For example, a decision to exclude social class from the questionnaire was made in favour of acknowledging and engaging with the complexities of the issue. This is supported by evidence from Evans and Mills (1999: 29) who noted that as the class schema was constructed in the West, this cannot translate into a culture of old communist reward principles.

Data analysis

Analysis for the quantitative side was conducted through the use of statistical software. SPSS version 19 was used to analyse different variables by univariate and bivariate analysis. As a probability sampling approach was not possible no statistical significance tests were utilised. The qualitative side of the study entailed thematic data analysis to identify new themes and how data from the interviews differed from each other (Bryman, 2008: 554). This was done manually by coding individual transcripts and then organising them in common themes across interviews, and also coding open-ended comments in the survey.


Ethical approval was gained from the Ethics department of Sheffield Hallam University, Psychology Sociology and Politics department in line with local ethical procedures following the principles set out in the ethical guidelines of the British Educational Research Association (BERA, 2011). For the online questionnaire, information about the study was outlined before the survey started. For the interviews, an information sheet and consent form was sent to possible respondents. To ensure accuracy, interviews were translated and transcribed as soon as possible after the interviews were conducted. Data was stored on a password-protected personal computer. Names were replaced for anonymity.


The first author's identity as an 'insider' Romanian immigrant brings originality to the study due to her awareness of the native Romanian cultural context, especially regarding the difference of class systems and ethnicity sensitivities. This knowledge helped to form questions and to decide which topics to avoid due to cultural and social complexities and sensibilities of participants. This offered a unique insight into the world of Romanian immigrants through the eyes of a native researcher.

The second author's research experience in the areas of identity, culture and diversity compliment the first author's insider status to the research context. While an outsider to the specific cultural context, the second author has extensive knowledge of Romanian culture through her long-term involvement with a Romanian-based children's charity.

Analysis and Discussion

Quantitative analysis and discussion
Introducing the data and variables

The survey included questions about age, gender, location in Romania and location in the UK, urban/rural location, length of stay, education in Romania and in the UK, marital status, number of children, location of dependants, whether respondents knew anybody in the UK before moving, what help did they receive, questions on acculturation, English level, housing situation, reasons for coming to the UK, employment, problems and difficulties in finding work, leisure questions (home media, host media) and if they wish to return to Romania.

Univariate analysis and discussion

A number of independent variables were reviewed. Of the 245 respondents, 59.2% were female and 40.8% male, with a preponderance of 57.43% in the 18-25 year-old category (remaining categories evenly spread out across all age groups), showing a tendency in our sample for young female migrants. Only 16% of respondents came from a village location (as opposed to the remaining 84% from a city location); the largest group of 39% were married or in a civil partnership (as opposed to being single, divorced or in a relationship which were evenly spread out cross categories), while 74% did not have any children. Other variables included 42% with a high school qualification and 36% with a degree in Romania. 64% reported an advanced understanding of English and 51% were working full time (hours worked, regardless of occupation/ legal status) as opposed to the remainder working part time or not at all. 70% of respondents admitted a better standard of life as the primary reason for moving to the UK (Figure 3). This could be explained by the impact of the current economic crisis on the standard of life in Romania, as the Romanian economy has been severely affected by the recent global recession (Mester et al., 2011: 130-31).

Figure 3: Reasons for migrating

Figure 3: Reasons for migrating.

These descriptors provide an initial picture of the majority of Romanian immigrants in our sample as being: urban, female, young, married, no children, well-educated and a good level of English, in full-time work, hoping to improve their standard of life, with a view to integrating into British society. The high level of education gained in Romania contrasts starkly with results from other variables showing that 37% of respondents work in semi-skilled and unskilled occupations and 39% do not have any qualifications in the UK. As Torres (2008: 16) highlights, such deskilling due to migration is common among Eastern European immigrants leading to employment in low-level jobs due to political reluctance to standardise qualifications between home and host countries. Building on this, future research needs to uncover why Romanian immigrants feel that their qualifications are not used in their current jobs in the UK.

The dependent variable acculturation is a nominal variable with four categories formed after data collection by using the SPSS Syntax function to compile the responses from two questions into one single variable for analytical purposes. 81% were in the integration acculturation strategy, and 1% in the marginalisation strategy, as per Figure 4. This overview reveals that the majority of Romanian immigrants in the UK, from this sample, tend to integrate with UK culture. This is in line with evidence from Phinney et al. (2001: 502) who claimed that most migrants prefer the integration strategy as it is 'the most adaptive mode of acculturation and the best way to improve the wellbeing of immigrants'.

Figure 4: Acculturation strategies

Figure 4: Acculturation strategies.

Bivariate analysis and discussion

The results of our bivariate analysis show that women are more prone to the assimilation (77%) and integration (60%) acculturation strategies, while men tend towards separation (77%) and marginalisation (100%) as in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Acculturation strategies and gender

Figure 5: Acculturation strategies and gender.

The assimilation strategy tends to be chosen by those with university qualifications in Romania (48%), a high level of English (87%), but poorly educated in the UK (18% university), referring back to the issue of deskilling (Torre, 2008). This is supported by responses that their current job matches the skills gained in Romania but not in the area trained for (40%). This group also tends to not want to return to Romania at any point (60%) as opposed to other groups who are unsure. A surprising aspect is that those adopting a separation strategy are most likely to have a middle-level education in Romania (46% high school), the lowest level of UK education (69%), but work in highly skilled positions (44%). This could be explained by lack of reliability of the question or social desirability that affects the truthfulness of respondents. From Figure 6 we can see that 15% of those in the separation category had three or more children, suggesting a possible relationship between children and adaptation. Statistics show that the more children you have, the less you are able to work (OECD, 2013), hypothesising that those not in work could be less likely to integrate. This is an area that warrants further exploration.

Figure 6: Acculturation strategies and number of children

Figure 6: Acculturation strategies and number of children.

The reason for migration does not vary according to acculturation strategies, with all categories choosing to emigrate for a better standard of life. As marginalisation has been chosen only by two respondents, it is difficult to refer to any findings related to this category. The different motivations for migration provide an indication of the economic position of immigrants; for example economic migrants like Romanians are skilled and integrated in the labour market (Lymperopoulou, 2011: 7). The longer they stayed in the UK, the more likely respondents were to be integrated (77% integrated for those under one year to 88% for those over ten years). Previous research also indicates that length of cultural contact is an influential factor in acculturation (Ward, 1996).

Figure 7: Acculturation and media consumption

Figure 7: Acculturation and media consumption.

As Figure 7 reveals, 37% of integrated respondents read Romanian news daily compared to 54% of separated respondents. In comparison 41% of those integrated watch English news daily compared to 8% of those separated. Therefore integrated and assimilated respondents follow less Romanian and more English news than those separated or marginalised. This supports evidence that those in the assimilation path 'read newspapers, listen to radio and join clubs where the language of the dominant society was used' (Berry et al., 1992: 306) whereas those integrated and separated do that in their native language. Ward (1996) also argues that an individual's skills, such as language fluency, affect their choice of acculturation strategy, as this offers a higher psychological wellbeing. Those separated also worked the most hours (70% full time), providing an alternative explanation for frequency of engaging with the media. It is important to note that this analysis does not demonstrate causality, but purely a relationship.

Effects sizes were also used to measure the strength of association between acculturation strategy and individual variables. This was done by using Cramer's V to describe the magnitude of association between categorical variables (Warmbrod, 2001). The highest Cramer's V values were for gender (.256), knowing any non-Romanians before moving to the UK (.245), having children (.218), watching the Romanian media (.215), deciding to return to Romania or not (.210) and going to a Romanian church (.210). This suggests moderate associations with acculturation, as per conventions for measuring associations (Rea and Parker, 1992: 203).

Qualitative and mixed methods analysis and discussion

Some background information on the interviewees is necessary to put into context their experiences. Ana has been living in Sheffield for nine years; she arrived as an au pair, graduated from a UK university, works and studies part time and intends to live here for the next 30 years. Radu has been living in London for three years, works as a night-time security guard and intends to live in UK for the next ten years. Monica has been living in Sheffield for seven years, works as a sales assistant, and intends to live in the UK until retirement. 7617 Romanians lived in the UK in 2001, with London being the most popular destination hosting 40% of the total Romanian immigrant population and South Yorkshire hosting only 5% (Kyambi, 2001). More recent figures show that an estimated 24,000 A2 citizens (Bulgarian and Romanian) arrived in the UK in the year ending September 2013 (ONS, 2014). These figures correspond to overall immigrant population influxes to the UK.

This data provides us with a rich understanding of the experiences of a small number of Romanians living in the UK and is a starting point to investigating common factors that might influence more positive acculturation styles in migrant communities.

Motivation to migrate

One of the key themes from the interview data is motivation to come to the UK and to remain in the country. It is considered that Eastern European migration is temporary (Torre, 2008), with decisions to emigrate being transitional and shaped by actions. As Castles (cited in Torre, 2008: 6) advocated, migrating is not 'a once and for all decision but simply one step in an on-going pattern of migration'. Therefore it is not unusual for Romanians to reconsider their length of stay. Monica came to England seven years ago and 'never intended to remain here'. This change in motivation to stay was due to adapting to a different lifestyle and appreciating of cultural differences, rather than financial motivations: 'people don't look down on you'. This is supported by evidence from the quantitative results that a better general standard of life (rather than just financial reasons) is the reason for Romanian migration (70%). Spencer (2007) points towards the discrepancy between the time immigrants think they will spend in a country and the time that they actually spend in reality due to 'location of family members, and the right to legally settle' (p. 75). This is supported by quantitative findings that 60% of assimilated participants never want to return to Romania, while the rest are unsure.

Attitudes of the host society

The way immigrants are treated in the host society, and how this affects their decision to stay or leave the UK, was another key theme emerging from our qualitative data. Ana's perception of British attitudes towards her is not that of being discriminated against, but she does say that 'I don't think they look at me as Romanian, but an Eastern European immigrant that came here to take their jobs, they never see me as an individual'. This links with literature on economic-based discrimination that suggests that migrant workers can be confronted with inadequate education due to discrimination (Alassino et al., 2004), especially for economic migrants like Romanians, who are discriminated against when times get hard, such as in the current austerity climate (Taran, 2011).

One of the themes that emerges from both our qualitative and quantitative results is a focus on legality. In the survey, 37% of respondents suggested that not being legal was partially responsible for difficulties in obtaining work. All three interviewees discussed this issue in great detail, and had a unanimous point of view that working legally is one of the most important things when integrating in a country. There is a negative feeling that lack of permanent legal status brings into migrants' lives, influencing decisions and lifestyle, as Ana highlights: 'I feel stressed as if tomorrow I have to have my baggage ready. I can never totally relax'.

Open comments in the survey uncover the same focus on being legal for professional advancement and positive integration, showing a similarity across methods of data collection: 'Because of lack of work rights, years have passed until I managed to progress, which is both sad and unfair'. All interviewees commented on restrictions being lifted in 2014 and how this would impact on their experience: 'I am convinced it will improve my situation' (Radu), 'It will lift the weight off my shoulders' (Ana), 'I will do my best to become legal' (Monica).

Interestingly, in contrast to Fox et al.'s (2012) findings, none of our interviewees had experienced racist stigmatisation as a result of the UK media's racialisation of migrants. The reason(s) behind this difference warrants further exploration.

Engagement with the home country

Torre's study (2008) looked at the experiences of Romanian immigrants in low-paid occupations in London, and their strong family links against geographical distance through new technology. Access to community services is also a great tool in maintaining ties with the home country and influencing the acculturation strategies used (Torre, 2008). The phone is a useful tool not only to maintain family relations, but also for other reasons: 'we tell stories, they give advice' (Monica). A point to note here is the discrepancy in the three interviewees as only one person claimed to watch Romanian TV, which could be due to living in London, where access to Romanian digital TV is more popular. This argument is supported by evidence that due to the existence of a big Romanian community in North London (Torre, 2008), access to community services is more common; findings also supported by the quantitative survey showing there is a difference depending on location in the UK.

Length of stay

Evidence from other studies has shown that length of stay in the host culture can influence adaptation (Miglietta et al., 2009: 49), as a longer stay in a host country could have a positive effect on the familiarity of immigrants with their new environment. Length of stay was common to both methods as the quantitative side shows that the higher the length of stay, the higher the probability of being more integrated and the lower the probability of being assimilated. This is interesting as it suggests that in the first year of being an immigrant it is as important to maintain good relationships with the British society as it is to maintain Romanian cultural traditions, but after the first years there is an increase in the importance of maintaining Romanian traditions, therefore distancing oneself from being assimilated. This is in line with literature which argues that immigrants change acculturation strategies during their stay in the host country (Berry, 1992). Ward (1996) goes even further to say that this could be due to socio-political factors in the host country and in the society of origin, or even changes in the individual level variables. Our qualitative research also uncovered a tendency for those living here for more than five years to be more integrated and attached to British society, whereas those living here for less than five years feel excluded and marginalised, with dominant thoughts of returning to Romania and a tendency to find faults in their current lifestyle.

For example, Monica and Ana both emigrated prior to Romania's entry in the EU in 2007, neither of them consumes Romanian mass media on a regular basis and they both have non-Romanian friends, and good self-reported competency of the English language. On the other side, Radu has lived in the UK for less than three years and has a self-reported inability to adapt to British life, was not interested in making British friends and reported the lowest standard of spoken English, at the same time as admitting to watching Romanian news daily.

These results link with prior literature that argues that length of stay in the host country influences cultural adaptation (Ward, 1996) in a positive way (Miglietta et al., 2009).

Conclusions and recommendations

In general, the quantitative and qualitative findings of this study are complementary, with no differences in findings uncovered through the use of a mixed methodology, but only a slight change of perspective from a methodological point of view. Mixed methods revealed that length of stay influenced acculturation strategies as the longer the length of stay, the higher the probability of having a positive strategy. Engagement with the home country was also found to be related, as the majority of those assimilated never go to Romanian churches and events, and there is tendency for those integrated and assimilated (positive) to watch less home news and more host country news. The theme of attitudes of the host country links together the quantitative and qualitative methods in the study and concludes that being legal is one of the most important aspect of migration and the main reason for difficulties in finding work, a theme which is common to both methods used. Motivation to migrate proved to be mainly for the purpose of a better standard of life. This is supported by literature showing that motivations are ever-changing and influenced by personal circumstances.

The main limitation of this study relates to sampling, as the sampling method used does not allow for the generalisability of research findings. As this study was designed as an exploratory piece of work the current approach fulfils the study's aims and unearths some interesting findings that can be explored further in future research. Additionally, the first author' s personal background and social connections were relevant and essential in accessing samples of the Romanian immigrant population as well as in relation to an insider awareness and sensitivity to the Romanian cultural context, especially regarding the difference of class systems in Romania and the UK.

Possible participants were excluded based on their lack of access to computers or not belonging to social media groups and the lack of availability of a database did not offer other means of contacting participants. The non-response rate cannot be calculated due to the difficulties of sampling in a virtual environment, where there is no available information about users.

An important aspect to reiterate about acculturation is that it varies across different lifecycles (Berry, 1992). Ward (1996) emphasises that different socio-political and economic contexts can easily modify the acculturation process at an individual level as well as a societal level. These results can only apply to the sample used within the current economic and socio-political context. Following the lifting of work restrictions for A2 immigrants in 2014 Romanian immigrants' experiences of acculturation is also likely to significantly change (Olad, 2012). A comparative longitudinal study to see how these policy changes effect acculturation strategies over time and what factors influence these changes is therefore recommended.

It should be pointed out that participants in our study were all first-generation immigrants because of the novelty of this phenomenon in the UK, but it would be of interest to run a similar research on second-generation migrants as well.

This study concludes that the acculturation strategies of Romanian immigrants in the UK were generally characterised by integration, which is the most positive strategy for adapting to new cultures leading to psychological wellbeing (Berry, 1992). This study also explored the influencing factors on strategies of acculturation and concluded that all factors had a relationship with the acculturation strategy, but some did more than others. It concludes that the biggest predictive factors for positive acculturation were gender, being a parent, home media, plans for the future, going to a Romanian church and prior network of friends, even if these were moderately associated with acculturation.

Due to 2014 policy changes relating to A2 immigration laws within the EU, this study provides a timely 'snap-shot' of the experiences of Romanian immigrants living in the UK before these changes are put into practice.


We would like to thank participants for taking the time to fill in the online questionnaire and for their critique and comments. Also, we would like to thank the three interviewees for being so honest and giving so much detail about their experiences. They were all essential in getting an insight into the world of Romanian migration. All your help is appreciated.

List of figures

Figure 1: Berry's four varieties of acculturation

Figure 2: Acculturation process

Figure 3: Acculturation strategies

Figure 4: Reasons for migrating

Figure 5: Acculturation strategies and gender

Figure 6: Acculturation strategies and number of children

Figure 7: Acculturation and media consumption


Appendix 1: online survey questions (translated)

This research project wants to explore the experiences of Romanian immigrants in the UK. This will bring a new perspective on the problems that the Romanian community has daily and will generate new information on the way we adapt to a new country.

Please fill in this questionnaire if you are Romanian and you live in the UK. The project is created and led by Simona Pantiru and Ruth Barley at Sheffield Hallam University.

It is your choice if you want to participate or not. If you do want to participate, please confirm this below. You are free to withdraw from this at any point. Information given is confidential and anonymous. The results will be analysed in an undergraduate thesis.

Thank you for your time.

  1. How old are you? 18-25/ 26-40/ 41-50/ 51 and over
  2. Gender M/F
  3. Which city of Romania are you from?
  4. Which city do you live in the UK?
  5. Which of these descriptions best describe your current marital status?
    Legally married or civil union
    Legally separated / divorced / Civil union dissolved
    Living with my partner (cohabiting)
  6. Do you have any children or dependants under 18? If yes, how many?
    No children
    1 child
    2 children or more
  7. If you have any children or dependants, where do they live? Romania/ UK/Other country (please specify where)
  8. For how long have you been living in UK?
    Under 1 year
    1-5 years
    Over 5 years
    Over 10 years
  9. Did you know anybody in the UK before coming here? (this refers to friends/ relatives/ neighbours BUT not partner/spouse/children) Yes, Romanians/ Yes, non-Romanians/ No
  10. If you knew anyone here before you came, did they help you come to the UK? Please tick as many boxes as necessary.
    Yes - they helped with accommodation
    Yes - they helped with finding a job
    Yes - they helped with papers/ work permits
    Other (please specify)
  11. Is it considered to be of value to maintain one's cultural heritage? Yes/ No/
  12. Is it considered to be of value to develop relationships with the larger society? Yes/ No
  13. What is your highest level of educational qualification achieved in Romania?
    Up to 10 classes
    School of arts and trades = lower vocational secondary level
    Post-secondary non-tertiary education = specialised postsecondary school
    University degree
    Postgraduate degree
  14. What is your highest level of educational qualification achieved in the UK?
    No formal qualification
    University degree (BA, BSc)
    Higher degree (MA, PhD, PGCE)
    Professional qualification (Teaching, nursing, accountancy)
    Other (please specify)
  15. What is your level of English?
    I do not speak English at all
    Advanced/ proficiency
  16. What would you say are the reasons for coming to the UK? Please tick all boxes relevant to you.
    Formal study
    Looking for work
    Join immediate family/ partner
    Improving living standards
    Other reasons (please specify)
  17. What is your current housing situation?
    Council house
    Renting - Private house sharing with others
    Renting - Private house not sharing
    Home owner
  18. Including yourself, how many people -- including children -- live there regularly as members of this household? (This question includes all people, relatives or non-relatives, who live with the respondent at the same address as their only or main residence and share the living accommodation and/or share at least one main meal a day)
    please specify here__
  19. Are you currently working? (this includes self-employed work)
    No, I am not working for 1-4 weeks
    No, I am not working for 1-6 months
    No, I am not working for more than 6 months
    Yes, working full time (over 35 hours a week)
    Yes, working part time/ limited hours
    Never worked in UK
  20. If yes, what type of paid job is it?
    Semi-skilled and unskilled (labourer, cleaner/basic childcare, coffee shop/retail assistant)
    Skilled (Lorry driver, tradesman, nurse, teaching assistant)
    Highly skilled (doctor, teacher, IT worker, researcher, pharmacist, engineer)
    Higher and intermediate managerial/administrative/professional/Business owners with 10 or more employees
    Other (please specify)
  21. Do you think that your main job here in UK uses all the skills that you obtained in your training and work life in Romania and here?
    My job matches my skills and training
    My job matches my skills but is not in the area for which I trained
    My job does not require the skills and training that I have
  22. From the following list, please tell me if you have had any of these problems or difficulties finding jobs in UK? Please choose all that apply.
    Employers often do not accept my qualifications and experience.
    I have difficulties with the language
    Personal constraints (time, costs, family, other responsibilities)
    I had no or a limited right to work
    I had no problems finding a legal job
  23. Please add any work-related opinions/comments that you would like to include here
  24. How often do you watch English TV and programmes?
    Every day
    A couple of times a week
    A couple of times a month
    A couple of times a year
  25. How often do you:
    a. buy Romanian groceries
    b. go to Romanian restaurants and clubs
    c. go to Romanian churches
    d. watch Romanian TV (online and satellite)
    Every day
    A couple of times a week
    A couple of times a month
    A couple of times a year
  26. Do you want to return to Romania? If yes, when?
    I do not want to return
    Yes, return within a year
    Yes, return between 1-5 years
    Yes, return between 5-10 years
    Don't know
  27. Please use this space to add anything that you would like to give your opinion on, relating to your life in the UK, to the Romanian community in the UK or any other issues important to you.
Appendix 2: Open-ended comments from online questionnaire

Is there anything related to work that you would like to add?

  1. I applied twice for NINO without success
  2. I had problems obtaining NINO as self-employed (personal tutor)
  3. I was paid as a tutor instead of a teacher even if in Romania I left with teaching qualifications and experience
  4. I tried to find work by calling specialised agencies in my field. None have contacted me back and never checked my references from previous workplaces from UK. That is why I said I was discriminated because I couldn't find another reason why they didn't look at my file
  5. I gave up my workplace after the first year of legal work because I had all the conditions of 1 year legal work for blue card and the hotel industry was not the career I wanted
  6. When I looked for work, I only had Romanian previous jobs on my CV, and I realised that they were difficult to verify by English employers, so I am guessing it is a matter of credibility as employers would rather hire a person with the same experience in the UK because it is easier to verify my phone or email.
  7. Because of the lack of work rights, years have passed until I managed to progress, which is both sad and unfair. There are Romanians who could contribute more to the British society but are continuously fighting with a system that does not accept you as a possible employee. It is in fact much more damaging for the British society that to Romanians which do not receive this right. There are less tax payers and more of those who obtain benefits from the British state pretending to be self-employed and because they don't have enough income, they supplement their income from the British state. Having the right to work would bring more taxes and less labour black market or paying less tax as self employed
  8. Workplaces for honest Romanians would exist, but the problem is that the British state considers us the same as Romanian gypsies and steal our right to work honestly. Why do gypsies in the EU have rights and a pure Romanian doesn't?. This is not discrimination, but for me it is racism against Romanians.
  9. I do work a lot a lot under my qualifications from Romania and the UK (shop assistant) where I had a Master's degree, but even so, the present salary enables me to make a decent living
  10. Most British people no not have an objective view about Romania but assimilate information through the intense mediatisation of delinquency and never that of the beneficial actions and activities of Romanian citizens in the UK. This way, it is very possible for the British employer to have preconceptions against the Romanian applicant.
  11. I work too much. Minimum of 9 hours a day. But out of need I do it momentarily, just as all the other Romanians. It's just that some do it for lack of personal life. Others just want the power and money.
  12. Networking is vital. Without recommendations and connections, it is extremely difficult to enter into a professional system.
  13. It is not humane to work 12 hours a day for £25 on the black market because the English state discriminates and take away our rights to work normally.
  14. I will finish this job in 3 weeks and then I will be going back home definitively.
  15. More than often I am welcomed with a lot of scepticism when they find out I am Romanian.

Anything else you wish to say

  1. I don't know, there is something there (in Romania), but the thought of staying there makes me scared.
  2. Going back to Romania depends a great deal on the events and laws that will change the legislation regarding Romanians and Bulgarians.
  3. I will go back to Romania when I retire!
  4. I will never return to Romania, but here it is very difficult to work 12 hours for £25 and you only work 4-5 days out of 7. And you have to pay £300-400 per month and you cannot live from that 2 adults and 1 baby. If they gave us some paperwork it would be another matter.


[1] Simona Pantiru is a Psychology and Sociology graduate from Sheffield Hallam University. Simona's research interests include migration, diasporas and transnationalism, and more specifically the way that Romanians adapt to host countries from both a sociological and psychological perspective. From a methodological point of view, she has a particular interest in using mixed methods. Simona worked as a Student Researcher for 2 years during University, collaborated with research centres and also helped with research projects at Sheffield Hallam Student Union. She currently works with the Civil Service as an immigration caseworker, and hopes that she will continue her studies and research interest in the future.

[2] Ruth Barley is a sociology lecturer in the Faculty of Development and Society at Sheffield Hallam University with research interests in identity, diversity and inclusion.

[3] A8 countries: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia.

[4] A2 countries: On 1 January 2007 two more countries joined the EEA (Romania and Bulgaria) and have a restriction on their access to the UK labour market for a period of seven years after joining the European Economic Area (HMRC, 2013).

[5] Facebook groups in April 2014: Romanians in UK (6941 members), Romanian Students and Alumni from UK Unis (815 members), Femei in UK (Women in UK, 58 members), RoSoc - The Romanian Society-The University of Sheffield (183 members), RoSe - Romanians in Sheffield (69 members). LinkedIn groups: Romanian professionals in the UK (54 members), Romanian professionals working abroad (312 members), Romanians in UK (14 members)


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To cite this paper please use the following details: Pantiru, S.A. and Barley, R (2014), 'The acculturation process of Romanian immigrants in Great Britain: A mixed methods study', Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 7, Issue 1, Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal at warwick dot ac dot uk.