Doesn't it feel good to be part of a group?

It's part of human nature! You want to feel a sense of belonging so you can have a happy and successful life.

A multicultural group of people hugging

While we all want to belong to a group, we also want others to value our unique personalities and cultural backgrounds. This is especially important in a multicultural society, where many different ethnic groups live together.

The melting pot 🍲 and salad bowl 🥗 are two different ways that multicultural societies take their shape.

The Melting Pot

To understand the melting pot, think of a sports team.

Team members have a sense of belonging and working toward a shared goal, even though they may have very different personalities, preferences, and family backgrounds.

Soccer team huddling before a game and then running out on the field

This works great, as long as everyone agrees about the team's strategy, and is able to play. If you don't assimilate — you don't agree with the strategy, or decide not to play — then you may be excluded or have to work harder to introduce new ideas.

Melting Pot Example: Italian-Americans

Millions of Italians immigrated to America from 1880 to 1924 .

An infographic. A map of the USA with the text

At first, these families lived in small ethnic communities but, over the generations, Italians faced pressure to assimilate into the American lifestyle by adopting mainstream American traditions and views.

Over time, it wasn't just the Italians who were influenced by America: America was also influenced by Italians! Pizza, Americana music, and films like "The Godfather" all draw from Italian culture. The two cultures — Italian and American — "melted" together.

Snoop Dog saying,


How are newcomers expected to assimilate into a melting pot culture?

The Salad Bowl

To understand the salad bowl culture, think about dancing.

Unlike a sports game, there aren't many rules about how different people dance to the same song. What you choose is a unique expression of who you are.

Young boy dancing on a chair in the school cafeteria

In a salad bowl culture, people will bust out their own unique identity while also celebrating and learning about the cultures others bring to the table.

Salad Bowl Example: Canada

A group of students from different cultures doing martial arts moves. A sign above them reads

In Canadian classrooms, students might teach each other words and traditions from their culture of origin, rather than being expected to assimilate to one standard way of speaking or celebrating.

The Melting Pot Vs. The Salad Bowl

A pot of macaroni and cheese

Melting Pot

  • More pressure to assimilate

  • Expectations for belonging are stricter

  • New cultures influence the mainstream culture over time

Different salad bowls with mixed ingredients Salad Bowl

  • Less pressure to assimilate

  • Expectations for belonging are more relaxed

  • New cultures have an immediate influence on the mainstream culture

While it's helpful to compare these two approaches, both the salad bowl and the melting pot can exist at the same time in the same society.


Americans regularly celebrate non-mainstream holidays together depending on their culture of origin (e.g., Mexican-Americans celebrating Day of the Dead). Is this an example of the salad bowl or the melting pot?

Take Action

What does it take to find a group where you belong? Or to help someone else feel a sense of belonging?

A group of women putting their hands into a circle

Observe the culture in your hometown or classroom.


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