http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/go_native defines the meaning of the phrase "Going Native" this way:

  • (idiomatic) To adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants, especially when dwelling in a colonial region; to become less refined under the influence of a less cultured, more primitive, or simpler social environment.
  • (idiomatic) Of a contractor or consultant, to begin working directly as an employee for a company and cease to work through a contracting firm or agency.

Am I alone in thinking that this phrase has a pejorative connotation towards aboriginal cultures of colonial regions? Is there an alternative to this otherwise useful phrase?

  • Yes it sounds a little negative, as though one has become a traitor.
    – Mitch
    Jul 20 '13 at 17:37
  • I think of 'regression' as in 'regression to the mean' but going native is more 'regression to the mode'.
    – user197504
    Sep 22 '16 at 5:24
  • 1
    Are you alone in thinking that this phrase has a pejorative connotation towards aboriginal cultures of colonial regions? I hope so. The fewer people who invent PC concerns to clutch their pearls over the better. Nov 12 '19 at 1:28

To assimilate

absorb and integrate (people, ideas, or culture) into a wider society or culture



To acclimate seems reasonable. Wiktionary shows three relevant senses:

  1. (transitive, chiefly US) To habituate to a climate not native; to acclimatize.
  2. (transitive) To adjust to a new environment; not necessarily a wild, natural, earthy one.
  3. (intransitive) To become accustomed to a new climate or environment.

Within those senses, also note the words habituate (“To make accustomed; to accustom; to familiarize” or “To settle as an inhabitant”) and acclimatize (“To make used to a new climate or one that is different from that which is natural; to inure or habituate to other circumstances; to adapt to the peculiarities of a foreign or strange climate”).

To adapt (“To change oneself so as to be adapted”), to naturalize (“To grant citizenship to someone born abroad”, or “To acclimatize an animal or plant”) and to settle (with senses including “To place in a fixed or permanent condition; to make firm, steady, or stable; to establish; to fix; especially, to establish in life; to fix in business, in a home, or the like”, “To plant with inhabitants; to colonize; to people; as, the French first settled Canada...”, “To fix one's residence; to establish a dwelling place or home; as, the Saxons who settled in Britain” and “To sink gradually to a lower level; to subside, as the foundation of a house, etc”) also are possibilities.

  • Acclimate and integrate were the first two verbs I thought of.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 19 '13 at 23:15
  • 1
    Except that "acclimate" is actually specifically about the weather, not about culture. You can acclimate to a desert or arctic environment if you spend enough time there, and it has nothing to do with adopting the local customs or dress. You could potentially use this, but you'd have to elaborate further, by saying "acclimate to the local culture". And even then, "assimilate" would be a better term.
    – Ernie
    Sep 18 '17 at 19:40

The word integration is normally used, at least in the UK, to describe the process of adopting local ways. That said, the word is normally used when referring to large numbers of immigrants, and also suggests some degree of accommodation by the host. Neither of which is necessarily true of the phrase "going native".


The phrase does have a colonial or anti-indigene ring, doesn't it? Lots of racist baggage.

The way to phrase this idiomatically without the debasement implied by affiliating with an inferior group might be "defected to the other side."

But if your goal is to suggest being influenced by one's surroundings and losing one's previous sense of identity in favor of a new one, then yes I'd agree that "assimilated" or "integrated" are good terms, though not fun idioms. Appropriate idioms in that case might be "found a new religion" or "fell in with the locals."

The phrase has as much to do with abandoning the old as with adopting the new.

I believe Tolkien used the "gone native" phrase in relation to Radagast, the wizard in the Lord of the Rings whom Tolkien describes as having gone native. I took Tolkien to mean that the wizard had found different priorities due to his time spent roaming. One gets the sense that, as wizards go, he was something of a disappointment!


I have seen the phrase "going tribal" used at least once in recent reading, though I cannot recall just where.

Just remembered where: in a John Le Carre novel the question " You haven't gone tribal on us have you?" was posed to a protagonist.

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