The Salad of Ideas: Beliefs about Health and Food among Immigrants from the Former USSR in Germany

Polina Aronson


This article will discuss ways in which migrants from the former USSR in Germany conceptualise the relationship between food, migration experience and health. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate heterogeneity of post-socialist health beliefs and to argue against over-generalisations about health-related passivity as an integral characteristic of Homo Soveticus.
Instead, by comparing conceptualisations of health across groups of migrants distinct in their socio-economic and cultural origins, I will demonstrate that people socialised in different strata of Soviet society develop diverse strategies of navigating the capitalist consumer market and its abundant food supply. Better qualifi ed individuals socialised in urban settings share highly proactive health beliefs and reflectively adapt to nutritional practices of their receiving
country. In contrast, less educated people from agricultural backgrounds regard dietary choices as pre-determined by external circumstances and mostly rely on the cooking traditions in which they were socialised. The discussion presented in this paper sets out to contribute to understanding of post-socialist health cultures as structured along the lines of socio-economic and cultural differentiation, rather than as products of socialist ideology alone.

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