Westernization is a process whereby non-western societies come under the influence of Western culture in such matters as industry, technology, law, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, language, alphabet, religion or values. Westernization has been a pervasive and accelerating influence across the world in the last few centuries. It is usually a two-sided process, in which western influences and interests themselves are joined by a wish of at least parts of the affected society to change towards a more westernized society, in the hope of attaining western life or some aspects of it. Westernization can also be related to the process of acculturation. Acculturation refers to the changes that occur within a society or culture when two different groups come into direct continuous contact. After the contact, changes in cultural patterns within either or both cultures are evident. In popular speech, Westernization can also refer to the effects of Western expansion and colonialism on native societies. For example, natives who have adopted European languages and characteristic Western customs are called acculturated or Westernized. Westernization may be forced or voluntary depending on the situation of the contact.

Different degrees of domination, destruction, resistance, survival, adaptation, and modification of the native culture may follow interethnic contact. In a situation where the native culture experiences destruction as a result of a more powerful outsider, a “shock phase” often is a result from the encounter. This shock phase is especially characteristic during interactions involving expansionist or colonialist eras. During the shock phase, civil repression using military force may lead to a cultural collapse, or ethnocide, which is a culture’s physical extinction. According to Conrad Phillip, the westerners "will attempt to remake the native culture within their own image, ignoring the fact that the models of culture that they have created are inappropriate for settings outside of western civilization" (Phillip, Conrad. (2005). Window on Humanity. New York: McGraw-Hill).

Process of Westernization
From 1492 onward, Europeanisation and colonialism spread gradually over much of the world, colonising major portions of the globe. During this period a strong influence was exercised on the indigenous cultures, which resulted in many colonies' indigenous populations assimilating certain elements of European culture willingly or by force, such as the language of the European motherland or the Christian religion. In many cases the indigenous population was supplanted or marginalised by European and African immigrants.

The two World Wars weakened the European powers to such extent that many colonies strove for independence, often inspired by nationalistic movements. A period of decolonisation started. At the end of the 1960s, most colonies were autonomous. Those new states often adopted some aspects of Western politics such as the adoption of a constitution, while frequently reacting against western culture.

Asia A reaction to Westernization can include fundamentalism and protectionism. Countries such as Japan and China tried to adopt isolationism, but they have been unable to resist the adoption of many aspects of Western culture.

Globalization (1960s-now)
Westernization is often regarded as a part of the ongoing process of globalization. This theory proposes that western thought has led to globalization, and that globalization propagates western culture, leading to a cycle of westernization. Some have protested that Asian cultures who have traditionally existed on a primarily plant-based diet might lose this healthy lifestyle as more people in Asia switch to a Western-style diet that is rich in animal-based foods.

The main characteristics are economic liberalization (free trade) and democratization, combined with the spread of an individualised culture. Often it was also regarded of the opposite of the worldwide influence of communism. After the break up of the USSR in 1991, many of its component states and allies nevertheless underwent westernization, including privatization of hitherto state-controlled industry. Westernization as globalization is seen by many as progress, as democracy and free trade spread gradually throughout the world. Others view westernization as a disadvantage. Some have protested that Asian cultures who have traditionally existed on a primarily plant-based diet might lose this healthy lifestyle as more people in Asia switch to a Western-style diet that is rich in animal-based foods. (Cornell Times, 2001[1])

Due to the colonization of the Americas and Oceania by Europeans, the cultural, ethnic and linguistic makeup of the Americas and Oceania has been irreversibly shattered. This is most visible in settler colonies such as the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand and Uruguay, where the traditional indigenous population has been overtaken demographically by non-indigenous settlers. This demographic takeover in settler countries has often resulted in the linguistic, social, and cultural marginalization of indigenous peoples.

However, even in countries where large populations of indigenous peoples remain or the indigenous peoples have mixed considerably with European settlers, such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador, marginalization still exists. Due to colonization, the prevalent languages in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand are now: Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (the rest of Latin America), French (Quebec in Canada, French Guiana), and English (USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Many indigenous languages are on the verge of becoming extinct. However, some settler countries have gone to great lengths to preserve and expand indigenous languages, for example, in New Zealand the Maori language is official.