Coming soon: Ways We #CelebrateCultures

Before kids, I thought “celebrating our heritage” would just mean observing Chinese New Year (him) and Sinterklaas Day (me). But now after having kids, I’ve realized that it’s not enough to celebrate a holiday once a year and expect my children to identify with that part of their heritage. And more importantly, it’s a GIFT that we have to learn and explore other cultures! Why not open that gift every day?!

So next week I’ll be starting a new series on Ways We #CelebrateCultures in our family. I will share how our family tries to be intentional about celebrating both our family’s cultural heritages as well as other cultures in our home. These are not earth shattering ideas and the categories are all pretty obvious. But hopefully these posts can be helpful as an encouragement of all the ways you can integrate and celebrate cultures.

Below is an outline of the upcoming posts which I will link to once they are up. Hopefully posting this intro motivates/pushes me to actually write these out! As always, I would love to hear about your family and how you integrate your heritage into your daily life!  

Ways We #CelebrateCultures…

  1. … Around the House
  2. … During Meals
  3. … With Language
  4. … During Holidays
  5. … Learning about history and inventions
  6. … During Weddings
  7. … Through Travel

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My Favorite Blog Posts about Intercultural Relationships

 

To wrap up my first ‘miniseries’ on Intercultural Marriage (see here for blessings! and challenges!) , I wanted to pass along some of my other favorite blog posts about the topic. But first, because I LOVE graphics, here is an awesome infographic from GOOD and Column Five called on the rise of interracial marriage in America.

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Source: Pew Research/CNN – A collaboration between GOOD and Column Five (click to zoom!)

My Favorite Blog Posts about Intercultural Relationships 

If you have another article about this or a related topic, let me know in the comments below and I will add it!

Surprising Challenges in Our Intercultural Marriage

In my last post I talked about ways my husband and I found intercultural marriage easier than we expected. Today I’m tackling the inverse — the hard stuff! As I was thinking about this post. all sorts of disclaimers came to mind. I kept procrastinating writing this because 1) I don’t want to generalize or stereotype any experience and 2) it’s hard to balance honesty with privacy. So after some brainstorming on my own, I asked my husband what he would include without showing him my list and both our lists included the same categories below! Always a good sign!

  1. Food: Before our marriage, I knew we would have differences in our experiences with food, but I never knew the extent to which those differences would matter! I will never forget one of our first major arguments of our young marriage 9 years ago. I came home from work and made soup from scratch with bread and salad on the side. I served it with great pride and smiled when my new husband said it was delicious. Then he asked, “what’s for the dinner?” I burst into tears because in my family soup and salad was often the main dinner. His mother, on the other hand, routinely makes 2 or 3 different meat dishes always with noodles or rice and vegetables. In my family, we didn’t focus as much on the food part of dinner as much as the conversation. It was the opposite for in my husband’s Taiwanese American family where the delicious food played a central role. In fact, I was surprised at his house with the lack of conversation during dinner. They were all focused on eating or talking just about the food! It’s obvious that communication is key. After the Soup Incident we talked about what our expectations for a meal included. (And honestly my hubby started cooking more!) and we talked more during dinner time!
  2. Health and Medicine: I mentioned in the earlier post that my husband and I have different experiences and cultural views on medicine. This has been a positive in our marriage because I have learned so much about a brand-new category. It has also brought some surprising challenges that we work through intentionally. I have found that for me when it comes to my health or my children, I can become very defensive about any suggestions or comments. It is a personal subject and I have learned patience and perspective in listening to my husband or his family’s comments. I know that they have our best interests at heart. I used to feel offended at an auntie’s suggestions for my family but my husband encouraged me that it is a way that they show they care. Now after 9 years of marriage and living in Taiwan for a year, I find myself doing the same and offering unsolicited comments and suggestion to my girlfriends!
  3. Role of Extended Family: Like the first category about food, the role of our extended families is something that I was aware was a cultural difference in our marriage but I don’t think I fully understood at the beginning. I grew up in a very close immediate family. We moved nearly every year overseas and across the States. As my mom would say, the only thing that stays the same is God and your family. We visited extended family including grandparents every couple years in the summer. My husband’s family is, again, the opposite! His grandparents lived with him his entire life. He had aunts and uncles and cousins also live in the home at various parts of his childhood. And as the eldest son of 3 children, the expectation is that his parents will live with us if they want, someday! (Although full disclosure my sister in law cooks much better Chinese food so they may pick her!) I thought these differences growing up would be a burden in our marriage but it has really been a positive. It has been a challenge that we have had to communicate clearly.

I would love to hear about your experiences in an intercultural marriage as well! Positives and challenges alike! 10399248_511380204688_5628_n

Our wedding favors: Chinese hong bao 紅包 with European candies representing our multicultural marriage! 

 

3 Ways We’ve Found Intercultural Marriage to be Easier than Expected 

During college, my boyfriend and I (now husband of 9 years!) attended an interracial dating seminar. I called my Dad that weekend and excitedly told him about the seminar. My Dad interrupted me and said, “Wait, why did you go? You’re not in an interracial relationship. He is Taiwanese American and you are Dutch American!”

I explained that while our citizenship may be the same, our experiences and cultures were very different. After a couple specific examples, my dad started to realized more and more what my husband and I were learning about each other!

While there are lots of unique challenges with intercultural relationships, I wanted to first write a post about the ways we’ve found intercultural or interracial marriage to be easier than we expected. Not better or worse than monocultural marriage, just easier. (I’ll next post a post about ways we’ve been challenged!)

**I would love to hear from those of you from intercultural or interracial marriages. Do you relate to our “findings” or have different experiences?**

  • We start with the assumption that there will be differences. All relationships have differences between the two partners because everyone is unique. Everyone comes with a unique set of experiences, cultural norms, and ways to relate to the world. In an intercultural or interracial marriage, we just assume we will have differences. We know we grew up very differently so when a disagreement arises we can quickly pinpoint if its a matter of a different approach to something. I’ve seen some friends and family in monocultural relationships assume that the other person has the same approach to an issue as they do. They may have very different ways of looking at an issue but they don’t realize that at the beginning.
  • A wonderful bonus to falling in love with a person from another culture is the joy of learning intimately about their culture. You may have seen this diagram of culture depicted as an iceberg where the visible parts of culture are above the surface (I.e. Language, food, holidays). But the majority of the cultural markers are below the surface such as expectations, family roles, biases, beliefs and assumptions. It’s easier to ask questions in a loving intercultural partnership because you are coming from a place of genuine interest and curiosity. 
  • There is an openness to try new things and new approaches. Both my husband and I are first born knowitalls. But through our experience in an intercultural marriage, we’ve taken a very open approach to working through issues. For example, my mom is a registered nurse and I never had any experience with traditional Chinese medicine, accupuncture or herbal methods. My husband on the other hand is the opposite, and my MIL will fill capsules with powders from the Chinese herbalist and use medicinal teas before he grabs the Tylenol. If I wasn’t in a relationship with my husband, I don’t think I would ever had found the incredible benefits of TCM. However I still have my medicine cabinet 🙂

What does a Culturally Aware Child Look Like?

About a month ago my 4 year old daughter started to tear up out of the blue. So I asked her what was going on and was surprised at her response. “I’m sad I’m not Indian and can’t dance Bollywood!” she said. (I’ve talked about her slight obsession with Indian dance before) I immediately hugged her and smiled saying, “I have great news for you! You can learn Indian dance even though you are Chinese and Dutch and American! Everyone can learn things about other countries. We all get to share!” Thankfully, that answer satisfied her and she started dancing!

This got me thinking about how I talk to my kids about other cultures and countries. One of our family goals is for our children to be culturally aware, but what does a Culturally Aware child look like?

Here’s my first take at an outline:

  1. Culturally Aware children know and celebrate their own HERITAGE: We talk a lot about how Baba is Chinese and our family is from Taiwan. I’ve started to introduce my own Euro American heritage and experience living in Germany and the Netherlands for elementary and high school. ways. I want my children to know both sides of their heritage (more to come soon in an upcoming post on creating a Family Heritage Treasure Hunt!)
  2. Culturally Aware children are CURIOUS: Encouraging your children’s curiosity is as easy as asking questions and seeing where they lead! Are any of your friends from other countries? What country would you like to visit? For more specific examples for the younger crowd, check out a previous post “4 Ways to Encourage Culturally Aware Preschoolers.”
  3. Culturally Aware children EXPERIENCE other cultures. Ideally this exposure is in person in your own neighborhoods, schools and communities. We specifically chose our neighborhood based on the diverse demographics of the neighborhood elementary school even before we had children. However in places where diversity and multicultural experiences are hard to find in person, never underestimate the power of travel even for very young children! You can also explore with your kids from the comfort of your own home through diverse media (check out our 4 Favorite Multicultural Kids showsimg_1243
  4. Culturally Aware children have a vocabulary to talk about DIVERSITY. Honestly I need to think, research and talk with other parents more about this last one. I read a great article dismissing the ‘diverse environment theory’ (ie if we just put kids in diverse places, they will be tolerant. No! We need to discuss and appreciate differences with our kids!) The article has some great suggestions at the end. Growing Character: Raising Culturally Aware Children by Serina Behar Natkin

What about you? What do you think should be added? What have you found useful? These days I am mostly on Instagram so come over and let me know your thoughts!