If my spouse and I talk about music or movies, cultural references often have to be explained because we did not grow up watching and listening to the same things. Cultural and religious festivals also need to be agreed upon in advance since we both celebrate different ones in our family of origin.
Today, May 21st is the International Day for Cultural Diversity, a day on which all kinds of cultures and families are celebrated — especially those that do not resemble typical families in which there is one mom, one dad and everyone shares the same cultural and linguistic backgrounds. When we navigate the realm of families, International Day for Cultural Diversity acknowledges that families can look very different, with family members speaking different languages, sharing different backgrounds, and sometimes having just one parent, or two moms or two dads.
It is said that there are two types of families: the one you are born into, and the one you choose. We spend our first 20 or so years in the family in which we are born, but we are lucky we get to spend the rest of our lives with the family we have chosen. For some of us, the family we choose can be very different from the one we were born into. We can choose to partner with someone from a completely different country, culture, and linguistic background, which is what happened in my case. We are a multicultural family, with both parents from different countries, speaking different languages and, to top it all, we live in Finland, a country that is not our own.
Not sharing the same cultural or linguistic background as my partner does bring with it its fair share of challenges — for instance, my son's first language is Japanese, which I do not quite understand — but the challenges make us want to try harder to communicate. If my spouse and I talk about music or movies, cultural references often have to be explained because we did not grow up watching and listening to the same things. Cultural and religious festivals also need to be agreed upon in advance since we both celebrate different ones in our family of origin.
In other words, we cannot make any assumptions about family life that would perhaps be the norm in other families. Everything has to be invented, thrashed out and agreed upon after much discussion. There are no ready-made cultural scripts for intercultural families to follow, so we just make it up as we go along. But what can be considered a weakness, is also a strength. We can be more forgiving of each other's differences and take arguments less personally. We tend to be more accommodating and open to change. We know and accept the fact that our partner was raised very differently from us, something that is true even in typical families. In the end, despite our differences, we are just as committed to family life as any other family.
On that note, here's a warm greeting to all the other families with diverse backgrounds — International Day for Cultural Diversity! May the warmth of your love continue to know no bounds and keep your family together, safe from all storms.
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Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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