“We have great and confident children, whom we are very proud of. I think being intercultural has made the kids and us parents more open and tolerant to other cultures and ethnicities, and also more understanding towards people who are ”different”.”
“We don't celebrate many things. Christmas traditions we have compromised to the extent that we have Finnish Christmas on Christmas Eve and British Christmas on Christmas day. We try not to get caught up with traditions too much, instead we are creating our own traditions.”
“We do bring in both cultures. No one would walk into our house and assume we were a 100% Finnish family! We make sure that the children learn about their other culture via food, celebrations and traditions. It's always been made clear to them that they are the children of two cultures and that it is completely acceptable for them to enjoy and embrace their non-native culture. We make sure to have plenty of books and other media in their secondary language.”
COUPLES IN THIS SECTION
The Third Culture
The concept of the third culture and some of its parts have been touched upon in various parts of the course, but this theme will explore in more detail what exactly it constitutes and how best to achieve a third culture within your family. The best place to start is with a definition of the term ‘Third Culture’. While a multi-faceted ideal, it essentially involves the meeting and interacting of a couple’s cultures to create something new and unique.
When it comes to an official definition, Duo’s Love and Parenthood guide says: “When a couple’s cultures meet and interact a new one is created: a third culture. The couple pick elements from both cultures and from these build their own way of doing things, i.e. a third culture. Its building materials consist of, for example, values; food and customs; attitudes to gender roles, relatives and friends; home décor; holidays and celebrations. At its best, third culture combines the best of two cultures and what is important for the couple in a way that satisfies both spouses.
“To understand that there´s not one way to be a family or couple, as you can create your own way! It is great to see your child learn to consider other people, share things, be polite and friendly. Our son has learned something about being with other people, which is perhaps something sometimes lacking in the Finnish culture: some warmth and happiness.”
“When you have children who attend public day care or school, you are confronted with the Finnish education system, way of life and way of thinking, traditions, celebrations etc., more than before having children. It is interesting and enriching getting to know these things and it helps you to integrate into Finnish society. Even before the kids attend day care or school, you can get to know Finnish parents and kids at play parks. I can only recommend that other non-Finnish parents be courageous and talk to other parents. Even if Finns might not be too talkative, don’t be discouraged!”
In addition to combining old ways, a third culture creates new customs and gives families the freedom to act in the way that best suits them. Families may, for example, celebrate the feasts of both spouses’ home countries, combine different celebratory traditions in one party, or create a completely new way to celebrate special days.” (Love and Parenthood in an Intercultural Family: Between cultures, pp. 10-15)
A functional third culture is easiest to create and maintain when you understand and value both your own and your spouse’s cultures - the saying that you can’t love someone else unless you love yourself also applies to cultures. In an intercultural relationship, the appreciation of culture starts with knowledge about it. That’s why it’s important that both spouses consider their own backgrounds and experiences, as well as the influence both factors have on what they are like and what they regard as important. The creators of a functional third culture have a strong, positive identity that isn’t threatened by difference. They are sensitive to each other’s needs, and neither of them has to give up the cornerstones of their lives.
“We have a combination of two cultures, we eat food from both countries and both of us cook. We also celebrate both Muslim and Christian holidays, and we have friends who visit from both countries of origin. I think we have our own "culture", and it´s still forming and changing, even as our child grows up.”
“We try to recognise the holidays from my culture/country (which is not the one that we're living in). I tell my son stories related to these celebrations and we also apply the traditions that are possible in Finland. We incorporate food from my country to our family meals, we decorate our home with pictures of scenery from my country too and try to keep in touch with people from my home country, so that my son can be somewhat familiar with them.”
Creating and maintaining a third culture requires active participation from both spouses. They must be able to talk about even the most difficult topics openly and in a respectful manner. The third culture must also undergo transformations as the family evolves from one phase of life to another, and this requires both flexibility and the ability to make compromises.
In order for this culture to work, both parents must be happy with it and satisfied with its components, as well as how they balance. By assisting in the creation of a new identity for your child through the passing on of the very best of your own cultures, you will also come across a number of new ideas and traditions that best suit you as a family. Furthermore, these new discoveries may also include the best of both cultures as well as encompassing the traditions you feel the family should observe. Through the third culture, you will also allow your family to be more flexible and able to deal with the issues that pertain to all of you, as you will not be constricted to one traditional culture and its set of ideals. This is a very important point and a huge bonus for the intercultural family, as what you have created cannot be threatened by the opinions of outsiders. The reason for this strength is that you have agreed upon it and are happy with how everything works within your family unit. This, in turn, leads to a strong family bond and identity, and establishes a safe and stable environment in which your child can grow and develop.
“We travel to visit the family in another country during almost every vacation and let our child experience the culture there to the fullest, which she cannot really do in our current country.”
“Basically, we have a Finnish home in Finland, but with Indian details – such as pictures and souvenirs. We celebrate both Finnish holidays and enjoy the most important Indian celebrations. Food is a combination of Finnish and Bengali food culture, while we attend celebrations organised by the Bengali minority in Helsinki.”