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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Cultural Appreciation- Striving for balance

This is my first Blog Carnival, and this month it is kindly hosted by Melissa of Vibrant Wanderings. The topic is cultural appreciation. I am always thinking of ways of making my children understand other cultures, and I am very happy to have the chance to cover this topic here! Here are my thoughts.

So much has been said about the importance of learning about new cultures for children. Their parents are advised to explore the customs of the country they’re living in, and to speak the language as well in order to feel more at home.

For us, with three cultures and three languages to maintain, this goal is not that easy to achieve. Our focus is on keeping our own languages alive. Raising multilingual children is hard work and requires a great deal of commitment from the parents. I only speak Polish with my children, my husband only speaks German. The children go to a Dutch daycare where they learn Dutch. Our fear is that Dutch, as the majority language, will dominate and we see it as our job to maintain our own languages. We want to keep as much balance between the languages and cultures as possible.

However, appreciation of different cultures and customs is important to our family- also because we think that if the children learn to accept other cultures, they will accept ours as well. And as much as we want the children to be rooted in our cultures, we also want them to feel at ease in an intercultural environment. So, how do we teach them appreciation for cultures outside of our family?

First of all, as expat parents we have many friends from different cultural backgrounds. Some of them have children who are also multilingual, and we can always explain that they speak different languages or come from different countries. The great thing about this approach is that Klara and Julia may think that if their friends can speak many languages, so can they- that way, multilingualism seems like such a cool thing rather than something to be ashamed of. We also talk about the fact that while we have chosen certain languages to use with the children, we can also communicate with people from other cultural backgrounds, which gives us many benefits.

Then, we can use all opportunities we get to teach our children about the world. We travel a lot, both to see family and for vacation. This means that we can use travel magazines in airplanes to show the children where the different countries are, or we can present and explain the different customs and traditions from the country we’re going to.

At home, I try to cook dishes from different cultures. One of my goals is to keep food interesting, and to introduce a variety of tastes, smells and preparations techniques. Another thing is that I want my children to explore the different cultures through cooking. Maybe their favourite dish turns out to be Chinese or Indian or French, thus motivating them to learn where this great food comes from?

Even though I sometimes struggle to keep all these languages and cultures in balance, we want our children to feel at home wherever life will take them. And I think that learning to appreciate other cultures is a big step in this direction. And even though we focus on our own languages and cultures, there are always ways to incorporate appreciation of other cultures into our daily lives. Luckily, practically every moment can be used to achieve this goal.

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  1. You certainly do have a full time job maintaining three languages and cultures! I love your ideas for incorporating other cultures into your life as well.

    1. Hello, Jody, and welcome! Your blog is great- love your design and the pictures! Thank you for your kind comment. Yes, what you mention seems like a full-time job to me. Luckily, it is also fun! This post was the first chance to really think about appreciating cultures other than our own- beyond the "do whatever works" method, and this is what I came up with. Will visit your blog very soon!

  2. Sounds like you are really doing a great job raising your children as true citizens of one country called the World!

    1. Thank you, Varya and that's more or less my plan :)I hope I will manage to find the right balance between appreciating cultural roots and openness to other cultures!

  3. Hi European Mama

    It sounds like you have a lot on your plate, but also having fun while going about it in what seems to be the best way.

    We have two languages to deal with (Portuguese and English), but three cultures because while I am English all of my father's family are Irish. There are of course many similarities, but also differences between the English and Irish.

    1. Hello, Stephen,
      yes, it's a lot of work, but well, it's worth it and it's fun. I know there are differences between the English and the Irish, since I have met both. I've been to Ireland twice and I loved it! Oh, the accent is beautiful! But so is the British accent! Have checked out your blog- great idea, and good luck with your online diary!


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