Opposites attract, they say. If that’s true, then surely some couples got together because they come from different cultures. But just because opposites attract doesn’t mean they can’t repel each other at the same time. Then there is the culture clash.
What is Culture Clash?
The term “culture clash” means “clash of cultures” – meaning a conflict between people of different cultural backgrounds. This term originally comes from the film industry, we know it quite well from some comedies. For example, she is from Japan and he is from Ireland. Can this go well? After a few turbulent confrontations with the other, these films usually end with a happy ending. The message is clear: just because we’re different and consequently, rub against each other more, doesn’t mean we don’t fit together. But what is conveyed on the screen in 90 minutes is in reality much more complex. And yet there are more and more couples from different cultures. Even if the news doesn’t always give you this picture, I experienced that myself. I never would have thought that I would deal with India so intensively one day. But my wife was born and raised there – I, on the other hand, grew up in the Bavarian countryside. Thanks to our connection, India has become a second home for me. Cultural differences were an issue right from the start of the relationship. We had conflicting opinions here and there.
How do cultural differences affect upbringing?
Since we became parents, however, this culture clash has gained weight. We regularly notice that our values do not match. For example, my wife attaches great importance to our daughters having a close relationship with food and cooking. I like to eat, really like to, but I would never go to that length of effort to involve the little ones in the preparation of food. On the other hand, I find it much easier to accept when the girls refuse a meal. Cultural differences in upbringing often only become noticeable when the child is already there. Suddenly you realize how strongly you have been shaped by your surroundings. And now there is a partner who questions a lot of things because it has to be decided which values to pass on to the common child.
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What are the advantages of a bicultural education?
This has clear advantages. The children learn more than just another language early on, they learn that there is not just one perspective on the most diverse aspects. A bicultural relationship opens the perspective, it conveys a more diverse picture and teaches how complicated life can be. Not only that. Children growing up with parents from different parts of the world can also learn how to deal with cultural dilemmas, how to solve them, or, when they cannot be solved, how to live with the difference. They practice seeing the other as an asset and not as a threat. In any case, my daughters really like the fact that we have something going on on Indian and German public holidays.
What conflicts arise with cultural differences in upbringing?
For all the gains, however, conflicts will certainly arise in a bicultural upbringing. In one such case, we once dealt with facial jewelry. In India, this is already common with small children. But I grew up thinking that you should wait at least a few years before the little ones get a hole pricked. My wife understands that and as long as we’re in Germany it’s not a big issue. However, as soon as we travel to India, where our older daughter has already attended kindergarten, the ordinary becomes unusual. Finally, she asked us why she couldn’t have an earring like the other girls. This is certainly just a harmless example. But conflicts occur in all areas of life. How to behave towards respected persons,
How does a bicultural upbringing influence the child’s identity formation?
My wife and I usually try not to let ourselves be influenced too much by our cultures and inherited values. We try to create a third cultural environment for the children that is neither based in India nor on Germany: our home. Of course, we cannot always control this. We are both programmed by our homeland and sometimes we only really notice that through the dialogue with each other.
Like many other parents, we wonder how we influence the child’s identity formation. We want the same thing as most mums and dads out there: raise our children as successfully as possible. And what does success mean in this context? We want to protect them from any evil, but at the same time give them the freedom to grow. It’s a fine line to walk. And it gets even thinner when you add the bicultural factor. In many areas, there is simply no clear decision as to which culture is preferable. Herein lies the fantastic and complicated thing when it comes to culture: There is often no better, just different.
However, we all want our children to feel rooted. In most cases, one parent’s culture prevails, especially if the children are growing up in that country. But this shouldn’t just be seen as an imbalance. It is important for the children to know where they are at home. Identity can only flourish where there is security. This may be particularly painful for the parent who is not growing up in their home country. But maybe there is a solution that is not quite so one-sided.
Conclusion: Heimat also exists in the plural
For example, my wife and I have decided that we will live with the children in Germany for the first few years. As soon as they are a bit older we would like to go to India for some time so that the girls experience it not only as a place where they spend their holidays but as part of their homeland. Because if my bicultural upbringing has taught me anything, it’s above all this: there is also a plural form of home.