Leslie, the white Canadian woman who is also the author of the delicious blog Korea in my Kitchen, is married to a Korean man and raising her beautiful multicultural family in one of my favorite cities in the world — Vancouver, Canada. In this lovely guest post, she comments on the benefits and challenges of raising kids in a multicultural environment (and also shares some of her fantastic recipes, including one for my favorite Korean dish, bibimbap!).
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“Mom, why are they looking at us?”
The biggest culture shock for my four kids this past year when we went to Korea to visit my husband’s family was that people noticed them. Old people would rub their heads at the stop light, or touch their cheeks as they passed by. People constantly commented and touched them. We think all our mixed kids look very Korean; apparently, not to Koreans. 🙂
In Korea with their grandmother, Halmoni
We are fortunate to live in Vancouver, Canada, a very multicultural city with people from all over the world. When we are out and about, people don’t notice us as a mixed family. It was one of the things that struck my husband and me the most when we originally came back from Korea where we were used to being noticed all the time. We loved how we were just normal.
If people comment on the kids it is usually just out of curiosity or kindness. We don’t get any negative comments. Some comments are awkward, but not rude.
When people do ask, I get the usual questions:
“What is your husband’s nationality?”
“Where is your husband from?”
I have even had people ask me,
“Where did you adopt your kids from?”
Honestly, the most common thing people say is,
“Oh, your kids are cute!”
To which I smile and say thank you.
One of the challenges raising mixed kids in such a culturally diverse place is that they lose touch with their own culture. My husband immigrated to Canada from Korea when he was thirty. He is very Korean; he is Korean-Korean. But because we are so normal here in Vancouver, it would be easy to let go of his culture and raise our family simply as Canadian. As the mother, I have had the opportunity to spend lots of time with the children in their early formative years. Unfortunately, my Korean is not very strong and we need to make a consorted effort to teach them Korean; it is called a mother tongue for a reason. Likewise, I love to cook and culture is very much tied to food. Luckily, I really enjoy cooking Korean food and we eat it often. So the difficulty we face, actually is to retain culture and for our children to know and appreciate their ‘Korean-ness’.
Nyles’ first birthday – Dol
As a result, in our family, we celebrate our collage of cultures. We embrace Korean culture and nationality. We eat Korean food, celebrate the holidays and stumble through learning the language. The kids save up money to go back to Korea to see their grandmother and beg to watch Korean dramas. For dinner, bibimbap and kimbap are the most requested menu items!
My parents are immigrants from Holland and I grew up in a Dutch Canadian community. Likewise, we have our little Dutch cultural things that we hold on to, certain foods and expressions and I try to pass those on to the kids too. They proudly wear their Holland shirts and gobble down ‘double zout droppies’, those really salty Dutch black licorice.
And of course, our children are Canadian. They proudly sing the national anthem and wave the maple leaf on July 1st. Here, in this country where they celebrate being a cultural mosaic, we get to pick and choose the best parts of all three cultures.
Ultimately, we just try to be ourselves.
Leslie writes about easy Korean cooking, kids and culture and shares comics about her life with her Korean husband and four crazy kids at www.koreainmykitchen.com.
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21 Replies to “Guest Post: Raising Mixed Culture Kids in a Multicultural Environment”
I really enjoyed reading this post! Vancouver is such an amazing place to live and I just love the amount of effort Leslie puts in to making sure her children experience aspects of their Korean background.
Thanks Constance! Yeah, Leslie does a fantastic job with her kids! And how lucky to live in Vancouver — it’s not only very diverse, but it’s also a gorgeous place (as you know, I’m sure).
Thanks! It really is a beautiful place to live… with lots of cultures and lots of yummy food! 🙂
I always envy those people who are proud of their own cultures and confident of letting other people experience their cultures, like the guest of this post and her kids and husband – they show Korean-ness and Netherland-ness.
I grew up poor in a family of factory workers in a huge central metropolis in China. Before I left for the US, almost all in my mind was to study hard, hard, and even harder. So I missed a lot of things such as how to be a social, urbane and eloquent. On 16th this month, 130 years ago, ‘Datsu A Ron’ was published in Japan when a radical modernisation was in progress at that time. Its stance of aligning then Japan with the West has influenced me very much since my childhood. I think the influence was too much that I hardly feel my Chinese-ness except I occasionally eat with chopsticks. Seldom do I speak Chinese these days. I didn’t realise that fading Chinese-ness was a problem until some newly met friends wanted to know more about my life before I came to the US – I could not talk about my ethnic identity with more than three sentences.
When a guest post like this shows up, it couldn’t be more encouraging or inspiring.
Wow, Luc. It must have felt strange when you couldn’t talk much about your background with your friends. Well, I say it’s never too late to have a renaissance and embrace who you are!
I agree with Jocelyn, it is never too late to reconnect. I think it is important for people (and my kids) to know where they are from and celebrate it! I don’t think your experience is uncommon for immigrants though. I’ve been told the US is a cultural melting pot rather than a cultural mosaic like Canada which might have played into your loss of culture. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂
It sounds like a wonderful family dynamic, I’m sure all their efforts are very worthwhile. Vancouver sounds like a fab place to live – me and my Chinese husband would love to live in a city where we’re ‘normal’ one day, in the UK I think only London comes close.
Thanks for the comment Sarah! London might be a fascinating place to reside. It’ll be interesting to see where you and your family will end up!
I am wondering how my son will be (and possible future children) when it comes to sports. Will he cheer for China, Finland or Germany? 🙂
We have it as well that many people are commenting what a nice tan he got. Furthermore all Europeans say he looks so Asian and every Chinese says that he looks so European :p
It’s fun to have lots of countries to cheer for. It makes international competitions more exciting! 🙂
Vancouver much better than London for mixed race couples.
Great article Les! I agree, having different cultures in the family makes cheering for events so much fun! We love that we get to live down the road from you and enjoy your Korean cooking first hand
If he is smart (and I’m sure he is!) he may decide to use smart cheering on tactics by cheering on whatever country is the strongest in that sport. I mean for ice hockey, who would consider cheering for anything but Finland? 😀
Oh no, I meant to direct this at Crazy Chinese Family! (My brain is broken, sorry!)
Anyway, great post and thank you to Leslie for sharing! I can relate to a good, healthy mixture of cultures in my own upbringing and am very happy an appreciative of it as an adult. ^^
Good thing that I checked this post today :p
Yeah, i think when it comes to icehockey Nathan won’t have any troubles to decide which country to cheer for. I highly doubt that he will start becoming a China National Team Ice Hockey fan…wait, do they even have one??
It’s nice to read a positive post about cross-cultural/biracial families. This gives me hope! I also really like Leslie’s blog. Fun recipes and comics!
Thanks so much! 🙂
Beautiful kids and very handsome husband 🙂 If I’ll be with someone, wow, my future kids will have a lot of cultures to uphold; Judaism, Russian, some American and whatever happens to be the father’s nationality…
I think about this quite a lot, even though there is no imminent plan to have kids.
I wonder what the right place for raising mixed children would be, an environment where they could feel accepted and comfortable. As much as the world is moving forward about mixed families, I think the places where such a family can truly feel 100% comfortable are still not a lot. Therefore, I feel like our choice is limited in that sense.
I guess for my boyfriend and me the right place will be somewhere in Europe, maybe UK as we are both fluent in English and he is also a citizen. I know Italy would not be a good fit for us as mixed families are still very uncommon and definitely non accepted everywhere.
Could not agree more, I really do believe that bilingualism is important and have spent years developing a brand to support that. Although we are a central London nursery, we specialise in Anglo Mandarin teachings and can see the improvements this English / Mandarin learning environment gives our children.
I would welcome your thoughts on our site which is http://www.hatching-dragons.com.