Guest Post: Raising Mixed Culture Kids in a Multicultural Environment

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!). 

Would you like to see your words featured on Speaking of China? We’re always looking for awesome guest posts — check out the submit a post page to learn how you can have yours published here!

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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’.

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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!

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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.

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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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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Guest Post: My daughter said, “I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese.”

When you’re raising biracial and bicultural kids, you’re bound to have some interesting conversations with them about identity. That’s the case for Susan Chan, author of The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane, who recalls an incident with her daughter, after the little girl told another child about her background. Her daughter said, “Well, I told him, ‘I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese. But he kept saying you can’t be three things.”

Read on to find out what happened – and thanks so much to Susan for sharing!

Do you have a fascinating story that you’d like to share here on Speaking of China? We welcome a variety of guest posts – including love stories, posts about having/raising biracial kids, biracial identity stories, and anything else that falls within the realm of this blog. Check out the submit a post page to learn how to get your writing published here!

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(Photo by Phalinn Ooi via Flickr.com)
(Photo by Phalinn Ooi via Flickr.com)

April is an iffy day in New York City-blustery one day and spring-like the next. The morning of April 29, 1989 dawned clear and bright for the Chan family. We were all dressed hours before we needed to be, each of us sporting a touch of red-a lucky Chinese color. Leah had gotten up early every morning for months to practice her speech and now she was prepared and eager to start.

Arriving early at the Temple for Leah’s Bat Mitzvah, we greeted each person as they arrived. It was a serious moment and as her mom, I held my breath, waiting for her to begin.  Seated next to her Chinese father, and her younger brother, I held back my tears of pride.  We watched her carry out her part in the religious ceremony and then it came time for her personal speech.

I watched my child, now blossoming into a young lady, speak seriously of becoming an adult, as she gave recognition to her cultural and religious background. The years melted away and I recalled an incident that had happened when Leah was a child, probably four or five. She was approached by a little boy in the playground. I had to hide my smile later when she told me their conversation.

She’d said in a very serious tone, “Mommy, he’s so stupid.”

“Leah, you know we don’t use that word.”

“Well, he was.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t know any better,” I said, wondering if I’d need to have a talk with his mother. What had he said to make my child angry?

“He asked me, ‘What are you?’”

“And what did you say?”

“I didn’t know what he meant.”

“Uh huh,” I answered in an encouraging tone.

“He asked me again, and he said, ‘I’m Italian-American and you can be two things.’”

“Oh, so he thinks people can only be two things because that’s what he is.” I realized he was referring to the idea popular then of a hyphenated American.

“Well, I told him, ‘I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese. But he kept saying you can’t be three things.”

I knew that Leah wouldn’t let him get away with that.

“Oh, yes, I can,” Leah told me she’d said to him. “I go to American school during the week, Chinese school on Saturday, and Hebrew school on Sunday. Mommy, then he ran away. If I can’t call him stupid, what can I call him?”

That little girl grew up to be a lawyer.

Susan Chan, a romance author and former guidance counselor, lives in San Diego, CA, and is co-author of the Lily Court Lane book series. You can follow Lily Court Lane books on Facebook.

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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Guest Post: “I don’t look at my daughter as Indian or Canadian. I look at her soul.”

Alexandra, the white Canadian blogger behind Madh Mama, thought all of the ignorant comments about her marriage to a South Indian man would end once they had a child. But they didn’t, and it has been one of the biggest challenges for her — especially as hearing things about her daughter hurts her deeply.  

Have you heard something about your interracial relationship or biracial children that you’d like to write about for Speaking of China? We welcome all kinds of guest posts (including love stories) — check out the submit a post page for details.

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I often forget that my husband and I are from different cultures. We have so much in common, so many shared interests. We are going on our 9th year together, and I could trace every freckle and scar on his body with my eyes closed. The kind of familiarity that you have with someone you know inside and out.

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In reality, we are from vastly different cultures. I was born and brought up in Vancouver, Canada, by a small tight-knit family with European ancestors. My husband is from Hyderabad, India, and descends from the most conservative and devout Indian clans – the Tamil Iyengars.

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I always dreamed of having a child with him, in a romantic way. I wanted to expand our family and raise kids together in a way that combined our similar values. I wanted to grow myself by becoming a mother, and I wanted our bond to deepen even further by becoming parents together.

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Being a rare mix, we have had a hefty share of ignorant comments. At first, it was people saying things like we “just want to try out a different race“, then it was “he’s only with her for a green card” (I’m not an American, so I don’t even have a green card), then it was “she’s corrupting him with her Western values“, then it was “they’ll never make it to the altar“, then after we got married it was “how can they function with all these cultural differences?” Supporters and believers in our relationship were few and far between. We became desensitized by these kind of comments and learned to expect them. For a long time we didn’t even know that other couples like us even existed, so any negative experience just brought us closer together, since we were the only two people who understood what we were going through.

I thought all of that would end once we started a family together – that by having a child, people would realize that we are committed for life. Especially to other Indians, who assumed that by me having white skin, it automatically meant I was not cut out for motherhood, have no family values, or that I would divorce him.

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When we had our daughter, it was the happiest moment of my life. It was incredible. She looked like every single person in our families – combined. Watching her grow up and see how her personality has developed has been astonishing. She is nurturing like me, quick like her dad, a great dancer, and eats any cuisine. She is the most global child I have ever come across. She is classically beautiful and looks like she could pass for any ethnicity. She is adventurous and loves to travel and do new things.

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I think the comments started when she was about 6 months old. One of our Indian relatives asked me if we intended to raise her “Indian or American” – as if we had to choose. Then, I got a few comments from white Canadians about how tanned my daughter is, with a weird side-eye glance to prompt me to tell them her ethnicity. When we were visiting Italy last year, everyone thought she was Italian. So much that one old Italian lady pointed to my husband and asked “Is he the father?” when he was standing right in front of her. We have stepped inside an Indian restaurant where every table looked at us with disgust, so much that it scared my daughter. The latest comment we got from an elderly Indian relative was when my daughter was feeling shy. She said, “Maybe she doesn’t like Indians“. Appalling, since she certainly adores her father and many other Indian family members. It stung a lot.

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The thing is – I expect comments about myself, but when it is directed towards my child, it hurts me deeply. And it surprises me, because I forget that we are an intercultural family, raising a biracial child. We live in such a multicultural world. We celebrate all festivals and holidays, even ones that don’t belong to our respective cultures – like Chinese New Year and Greek Easter. We have lots of intercultural friends. It’s only when we get ignorant comments that it occurs to me that the multicultural world we live in – is one that we have constructed for ourselves. That the majority of people out there do not mix, that they tend to stick to their own culture, and either out of fear or ignorance – and they do not step outside it. That global families, such as ours, are a minority. However, I hope that my children and grandchildren’s generations see love before color. Because that’s what the world needs – more love…a love that transcends borders and limitations.

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My daughter is only 2.5 years old now. I haven’t really figured out how to tell her that sometimes people might question our family – more than others – because we are different. I know I will tell her that doing things differently doesn’t mean we’re wrong, but just that a lot of people won’t understand us. I want her to be confident in who she is. I want her to not be scared of this diverse world we live in, to see the beauty in being different and blaze the trail from there.

I don’t look at my daughter as Indian or Canadian. I look at her soul. I look at her as my child. The child that God sent me to raise. She is both cultures; but at the same time – she is everything. She is anything she wants to be.

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Alexandra Madhavan fell in love and married her soulmate. Then she inherited a big, fat South Indian family. She shares her unfiltered view of what it’s really like to be a Firangi Bahu at Madh Mama.
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.