Guest Post: What It’s Like to Raise Multicultural Children in Beijing

I’m thrilled to run this guest post from Jackie, a Beijing-based blogger who writes about raising multicultural kids at Bringing Up The Parks.

Do you have a story that you’d like to share on Speaking of China? Visit the submit a post page to learn more about what gets published here.
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I grew up in a country that wasn’t reflected on my passport and was raised in a culture that had nothing to do with the actual local customs. And yet despite everything you’ve just read, I grew up mostly monocultural.

Multiculturalism, contrary to the popular assumption, doesn’t always happen naturally. Take it from me—I’m from one. My multicultural family is headed by a Chinese-Filipino and a Chinese-Malaysian. Today, multiculturalism is when parents share their heritage with their children to help strengthen or solidify their identity. But back then, people didn’t really think much of the term. The extent of my understanding of Malaysia was limited to the stories my mom shared and the annual traveling that we did.

Not just that: growing up Filipino-Chinese (or Chinoy as some might call it) in the Philippines means knowing what the local culture is like, but not necessarily knowing it on a more personal level. And so I mainly grew up in the company of fellow Chinoys, only meeting full-blooded Filipino friends for the first time when I got to college.

College was when I realized I had issues with identity. But I didn’t even really understand the depth of my inner conflict until I recently reread some stories I wrote from those days. A number of it involved racial differences and even discrimination, and this is why I love raising my children in Beijing.

In Beijing, I Can Teach Culture on a more Balanced Scale

“Good morning Mommy,” greets my older daughter with a peck on the cheek. Envious, the younger will usually also approach, giving me a few more than her sister did. The older one will see it as a challenge, and next thing you know I’m drowning in kisses. I love it, because it’s fun and kissing elders on the cheek is quite normal back home. In my husband’s country, however, Korean children are expected to bow instead.

My children know that, and I love that they know that. My goal is to give them the tools to have the ability to jump, wait no, to effortlessly walk from one culture into the other as if there was no boundary distinguishing the two. It is sweet to receive a kiss on the cheek, but not every culture is open to that. And in our home, there are four cultures I’d like to expose my children to so that they have an idea of their roots.

When I was much younger, no one really asked me where I was from because my mother did all the answering. It was when I started traveling on my own that the question really bothered me. Malaysia is my passport country, but my inability to speak the local language and my accent screams foreigner. The Philippines is my home country, because that’s literally where my original home is but I need a “Balikbayan” stamp (foreign Filipino returnee) for a one-year stay. China is the country my family were originally from, whose culture we still practice in the Philippines and in Malaysia up until today, but China’s not going to recognize us. And Korea… oh most importantly Korea. Korea is now my home, because it is my husband’s. Though I’m not certain I really belong anywhere, I’d still like my children to understand them on a deeper level.

Because, truth is, identity (or the lack of it) can be crippling, or a thorn you can’t seem to get rid of. This is why so many multicultural families nowadays are intentionally raising their children to know their parents’ backgrounds.

Likewise, if we were still living in Korea, my children would be expected to be Korean, and only Korean. The reason is simple: outsiders get bullied, especially if they don’t look like Koreans. South Korea has been a monocultural society for so long that it’s still struggling to teach its younger generations to be more accepting of multicultural families.

In Beijing, however, as a foreign mom I can raise my children my way. Also helpers are more affordable here, and ours is a Korean-Chinese lady who only speaks to the children in Korean. My older daughter is learning about Chinese culture from her school, and I’m teaching my girls Filipino and Malaysian culture through small things like books and stories.

In Beijing, My Children Can be Naturally Multilingual

My husband and I really wanted our children to learn Mandarin, but it wasn’t easy to do so while we were in Korea considering how expensive it is. Fortunately we were expatriated to China, a dream come true, and now my older daughter is in a bilingual school where her peers are from all over the world. At the moment, my older daughter can speak three languages while my younger daughter can speak two and a bit of Chinese. This excites us, especially my mother whose native language is Mandarin. Finally someone in her family who can speak Mandarin as well!

In Beijing, My Children Can Meet People from All Over the World

In school, my firstborn’s classmates are from all over the world. Some of her closest friends (who are children of my own friends) are from different parts of Asia. Having friends from everywhere means that we always have an excuse to eat our native food or even learn about the different cultures from those countries. But most importantly, my children have more opportunity to become more accepting and more open-minded and more aware of different cultures.

My friend, for example, quickly corrected her half-German daughter when she was calling me by my name. When my daughter asked what happened, I explained that in Europe, it’s acceptable to call adults by their first names. My daughter accepted the explanation and just kept on playing. I almost doubted that she understood what I told her until she later on repeated the story to me!

Another importance is that my children will be less inclined to be racists. Some Chinoys I know from back in the Philippines see Filipinos in a negative light. The reason is simple: they don’t know enough people. I’ve met Filipinos who I look up to, whom I admire for their own personal qualities. Truth is, the more people my children know from different places, the less inclined they will be to think negatively of those places.

In Beijing, We Can Make our Own Identity

When people ask my daughter where she’s from, she simply answers Korea. I’m okay with that, because it’s simpler. But when it’s just us talking about where we’re from, we do it by discussing where all our family is from. My children know that they have family in South Korea, Philippines and even in Malaysia, and that our home is in China. My older daughter doesn’t like calling herself a Korean-Filipino-Malaysian-Chinese just because it’s too long. But rest assured, we’re thinking of a shorter name for all the cultures we hold.

What’s important is that we recognize and embrace our multiculturalism. And for my family, Beijing is the best place to do it.

Jackie is a Chinese-Malaysian-Filipina who blogs about raising multicultural kids at Bringinguptheparks.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: 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: “Am I in the ‘Wrong’ AMWF Relationship?” How a Woman Who Loved China Fell for a Korean man

Linda and Jeongsu in Korea.
Jeongsu and Linda

What happens when the man you love isn’t from the country and culture that first captured your heart? 

That’s the conundrum Linda Dunsmore of Linda Living in China — a self-professed “China fan” — faced when she fell for a man from Korea. She writes, “I was worried because he was Korean, while I was passionate about China…. I kept asking myself, ‘Why do I have to fall in love with a Korean man?'”

Do you have a fascinating AMWF relationship story or other guest post you’d love to see on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn how you can submit your story today.

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Linda in China

I am a total China fan.

I started studying Chinese in 2010, went to China in 2012 for an internship, and also dated a Chinese man (the relationship failed but that is another story). In 2013, I had to return to America to finish my Bachelor’s degree in San Diego, California. Every day, I was still reminiscing about my life in China. I cooked Chinese food, started writing my own blog about China and made almost exclusively Chinese/Taiwanese friends. I was sure to return to China after I graduated.

However, one day, I met someone who changed my life completely.

Linda and Jeongsu with heart

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was helping a friend to find an apartment in Pacific Beach (San Diego’s party area). She wanted to move in together with two other students from our university. We were going to meet him in front of the apartment and he was also going to bring a few friends to help him. We arrived at the scene and a few minutes later they arrived — our classmate from Turkey plus three Asian guys (including one particularly handsome fellow). I had hoped they would either be Taiwanese or Chinese or even from Hong Kong, and I was super excited. But then I discovered they weren’t from any of these places – they were Korean.

There was something incredibly special about this one handsome Korean guy. He was extremely charming; he even asked me about my heart-shaped sunglasses and mentioned that they were really cute. He had something about him that literally drew me to him. I also noticed how he was also suddenly really interested in me. We started talking every day on Facebook or text messaging. Then, before I knew it we met for our “first date”, which was one of the best nights of my life.

Linda and Jeongsu on a date

I started to like him more and more, which should have made me feel amazing. Except, I actually felt incredibly worried. I was worried about what would happen if things worked out. I was worried because he was Korean, while I was passionate about China.

I was worried that I was in the “wrong” AMWF relationship.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but not for someone who invested so much of herself and her life into China. I already lived in China before, loved the country, and had finally mastered conversational Chinese. Meanwhile, I knew nothing about Korea and couldn’t speak a word of Korean. I didn’t know what to do and felt horribly confused! I kept asking myself, “Why do I have to fall in love with a Korean man?”

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Of course, all of this was my head talking. But the thing is, you don’t love with your head, you love with your heart.

When I searched the depths of my heart, I realized that I fell in love with Jeongsu because of who he is — not because of his race or nationality. In the end, isn’t this what the AMWF community is really all about? We all fall in love with someone because of who he is not because he is Chinese, or Korean or Japanese. These men just happen to be Asian. It doesn’t mean we are completely obsessed with Asian men and strictly ignore all men of other races. It just means we found the right love for us.

Now I work for a Chinese-German company in Hunan, China as I maintain a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend Jeongsu, who is living in Korea. I’ve learned to balance these two parts of my life. While my heart still remains filled with China in so many ways, I’ve started studying Korean, trying Korean foods and reading up about his culture as much as I can. I’m coming to embrace Korean culture just as much as I’ve embraced Chinese culture. I’ve already visited him in Korea twice, including my most recent visit earlier this month. I consider it my second home now and his family my second family — my Korean family.

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In the end, life cannot be planned. It always comes out differently than how you thought.

Linda Living in ChinaI never expected that my China-obsessed self would fall so hard for a Korean man. But as long as you’re following your heart, there’s no such thing as a “wrong” relationship.

Linda writes about life in China and Korea, her AMWF relationship with a Korean man, traveling around Asia and studying Asian languages at www.lindalivinginchina.com . She is also very active on social media, especially Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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