Passing on culture - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 01-20-2013, 11:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am Filipino-American, born and raised in the US; my husband is Vietnamese-American, born in Vietnam but raised in the US since he was 4 years old. Despite growing up in areas with large Filipino and Vietnamese populations, we consider ourselves to be fairly removed from our cultures. Both of us can (barely) understand our parents' languages but can't speak them with any kind of fluency, which is of course a huge barrier to connecting culturally. Our strongest connection with our cultures is (almost sadly) exclusively through food but it somehow doesn't feel like enough.

 

My parents immigrated at a time when it was more in their favor to blend in by assimilating and since we didn't have a lot of family around, my family has lost a lot of culture. My parents always spoke English around me and have never tried to speak Tagalog to my daughter. My hubby's parents live across the country though I have the feeling that if we lived closer, we would probably be exposed to more cultural 

 

We want our daughter to grow up in touch with her roots, both Filipino and Vietnamese, but we're sort of at a loss as for how. For instance, Lunar New Year (Tet) is coming up and while I'm preparing some activities for her to learn about it, I feel like we're celebrating like outsider looking in than being part of the culture itself. Is it worth it at that point, to learn (or to teach) about the culture as an outsider? 


Michelle -- geeky homeschooling mama

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#2 of 7 Old 01-21-2013, 04:17 AM
 
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yes, yes, it is always worth it in the long run .... even if in the short term it might not always seems "right"

 

i am in a bi-cultural marriage & it's my lot actually to make sure my children are exposed to my partner's culture and language

since he works so long hours/is not so in touch with teaching stuff "naturally" ....

i consider it an integral part of my job as a mom ! (chasing playgroups with the target language, making sure i have mom friends who are in a similar boat than me, with the bi-cultural issues etc  .....)

 

+ even if it doesn't seem much now and/or if you children don't seem that interested at the moment

think of it as a building block to the future when they'll be able to define for themselves what they want out of your diverse backgrounds ...

 

they might too, marry in a completely different culture ... but you don't know that yet so any exposure to variety now ... is bound to be useful in the long run

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#3 of 7 Old 01-21-2013, 12:04 PM
 
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There is some old proverb that says you can never step into the same stream twice.  What I've always taken that to mean is that we, humans, change things simply by being in them, by having them, by experiencing them.  Culture lives, and it changes from generation to generation.  Things are forgotten, things change, but some things remain the same enough to be recognized, to be a thread of history.  Giving your children what you have is better than giving them "nothing".

Although food doesn't feel like enough to you, by the by, I have always found food to be a culture's primary language.  Maybe it's because I'm always hungry, but when I meet a new kind of friend, I want their food.  It tells me about them, it's a window to them, somehow. 
 


lovestory.gif   And on 09/23/2011, we were three;  husband, daughter, and me!

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#4 of 7 Old 02-23-2013, 10:56 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lilempressmommy View Post
[snip]

 

We want our daughter to grow up in touch with her roots, both Filipino and Vietnamese, but we're sort of at a loss as for how. For instance, Lunar New Year (Tet) is coming up and while I'm preparing some activities for her to learn about it, I feel like we're celebrating like outsider looking in than being part of the culture itself. Is it worth it at that point, to learn (or to teach) about the culture as an outsider? 

 

Hi,

 

I'm Euro-American  married to a Hong Kong Chinese guy, living in Hong Kong. I would say it's better to try and share what you know and enjoy than it would be to ignore it.  For example, although I'm the "outsider" w/ Lunar New year in Hong Kong, as the Mama I'm the one who does a lot of the organizing  - mainly the traditional big spring cleaning & then decorating the house.

 

But, I think the key word is to celebrate; "preparing activities for her to learn about [Tet]" makes it sound almost like a school assignment. Does your husband and his family celebrate Tet? If so,  consider trying to visit his family for Tet (like many families travel long distances for X-mas or Thanksgiving) let that be the "activity" - a big family meal and whatever it is your husband's family does to celebrate Tet. If travel for Tet is impossible, maybe try and connect w/ a Vietnamese cultural organization in your area.  UC Berkeley has a Vietnamese Student society - maybe get on their mailing list and try to participate?

http://www.calvsa.com/

 

Same thing w/ the Filipino side of your family - do family stuff and if that feels inadequate, try and join in celebrations and activities w/ Filipino groups.

 

I agree w/ the previous posters to not discount the power of food to connect to culture.  Also, I think that every family creates its *own* culture through time. Look for things that you and your husband enjoy and let the songs, food, religion, etc. come from your hearts and that will be a true and authentic culture for your kids.

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#5 of 7 Old 02-28-2013, 06:00 PM
 
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Just by calling it Lunar New Year by the name of Tet, you are passing along a huge part of the culture that you feel shaky about.  Here in the Midwest, everyone calls it Chinese New Year and they forget that all of the rest of Asia also celebrates the New Year.  You can eventually learn what Tet has in common with other Lunar New Years, and what is different.

 

As your kids get older, you can do some internet searches and together you and the kids can become more familiar together.  In really big US cities, there are Chinese Cultural Centers that have free resources about Chinese culture.  Try finding something similar for the Filipino and Vietnamese cultures.  In fact, some of these cultural centers have some nice websites where they have made some fun activities.  It's the job of these cultural centers to spread these types of materials, and they have been effective.  You just need to make use of these materials.
 

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#6 of 7 Old 05-21-2013, 08:28 PM
 
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I think it is very worthwhile, and that you can do a very good job at it.  You can learn about it together.

 

I saw this book on display at the library of my daughter's elementary school:

http://www.schoenhofs.com/My-First-Book-of-Tagalog-Words_p_18378.html?gdftrk=gdfV26312_a_7c2184_a_7c7508_a_7c9780804838191&gclid=CNjRl8LUqLcCFQ3l7AodpisAjg

 

I wasn't able to get to it to open up the book, so I don't know how good a book it is, but maybe you can look for it in the library or on interlibrary loan.
 

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#7 of 7 Old 05-22-2013, 11:09 PM
 
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Yes, it is completely worth the effort of passing on your culture roots to your child.  Even if you feel like an outsider, your will not necessarily know the difference.  My mother immigrated to the states as a child from Latin America, my father was raised with a Jewish heritage.  Both of my parents were assimilated and rarely expressed their cultural roots.  The few tidbits they did share I have held onto and have worked to elaborate on as a young adult and now even more so as a parent.  I speak/teach as much Spanish and Hebrew that I know.  I attempt to instill pride and the cultural roots of my child.  My hope is that as my child grows they to will seek out and expand on their knowledge of their heritage like I did.  The difference being that they will have a stronger foothold on themselves than I did because of my efforts to expose them to their roots from a young age.  Any attempt on your part is better than none at all.  

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