Raising bicultural children: what do you pass on to them?

When my son was around seven years old, he said to me: “ I can’t wait to go to the US!” “ Why is that?” I asked him. “So I can eat rice and curry!”

I am an Asian-American living in the Netherlands with my Dutch husband and our three kids. My son knew that I was born in the US and that my parents were born in Sri Lanka, but he didn’t really understand how it all merged together.

Three cultural influences (Sri Lankan, American and Dutch) can be sometimes quite a juggle! Who I am…. is it due to my American influences or Sri Lankan? I see myself as an American with Asian influences. I love eating rice and curry, along with hamburgers and onion rings (with Ranch dressing, of course). I love Halloween and Christmas… and the sound of Buddhists monks chanting. For Thanksgiving, we would have Sri Lankan food, along with a stuffed chicken (nobody liked turkey in our family).

So, what determines your cultural background? What makes you identify with the country from where your passport is from? Is it the food, the rituals or certain morals and values which are passed on through your own parents?

Being a mother has made me realize this: being bicultural gives me the opportunity to pick and choose the best of both worlds/cultures. I can choose from two (or three) very different cultures and select which best fits me. I am neither one nor the other, but rather a combination of both. Sometimes, it isn’t possible (or even necessary) to identify where it comes from but that it simply exists within you.