Say “YES!” to a multiculti wedding!

Gregre mariageDo you know why I married her? teased Johannes his Franco-German wife Apolline whilst chatting with friends. Because she is bicultural and speaks another mother tongue, her voice sounds slightly different in each language, and she behaves differently as well. It’s like I have two brides in one, that’s the mystery of bi-cultural couples. Let’s hope that this is not the only reason!
Usually weddings, even if they take place in one country with people from the same town, are quite tricky. The expectations are different from family to family and make the plans difficult. In a bicultural wedding the differences are exacerbated: two or more cultures, languages, relatives abroad, various customs. It looks like a never-ending headache.
But this should not stop you from a multicultural marriage! The people I met to talk about their bicultural life remember their wedding with pleasure!

One or two countries?
It often occurs that bicultural couples have two weddings in each of their home countries. Continue Reading

Cross-cultural happiness on your Birthday

Gregre anniv BLOGI can’t sleep, I am sooo excited, tomorrow is my friend’s birthday” giggled my daughter last Friday evening. Since she got her invitation in her pigeonhole at her preschool she has been counting the days, the hours, to go to this young man’s forth birthday. “He told me that there will be a bouncy castle, and cake, and crisps and juice and sweets… hey, maman, when can I go?” pleaded my daughter the next morning three hours before leaving the house, already dressed in her festive clothes and jumping around like a jack-in-the-box. I love watching this excitement and, how lovely it is to observe this pure childhood happiness about birthdays. We are in May and she is also already preparing for her birthday in September…
Is the birthday celebration also touched by culture and different expectations? I am afraid so, yes! Talking with parents about their style of upbringing between cultures makes me realise how variable the meaning of this day can be. The French, for example, don’t mind if you congratulate them two days later or even one week before your actual birthday. This behaviour is unthinkable in Germany. Continue Reading

Sharing is caring

I don’t know about you, but at home we have some funny quotes we love to repeat. One of them is “sharing is caring” (with a particular long “aaaa”) which reminds us of a particular Dad in a Eurostar who couldn’t stop chanting this phrase to his two year old daughter. Despite the fact that sharing is an incrGregre couple BLOG(2)edibly difficult process for a toddler (compared to if we had to learn Russian in two days), he patiently persisted (with this message).
Don’t worry, this is not one of my crusades upon the British style of upbringing! I am serious, I want to give a huge compliment to this particular thing I love in my new country. People are caring.
Sure, I did notice it whilst exploring various charity shops – a fabulous concept which is a big step up from just a second-hand shop, as you give your things away for a good cause! Or surfing on the Freegle website. Did you know that Freegle is British? Their idea: building an internet-based service where you can offer things for free or ask for things others may not want to use anymore.
As a family we are particularly interested in all children-related stuff: clothes, books, some toys… so we also like bagging a bargain during “Nearly New Sales” from schools or the NCT (read more here), a very well organised and planned event which gives you the opportunity to shop second-hand and sometimes as new!
But the kindness and the caring character, which I have discovered more over the last few months, is free and practically brought to your doorstep. “I like this British custom to give things away you don’t need anymore” confides my Italian neighbour to me last week. She came around with a bag full of unused nappies, wondering if our little one could use them. It made my day, not the nappies, of course, but this shared generosity; because when somebody gives you something for free, one day you will do the same and, in so doing, sow a bit of happiness.

First Birthday candle for my book

candle-birthdaySometimes it’s worth just briefly pausing to think about what we have done with all our time. The book project about bicultural families started at the end of April 2014. More than 200 miles, a huge amount of anecdotes, loads of laughter, one puncture and a long walk home, several nuts, home-made bread slices and other nibbles later, I am amazed about where this book brought me to. With the parents I traveled to Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, China, (…), Israel, the United States, the Netherlands, Chile and of course France, Germany, Spain and finally Britain, Wales and Ireland!
Thanks to all the Mums and Dads for their time and kindness of sharing their experience with me, giving me a glance of their adventures between their cultures with their kids. I feel honoured to write about them – and with them – these pages full of life, ideas and perspectives on a challenging topic: the transmission of our home-culture to bring up children as citizens of the world.
My fingers aren’t tired of typing about such amazing stories and experiences and I do my best to write quickly. There are still some subjects I want to explore more in depth, so if you want to take part in this project, drop me an email and hope to meet you soon.

Florentine

How do you say “hello”?

Gregre bisousAre you familiar with that particular kind of hesitation when you meet someone and there is this first embarrassing contact: a kiss, a hug or a handshake? Whether it is at school, or whilst shopping or even when you have people for dinner, these first minutes are a little dance between a step forward to embrace them, a step backwards; maybe they prefer a handshake, but firm or gentle? Or finally is a “hi” is sufficient? Even if I like joking about this topic, I have to admit that I am lost between cultures. And I am only moving between three of them (French, German and British). What about you? What are you used to? What do you do when you live in another country?
Talking to bicultural couples (read more about my project here) I remember a Thai-British couple who describes how different the codes are in Thailand. Continue Reading

Multicultural families, what’s on the menu tonight?

Gregre cuisine (2) petdef This question might sound funny, but believe it or not, lots of interviewees realised during our encounter how much of their childhood memories are related to food, an interesting point, especially when you grew up in a country which is not your actual country of residence. The memory of a special dish, of its taste and the related atmosphere, a birthday, for example, or a Sunday morning extravaganza, or even the only dish your father could prepare… makes you feel nostalgic and shows you how much your own culture nourishes you. It’s worth remembering to integrate gastronomy in a multicultural upbringing as it’s part of the cultural transmission. And food offers a fantastic vast field! You can share the joy of cooking traditional dishes, exploring some home-recipes and tracking down some ingredients from your own country.
Tania, a German mother now living in Britain, shared that her parents sent her „foodparcels“ during her studies with some German specialties, such as Lebkuchen and Marzipan… „I loved it as you can’t find them in Britain, it was like being at home when I closed my eyes.“ Continue Reading

Une jour-nez rouge

imagesSi vous pensez que je vois (encore) rouge, vous n’y êtes pas du tout.
Je voudrais vous parler de la journée du nez rouge! Allons un peu de sérieux, allez-vous me dire et je suis tout à fait d’accord avec vous. On ne rigole pas du tout. La journée du pullover de Noël (12 décembre), celle du chapeau (27 mars) , celle du “mauvais” pantalon (26 juin) ou encore celle du jean (18 septembre), il y en a pour tous les goûts! Et détrompez-vous, derrière les titres hilarants, se cachent des levées de fonds pour la recherche médicale ou des causes solidaires. C’est la manière british de s’engager et de le montrer à tous. Continue Reading

Nick Copes latest trick! The Pirate’s Breakfast

Gregre pirate2It was one of those uncreative moments in the middle of the afternoon when you just feel you need a break. Luckily, I found Nick Copes last CD in my bag , hidden from my daughters eyes. She grabs everything which is pink, her favourite color.

His voice sort of like a big brother, if you don’t have you would love to have: Clear, hilarious yet sincere.

His guitar is dynamic, engaging, it really gets off your feet and dancing!

His music is a fantastic mood booster!

Whilst discovering his new songs, I remember my first session with Nick Cope as a young mother with an eight month old active little girl. A friend tempted me with the comment, “you will love it”. And indeed, he is the first musician I have ever encountered who makes fab music not only for kids but for parents as well. Continue Reading

Merry Christmas +1 month

Have you noticed? Gregre Noel2014One month ago Christmas was in the air! Let’s close our eyes and be there again… Christmas! In the baubles, trees, and nativity scenes, everywhere the atmosphere is festive. The child in us could not wait until Christmas. But waiting for what? Father Christmas, Baby Jesus, the Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? What about the German Nikolaus (Santa Claus) coming on the 6th December or the three wise men arriving one month later at Epiphany – how do multicultural families celebrate Christmas? And what about those who also are from different religions?

In all my encounters for my project the Christmas-topic is one central element, and in most cases the parents themselves bring up its significance in their life. It looks like the main cultural event they want to transmit to their children. Some of them cite some memories from their childhood, and I feel how much these are related to a positive and fundamental experience in their lives. All agree that Christmas is a moment where cultural differences are definitely present and that multicultural parents have to find some compromises.
The book Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures will bring together lots of different anecdotes about this main subject, but in the meantime, have a glance at these extracts and why not comment on your own experience!

Magda and Stefan met in Germany, she is Polish and he Austrian. Their work brought them to Britain where they build a family. They have an eight-year old son who speaks Polish, German and English.

At Christmas we just combine everything: we celebrate the arrival of the Christkind (Baby Jesus, in Austria) and we prepare a biscuit and a carrot for the reindeer of Santa Claus. So far our son is not questioning anything. The three traditions take place in our own ritual around Christmas. First the Christkind like an angel rings a bell outside and brings gifts, as this is usual in Austria. Outside as well, Santa drinks milk and the reindeer eats its carrot. And in Poland the tradition is to go upstairs in your bedroom and watch for the first star in the sky, which means the presents will come. We’re preserving this magic triangle but we know it won’t last for ever…

For Céline and Ridvan a French-Albanian couple, Christmas was a tradition to create. Used to a Muslim atmosphere in Albania, but not practicing the religious rituals, Ridvan didn’t know much about Christmas. The arrival of their children gave them a reason to build a tradition around Christmas. For them it’s a day of joy and a day for the family.

Ridvan
Celebrating Christmas is something we have done since we have been together and especially since the kids. We do a bit of decoration, have some gifts and a nice meal together. And now even my family in Albania says “Happy Christmas” to us. For them the biggest day in the year is New Year, but they understand the sense of Christmas and want to share it with us.

For Nathan and Melanie the Christmas-topic is quite delicate as it doesn’t have the same place in their original culture. Nathan is Israeli, for him as a Jewish there is no Christmas but other holidays like Hanukkah or Yom Kippur. Melanie grew up in Germany and even if her family is not particularly religious she was used to Christmas. For her marriage she converted to Judaism which is the religion they practice in their family. The fact that they are all Jewish means that there is no more Christmas for them. Continue Reading

1001 cartes de vœux

Gregre cartes de voeuxGregre est devenu bien british en ce début d’année. Il exhibe toutes ses cartes de vœux et attire la convoitise des voisins. Car attention, au-delà de la simple marotte anglaise, l’écriture et la réception de cartes de vœux est un must, un to do annuel. Le marathon doit commencer début novembre, car vu le nombre de cartes que chacun reçoit cela ne se fait pas juste sur un coin de table un dimanche après-midi. C’est de l’organisation germanique !
Tiens justement, le calendrier et espace de stockage en ligne Journl (crée par une équipe d’entrepreneurs à Oxford) a offert à tous ses clients une application pour préparer les fêtes et un dossier était dédié, vous avez deviné? Oui, aux cartes de vœux : quelle carte, pour qui, envoyée quand… ?
Je n’ose pas leur demander aux amis Rosbif s’il y a une secrète concurrence de qui a envoyé la carte en premier ? Ce qui est sûr, c’est que tout le monde aime en faire l’exposition dans sa maison. Chez nos voisins Ben&Margaret il y a même un fil au mur qui s’étend autour de dans toutes les pièces, juste en dessous du plafond où sont accrochés tous leurs trésors. Enfin, je les soupçonne d’exposer une collection regroupant les cartes des années précédentes, car je n’arrive pas à croire qu’on puisse recevoir plus d’une centaine de cartes de vœux d’un coup!

Le contenu d’une carte de vœux : un texto écrit à la main ?
« J’aime les recevoir, me confie une voisine amie, c’est un petit signe pour montrer qu’on pense les uns aux autres ! » devant un raisonnable éventail d’une dizaine de cartes. Certes, il est toujours plus touchant de recevoir un courrier qu’un courriel. Déjà il y a le toucher, le choix de la carte (souvent le bénéfice de la carte va à une association caritative), parfois le timbre –si on ne la pas déposé dans la boite aux lettres. Mais pour moi, le cœur du débat se situe dans l’ouverture de la carte, car il n’y a que peu, parfois pas de contenu. Juste une signature, un simple petit « x » pour dire bisous, et si on n’a pas de chance on n’arrive même pas à identifier l’expéditeur. Frustrant pour mon âme littéraire.
Un jour j’ai a eu le culot d’en parler à la maternelle de notre fille – car figurez-vous que les enfants de 3-4 ans « s’écrivent » aussi des cartes de vœux ! Les mamans ont beaucoup rit, mais personne n’a su expliqué d’où venait se manque de texte.
Cette année Gregre a reçu 14 missives et vite vite un bon nombre de cartes de vœux ont aussi été préparé pour les voisins et amis. C’est bon on est resté dans le cadre butoir du mois de janvier !
Mais pour 2015-1016 on a appris la leçon. Avec Gregre en poche je suis allée faire les soldes des cartes de vœux pour être équipée. Le stock est prêt ! L’agenda du mois de novembre 2015 est déjà rempli de rendez-vous d’écriture de cartes de vœux. Juste qu’en famille on sèmera un peu de sel franco-allemand, c’est ça aussi l’intégration multiculturelle : s’approprier les traditions du pays où l’on vit tout en y ajoutant sa propre touche.