Summer for Bilingual Families: Holiday or Family Visit?

(Version française ici , merci)

Gregre vacances 1bisAfter a busy time at school for the children and at work for the parents, everyone needs a little rest and relaxation. The “Tapetenwechsel” (literally, ‘Changing the wallpaper’), as the Germans say, is very important to recharge the batteries. In these summer months, let’s have a look at some interview extracts about the holidays of bilingual families. How do they manage being torn between holidays as a family unit and the expectations of their extended families?

These are some extracts from my book project Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures (read more here)

Melanie (36) and Nathan (37) have two children under the age of 6 who speak both parents’ languages (German and Hebrew):

Melanie We had started the rule that each country would get at least one trip a year…but to be more realistic it was more two… (Nathan agrees) And now we insist more on family holidays which don’t involve other family members, because visiting family isn’t vacation-time.

Nathan This year we’re going to Israel, but we’re renting a place in another town than where my family lives. It’s next to the beach, in an area you would go for holidays. From here we can meet my family, but it’s different; we’re independent and the children will still be in a Hebrew environment.

Zhang and Juan are from China and Spain and have a baby of 2 years of age:

Juan Usually we go three times a year to Spain, it’s just easier to travel there. And once a year we fly to China.

Zhang But it changed since our Baby was born. We try to organize more meetings with my parents and invite them, for example, to come here so that they can see their grandchild as well. Seeing each other as a large family is more important now that we have a child.

Émilie (45) and Adrian (47) are parents of three children aged between 9 and 16. She is Swiss and he is English:

Adrian The flipside of the coin when you are a bilingual family and especially when you are living in the country of one of the parents is that there is a penchant for going to the other country a lot.

Émilie After living in some other countries, in the end we decided to live in Britain, but I do admit that I need to leave the island during the holidays. I love go to Switzerland and France with the kids, so that they can listen and speak the language I talk to them: French!

Adrian But you would never spend some of the holidays in England?

Émilie Yes, I thought about that last time and realized how silly it is because the children do not know much of England… When we go on holiday it’s to the continent. And when we are travelling as a family I love to share with you as well the place where I spent my childhood in Switzerland. I spend most of the time in England and I like it to be an exchange.

Thanks a lot to Zhang & Juan, Émilie & Adrian and Melanie & Nathan for their time, kindness and support.
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2 thoughts on “Summer for Bilingual Families: Holiday or Family Visit?

  1. Oh funny you wrote that post at the moment my husband and I are talking about where to spent his three days of vacation. We want to try an amusement park (for the kids as much as the parents) and then see a bit of the area around it. He wants to go to Europa Park and then a bit in Alsace (France). And I want to go to Phantasia Land near Cologne to discover a bit Germany… He said he already lives in Germany and wants to visit places in France we don’t know. I argued we barely know the country we live (for less than a year!)… What will help us decide is the amount of games for young children there are in both parks… but I know that the conversation will come again…


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