Bill Belew has raised 2 bi-cultural kids, now 34 and 30. And he and his wife are now parenting a 3rd, Mia, who is 8.
No, I did not get the spelling wrong .. I simply mean bi-happy … that is two times happy.
2 cultures + 2 Languages = 2 * Happy?
Does growing up bi-culturally and bilingually come with double happiness??
Well, this is a question that immigrants have been trying to answer for a long time now.
And the reason I am picking up immigrants and not the mixed families from diverse cultures is because I can relate to the former.
It is easy for the first generation immigrants to get used to their new home. True, they might have immigrated for the reasons for a better future, greener pastures, more opportunities and a chance to do something different, at heart they remain loyal to their home countries.
They adapt to the ways of their new country, new home, accept the culture (even though might have spent a better part of their initial stay in a culture shock) but they do get used to the new environment. And trust me it is not just about the food, language or dressing style. It goes deeper than that. It is about culture.
You can learn to dress differently, learn the new language and even accept the new food. But can you truly accept the culture? And more so can you adopt the new culture as your own?
Well, the first generation of immigrants do accept the new culture but do not adopt it.
Its a whole different world for the second generation immigrants who are often confused of their identities and do not really know which group they belong to. And their parents do not know if they went wrong or is it just the way it is supposed to be when raising bi-cultural kids.
The kids eat the way their friends eat, dress the way their friends dress, speak differently and even behave differently than their parents.
They feel confused trying to understand their parents’ expectations to understand, follow and respect their own culture, religion and practices when they have never really seen any of these being practices by their peers.
Their sample size is different and the peers that they interact with are totally different from them.
Being bilingual and bicultural is specially difficult for the second generation immigrants because neither do they fit with their peers, they are just different even if not outsiders, nor do they fit in with their own family and extended families.
Their peers do not understand their need to follow their families and traditions and their parents cannot understand why in the world do they want to be different from their family. This leads to a confused state which as Indians we define as ABCD i.e, American Born Confused Desi. “Desi” is what we call us Indians in our language.
Aptly named, but falling really short of explaining the true nature of such confusions and even more short of the turmoil that these young people and their families face.
It is not just about food and dressing style anymore. It is now about the lifestyle. And this gets more and more confusing
In the land of opportunities, we see a mix of all cultures, races and ethnicity. I am not sure about the numbers but every tenth person I meet here is definitely from some other part of the world. And every time I see them I ask myself this question that even though these people are happy to be given more opportunities and making their dreams come true, what will happen to these dreams when the next generation starts asking them questions?
And every time I ask this question, I become aware of my own situation and start wondering if my kids are going to be as confused?
I hope we will be “BiHappy”.
What do you think?
Talk to Bill and others about their experiences raising bi-cultural Japanese-American kids.