I was listening to a podcast this morning while working out about the “culture of families”. The host essentially said that every family has its own culture and when two people get married, those cultures come together and may clash due to the culture of the family they grow up in. One family may have eaten dinner at a certain time and had their own Christmas traditions, while the other’s family didn’t eat together at dinner and did something completely different at Christmas. These two cultures come together and usually we compromise and combine the two cultures and create a new unique family culture.
The podcast got me thinking about how this applies to couples that come from not only different “family” cultures but completely different cultures in general and how they overcome those differences and combine the cultures (and also sometimes, we just compromise). Some differences in cultures are so big, it’s hard to accept an aspect of that culture. Most of the time though, we just compromise or mix the cultures up and create our own. This is an added difficulties in cross-cultural relationships.
In our family, we have similarities in that we both came from Western countries that share many of the same holidays and same or very similar religions (Italy is devout Catholic, the US is mainly Christian). We have some very big differences though, for example, how these holidays are celebrated, meal times, teaching independence, not such an importance on family, etc. We have combined many of our differences to create a unique Italian-American hybrid.
Christmas in Italy is focused mainly on food (surprise!) and mass. Gifts were traditionally only given on the 6th of January. The US focuses on gifts and Santa, food isn’t high on the list. Christmas for us has become a combination of the two cultures. We make the traditional meal of fish on Christmas Eve, but still have a Christmas with lots of gifts and a focus on Santa.
Italian parents are “helicopter” parents. They follow their children around the playground, making sure they don’t fall or run or sweat. They constantly say “piano, piano” (slower, slower) to their children when they are playing. They don’t want their kids getting dirty and often put them in bibs until they are four or five years old to not get their clothes dirty when eating their daily pasta al pomodoro. Sweating causes sicknesses for Italians, so not sweating is key to staying healthy as a child. You will hear “non sudare” and “piano” nonstop in an Italian playground. Americans can be helicopter parents, but a large amount are not. We have read studies and been told of the importance of independent play and the importance of getting dirty as kids. Sweating is not an issue for American children, nor is being near wind. Often when someone says to my kids “don’t sweat” or “it’s windy, go back inside”, it is best to remind them my kids are half-American, and this absurdity doesn’t apply to them!