What is an interracial household?

The reason I am writing about it today is that we are basically still in process of making our apartment a homely home. We have done much already as you could see few months ago in this articles about our new apartment. But still, it seems something is missing. I am perfectly fine as it is and also my wife usually doesn’t miss anything but it is just not as cozy as it used to be in our old 40m² apartment.

DSC02814I have been living together with my wife now for  five years. During that time we visited many other couples WMAF (White Male Asian Female) with all kind of different homes and decorations. But there was never any household were one could say that this must be a typical interracial household when it comes to mix the best of those two different cultures. Sometimes it was just too overloaded with cheap looking Chinese decoration and sometimes the exact opposite. In the end it depends of course on the taste of the individual person.

 

In some of the homes we visited it totally looked European. I mean there was sometimes nothing at all that might suggest that a Chinese woman was living there. For example here in Germany we visited one couple with two children and basically everything was just German, the woman even talked only German to the little kids as they did not know anything about the language and didn’t like it  same as Chinese food…I am not trying to say that this is bad but it is also very weird as in Finland we never encountered something as drastic as this one.

 

Since we have been here my wife tried to find her spot here in the little Chinese community and always heard the same thing. The DSC02811children do not speak any Chinese, just German. Sure they knew some of the basic words you learn also in a Chinese language course in the first couple of lessons but that’s it. The main problem so far here as been always that in kindergarten they only speak German. Okay that is itself not a problem but they do not have any possibility to learn any Chinese except when the mother might talk to them few words in her native language. In Finland for example we never saw that anyone had this language problem as they offered in many Chinese communities for the children Chinese classes, both writing and talking. This however is most likely different here as my hometown is just too small and that the few dozens interracial couples are not enough to start such Chinese community center.

 

DSC02796Now I am wondering how our son will fare with his language skills. As I wrote before it is very hard to get into a kindergarten here so we are still on various waiting lists. Furthermore we speak to him in Chinese, English, German and Finnish. This is surely much to handle to such a little brain but without a doubt possible if we stick to our roles and each one of us talks only in one language to him (my wife Chinese, my mother Finnish, my father German and last but not least the most important person: ME in English).

 

So what have we managed so far when it comes to create some mixed household? Well, we have some Chinese decoration still from our old apartment which we spread out all over our home. Then there is of course the wonderful Chinese food my wife is making plus trying to make good contacts with the few Chinese here. Furthermore we are planning to buy some nice artwork in our next journey to China such as a big wall scroll for the living room. Even though we try to get our home more homely we also try our best to maintain a modern design at least for most of the rooms (Nathan’s room will be a total different matter as we will try to stick to a very certain theme and once it is done I will of course write about it). In the end we have right now a mostly European designed home with few things here giving a hint that there is someone from China living here.

 

What is in your opinion typical in such a household? What are your experiences?

Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts.

https://www.facebook.com/CrazyChineseFamily

https://twitter.com/CraChineseFam

 

 

55 thoughts on “What is an interracial household?”

  1. Hm, never thought about it. My Taiwanese husband has not much interest into decorations, so our home is rather European except for the little,Chinese painting in our sleeping room. But when think about it, most of the Taiwanese homes in Taiwan had rarely Chinese culture decorations, if you are modern, you decorate your home European style!

    1. The average Chinese home I have seen so far is nothing worth mentioning. Most of the people I visited have all kind of plastic junk around and nothing seems to fit together. My in-laws however have a nice setup in their home but it is more traditional European country style with very little Chinese items there.

      1. Exactly, very little Chinese items…. it is really weird to see Ikea furniture in a Taiwanese home… But well, one item is never missing: the glass cabinet to showcase the wine and expensive liquor bottles, sometimes accompanied by European sightseeing items purchased abroad (to say: see, I’ve been to Paris in France!).

  2. Has Nathan started responding yet in any language? I am very curious how it will go. We’ll be doing something very similar. My husband will speak Japanese, I will speak Dutch, and everyone else here in England will speak English to our son. Also my husband and I speak English to each other so he will constantly be around three languages. We’ve actually met a few couples here some Dutch-English and one Japanese-English and they’ve only taught their kids English. Because they were afraid to confuse their kids. Now they’re older they’re trying to teach them the other language but it’s not going well and if they speak at all they speak with thick English accents. To us that just looks like such a wasted opportunity. We’re definitely going to raise our kids multilingually the easy way (from the beginning) like you are.

    1. So far Nathan is still not answering in any specific language. For children to grow up with multiple languages it will take longer to start talking properly but once they do they can easily seperate the languages. Onyl the beginning will be hard as it will really take longer until he will start talking to us 🙂

  3. All households and relationships are unique, but interracial especially so.

    I have heard as well that multiple languages are ultimately no problem for small kids. I wish I was raised that way, would be an advantage now that I’m grown up!

    1. I was also only raised in one language. Well, in the beginning I was raised bilingual but at kindergarten the caretakers were furios with my mom that I wasnt fluent enough in German so they forbade her to speak Finnish to me any longer…

  4. Hi! I have a lot of friends here in Argentina whose parents are Chinese or Japanese. It’s not the same, but I can tell you, they do learn the language. My boyfriend (born here)’s parents talk to him ALWAYS in Chinese, but he went to school and of course speaks Spanish like a native because he is one. My best friend’s mother is ethnically Japanese but Argentinian, and his father was Japanese. So, her mother talked to her husband in Japanese, but she talked to her children ALWAYS in Spanish, and her father talked to his children in Japanese, but sometimes they mixed the languages. The thing is, even if they don’t go to school and learn Japanese or Chinese, they can talk it.

    Also, here there are Chinese and Taiwanese schools, so children with Chinese parents go on Saturday or Sunday to Chinese school, where they learn to read and history and classic Chinese (or something like that, reading old poems and stuff :P). Japanese people have a Japanese school, but this one is a normal school, open for everyone, and you learn Japanese like you learn English, not totally bilingual….

    But what I mean is, even if you can’t give Nathan a formal study in the languages, he WILL learn ~ Then, when he uses those languages (reading, or studying them, traveling) he will get better. Don’t worry, it looks like you are all teaching him, so that’s ok. It would be a problem if you just talked to him in one language, and then tried to teach him another and stopped talking to him in the first one (which happened to a Japanese friend, so now, she understands Spanish and Japanese, but she isn’t “proficient” in any of them when talking and writing).

    1. Thank you for your feedback. It is indeed interesting to see how languages can develope in early age.
      Right now we really do have normal conversations with him but each person in their own language. Thus he will have to communicate also in that certain language depending on who is talking with him.
      This methods seems to be working well, at least I have read many good things about it and seen also in Finnish/ Chinese couples that it works as the children with 4-5years can speak CHinese and Finnish fluently and English okayiish (because they didnt focus on it).
      I wish there would be a Chinese school/ Sunday school available around here but for that we need to drive 80km to the next biggest city 😦

  5. Actually today I realized something today that my boyfriend and I will most likely do when we move in together/ get married. We went to see family today from my side, and we wanted to go inside the house. My boyfriend’s first reaction was “babe, must I take off my shoes?” 😛 I’m a bit of a neat freak, so I do that at home. My cousin overheard us and gave us such an odd look 😛 LOL.

    I obviously don’t have kids yet, but I grew up in a multi-language household (dad speaks Greek, English, French and a bit of Italian, and my mom speaks English and Afrikaans). Oddly enough, I think it gave me an advantage as I could and still can speak a fair amount of all those languages. I am actually majoring in Linguistics and apparently the best time for a child to learn a new language is when they are under 6 years of age! So I think you’re doing it right ;). My third cousin (he’s 2 now) is half Afrikaans, and half Russian and he can speak a bit of Russian, Afrikaans and English. 😛 Kids are capable of a lot 🙂

    My boyfriend and I were actually discussing how we would go about our kids with languages since it would be not only Mandarin, but also the dialect his parents speak (which confuses me LOL) as well as speaking English, Greek, Afrikaans and both of us are keen on them learning some Japanese too. LOL. So we will see how that goes someday :P. I think if you are in an interracial household, you are naturally exposed to more languages!

    I do think for your son, maybe when he’s in school, send him to Chinese classes just so he has other people to practice with. :O I lost quite a lot out with my Greek since I didn’t go to Greek school and had nobody to practice with 😦 LOL.

    1. Well the thing is for us that there are zero chinese classes here in this city so we must have to drive to the next biggest one.

      I saw with many children in Finland that they have no troubles growing up with three or four language and speaking them rather good. However at least in my hometown the mentality is a bit different, it seems like that people are actually happy if the child learns only german…

  6. I think Nathan will soak up the languages like a sponge. Kids are amazing at that age. Like I probably told you before, my friend’s child could speak three languages by the age of three and knew who to speak which one to. She is now 12 and has never spoken a word of Chinese to me, even though she knows she could.

    Our house in Taiwan is not your typical Taiwanese house because it has a more western feel. You can tell both my husband and I live here.

    1. Yes,indeed children are amazing when it comes to learn new things in early age. When I think how long it takes me to learn these days something new…oh my god.

      It is interesting to know how different each household is. Of course I knew this from the beginning but usually people seek out s role model even when it is not achievable (such as at my work place…but that’s a different matter :p)

  7. Very interesting post. I’m sure Nathan will grow up to be bilingual. He’s probably silent for now since he is still young and growing, and also absorbing all that you, your wife and the rest of your family say to him. However, I will add that when I was young, I remember seeing my parents talking in Cantonese to each other all the time (in Australia). But they’d talk to me in English and I grew up thinking I was different from my parents. Just some random thought.

    I live alone, so my flat is my flat. It’s pretty neat though my parents like to stash a few things here and there – they insist on having photos of my graduation on the piano – which I would like gone, but it’s okay 🙂 I don’t have many things at home, not a fan of knick knacks. Anyone who comes visit will see that it’s a typical young person’s home with not many things 🙂

    1. I think it is also the parents responsibility to make the child want to learn the language or whatever new skill. It must be interesting for the child because as soon as it thinks it has to do something they tend to shut down :p

      When I think of my own apartment years ago, oh that was a mess, just the basics you need in life and very unorganized 🙂

      1. True. All that matters to kids is fun, fun fun. They get bored very easily and always want their way. With language, you can’t make it too hard for them too or else they will get upset.

        You don’t sound like a messy person, Crazy. I’m far from messy – little things at home and all of them can stack nicely in the corner 🙂

  8. I think this is an excellent question and one that will depend on where you raise Nathan and how much his grandparents will have an influence in his life. Since I grew up in Hawaii, I was surrounded by interracial couples and households and really they are all unique. I think this will be the case for your little family, too.

    Even though I was primarily raised by a Thai mother, I never learned the language – the culture was always there in my upbringing though. Had my Chinese father lived, I’m positive my childhood would have been radically different. Although, my Chinese grandmother never spoke in Chinese with me – just English.

    As far as decor is concerned, I think it helps if one person takes over it. My brother and his wife keep battling over it and so nothing is up. Whatever feels natural and authenic should be fine…after all, you can always change it.

    1. Yes, I do think it always depends on the surroundings when growing up. This shapes for the biggest part the child. There are many things I was thinking about my parents could have done perhaps better when it comes to languages or creating some interests for me. However it is also questionable whether those things would have made me a better person.

      Thankfully we do not fight about how to create our home/ what decoration to buy. We just aim to have it our style so it hopefully won’t end up too packed here over the years

  9. That’s great that Nathan has language support through his grandparents! Fantastic resources for feeling comfortable in each of the languages. ^^

    Because we moved around a lot, I began learning French before I started speaking Swedish. It’s weird, since I can barely speak it now, even though I can understand a lot. (I end up trying to respond in Japanese, another problem, ack!)

    As for our place here… YJ moved into my flat so it’s mostly my stuff still (hoping to move soooooon), which is a mix of random stuff (IKEA tables, Japanese kotatsu, etc). ^^ I guess it’ll stay mostly mixed, though we both like the simplicity of Scandinavian design and traditional Japanese stuff (goes surprisingly well together), so I’m sure we’ll have a stronger sense of both in the coming years.

    1. Most of our furniture we sold in Finland so here in Germany we bought basicaly everything new. Through this my wife had a pretty big selection for the stuff she wanted for this place 🙂

  10. I think it is a pity when parents choose to raise their kids in only one language when they speak more. You are not only denying a great learning opportunity for your child, but you are also severing all their ties with the other culture. I’m sure those half Chinese kids who can’t speak Chinese must have some relatives in China, how would they communicate?

    I have a Spanish friend who is married to a Filipino guy. They have a 15 month old daughter and she doesn’t speak much yet but her mom talks to her in Catalan (her native language, from northeastern Spain), his father talks to her in Cebuano (dialect of the city they live in), and the parents talk to each other in English. Oh and my friend uses a stuffed panda bear I gave her to talk in Spanish to her baby so she can also learn Spanish hahaha.

    1. Some of these mixed families we met don’t even go to China anymore because the husband doesn’t like it there. I don’t want to go too much into detail but I think there are certainly things not going well.,.

      In my opinion it is very important when you have the chance to raise a child bilingual. It will be always an asset in later life

  11. I have always been fascinated by the learning capabilities of children. I knew a Belgian-Finnish household where the six-year old spoke and understood French, Finnish, Swedish and a bit of English. But then I also know a Nepali-Finnish household where the Nepali father always talks to the son in Finnish and the parents also talk to each other in Finnish, so naturally the kid doesn’t understand or speak any Nepali. I think it’s hard work but it should be so worth it!

    As for my apartment, it looks like a typical student apartment, haha. Nothing that is typically Nepali, although I am thinking of getting some paintings and sculptures and maybe Tibetan prayer flags from Nepal when I visit.

    1. I think it is always kind of sad when a child does not really get the opportunity to learn another language of his parents. It is kind of a wasted chance.

      I hope we manage to get this summer a big chinese wall scroll. My mother in law knows somebody who knows a famous artist from them province 🙂

  12. It’s always so interesting to read about the way parents are introducing multiple languages to their kids. My boyfriend and I have talked about this too, and I think we figured whichever country we lived in (either Korea or NZ/England) we would focus more on the other language at home, seeing as they would have exposure in the country’s native language outside the house.
    My boyfriend already speaks good English (that’s what we use together), so it’s up to me now to improve my Korean.. a lot! :p

    1. I figured the same that our son will have enough exposure to the German language outside our home. In the end all extra languages depend on how much we will be able to focus on them at home speaking to him 🙂

  13. I think it’s great that everyone in your family talks to your son in a different language, it might me a little confusing at first but when he grows up I am sure he will be grateful that you helped him keep in touch with all his roots…besides I think the next generation will have mostly bilingual if not trilingual children, so he will fit in perfectly!

    1. I just hope it will work:)

      Finnish right now is the most unimportant language as he will probably barely ever ever need it. Just too few people speaking it world wide and no finnish speaking relatives are living here in Germany except of course my mom and me…

  14. We are an interracial household as you know. Le is born and bred Australian so really her Asian background isn’t represented obviously in the house!

    BUT it does represent in subtle ways such as feng shui type of stuff.

    Plus we have lots of different cultures represented in our house because of the things we pick up on our travels.

    When it comes down to it, we feel that it depends on how one wants to express themselves.

    With the language, our nieces and nephews are from interracial relationships as well. The children can understand very basic Vietnamese, a few words of Cantonese and predominantly speak English. David is even learning basic Vietnamese. And you are very spot on with saying that everyone sticks to their roles. Our wider family ends up speaking English a lot because it’s the common language for everyone and therefore the kids are losing their opportunity to learn more.

    And kids are like sponges…. it might take Nathan a while to start speaking because everything is blended for him, but it will be to his biggest advantage if everyone sticks to their role of teaching him a different language! Apparently, it’s the first one or two that are difficult, after that, once you have another language, learning more get easier (or so we are told).

    1. I have never been good with languages but then again I never learned anything well except computer games…
      We just hope that Nathan will be a sponge when it comes to the different languages we speak so later on it might be a good skill for him to have.
      We know now some interracial couples but all of them we know from Germany did not speak any of their native languages so the kids all ended up with German only. In Finland however it has been the exact opposite, strange world.

      We/ my wife never really got into the feng shui stuff or lets say we never really cared about them. My mother in law on the other hand is really into it but fails to follow it on her own, just making everybody mad with her strange ideas how to improve their daily life 🙂

  15. My family is not interracial but we are all bilingual here in Singapore because the education system is in English and we have a subject in school called mother tongue which is our native language. So I think you can just continue with your intentions and he will pick it up eventually. I speak my native language with my parents because they spoke with me in that language since young and I had no problem picking it up even though school was all in English. The level of proficiency differs of course but I would have no problem conversing in it. So I think you do not have to worry too much about overloading Nathan with all the languages. Pretty sure he will pick it up eventually if he is consistently talked to. 🙂

    1. It is always great to hear about people who grew up bilingual and it worked out.
      Thanks for your feedback, in my own case growing up bilingual didn’t work out too well so I had to study Finnish in classes later 🙂

  16. As an enthusiast of authentic Chinese food, I wonder if you would mind writing a post about your wife’s Chinese cooking,
    with some photos of the finished dishes ? I am simply dying from
    curiosity.
    Where do you get these ingredients from by the way, does Neumuenster have a Chinese supermarket or do you order them online ?
    Also, does your wife use any specific Chinese or English language cookbook that might possibly be available online ?

    I hope you don’t mind all these questions !

    1. As my town has only one tiny Asian supermarket she buys everything online.
      Usually she is checking online in Chinese for certain dishes and I believe she has rons of chinese cookbooks on her laptop (also in Chinese). I can try to capture in the following weeks her dishes and make a little post about if you are interested 🙂

  17. I think that learning Chinese is very important these days; I got my current job because I’m a Mandarin speaker. My two half sisters who are Australia born half Chinese half English, they can’t speak any Chinese, I always think it’s a shame!!

    1. Here especially in bigger city’s are a lot of job opportunities for Chinese speaker if they also speak good English and/or German.
      It is always a shame when you have the opportunity to learn another language and don’t use it

  18. Multilingual is absolutely the way to go!!

    Learning a language requires REAL work as an adult. As a teenager, I watched my mother spend years to gain a measure of proficiency in German. She was the only one in her German lit class (as in taught in German, books in German and papers submitted in German) – who did not grow up speaking German at home – even if it was the Mennonite ‘low’ German. 1 hour of class would actually mean 5 – 10 hours of work for her!

    While we always had some French around us growing up, you don’t exactly learn how to speak from a bilingual milk carton! 😉 So when I decided to take a term in France and move to Quebec for a couple of years, had to knuckle down and put real effort into learning… years later that discipline came in handy when I tackled Hindi!

    Yet so many friends grew up in bilingual or multilingual homes – I always envied their skill and ease switching between languages.

    Nathan will thank you!

    1. Learning new languages as an adult is always a pain. My dad tried over the past decade his luck few times with finnish but he only knows some words.mjust too complicated for him to start studying in the fifties and last attempt even when he was 64!

      1. I’m impressed at your father’s efforts! It is tough to learn as an adult however I believe if you have a musical or theatrical talent, it is a smidgen easier.

        My mother was around my age (45) when she was wrestling with German. She’d already completed her French and Italian ‘phases’ plus had sung in German for decades so a slight foundation. And she is incredibly musical – not just an opera singer but plays several instruments and spent a lifetime teaching music too.

        My partner at 54 has no choice but to immerse himself in various dialects and related languages depending on the part he plays. The most recent film required him to speak such ‘proper’ Urdu most native Hindi speakers would strain to comprehend or miss elements. When he toured France years ago, the introduction to the musical was in French. Does he understand or speak it? Nope! Did he memorise and manage to pronounce semi-properly a 5 min monologue? Yup! So well that even now he can rattle it off. 🙂

  19. As a Canadian born who has lived my whole life in Canada but raised by Chinese-speaking immigrant mother and father who learned English as an adult, here are some thoughts:

    *Nathan most likely will pick up the first language that you and your wife speak to one another daily on a natural basis. So what language would that be?

    *If your wife consciously speaks Chinese often daily to Nathan, then he may pick up some Chinese.

    *As for Finnish and German, I guess that depends on what you will speak.. it helps to make it fun and ordinary language.

    *Might be a good idea to have Nathan learn German…through playing with other local children/a play group before kindergarten. Otherwise, he will be in shock, like I was, not knowing English in kindergarten, even though I was born in Canada.

    By the way, my 100% Chinese-Canadian 3 nephews and nieces cannot speak nor understand much Cantonese/any Chinese at all. My sister and her hubby, though Chinese born in Canada, speak English to one another. Their children are exposed to bits of Chinese around grandparents, relatives during visits… So these children are only a tiny better off knowing Chinese language (just a few words) than their 4 half-Chinese-Caucasian cousins (each of my other sisters married a Caucasian) who don’t understand nor speak any Chinese at all.

    As for our homes, it’s well ,a mishmash of modern stuff, Canadian art, my own paintings that I’ve painted, with only 2 ostensibly Chinese pottery of mine.

    Nathan has a unique opportunity to learn and use at least 2 languages well. Depends what those languages will be.

    1. Thank you for the input. We speak English mostly at home however half of the day he is with my parents were he is confronted with much German (as my parents speak German with each other) and little Finnish as my mother speaks that to him.
      I think learning German for him will be no problem as he already exposed now to pretty much of it (children songs we are playing for him, guests etc) and kindergarten starts here with the age of two or some even earlier.
      When it comes to Chinese languages, well, he is pretty much surrounded by it when his mother at home. She speaks it with him, watches chinese TV shows and has those chats with friends and customers all the time in Chinese 🙂

  20. My husband and I have been living in, and traveled to, so many different places, so we want our apartment to reflect our nomadic lifestyle. The Asian influences are there (we have a Godzilla poster), but otherwise, I prefer an underlying Scandinavian look and decorate with exotic details. If a stranger saw our apartment, he/she would probably think that “hmm, here lives a husband and his harem of 6 wives from all over the world” 🙂

    1. We also try our best to keep a straight modern design in our apartment with few hints that someone from China is living here. But I am really looking forward to a big wall scroll for the living room with nice calligraphy 🙂

  21. It’s excellent that you are speaking to Nathan in four languages. Keep up the good work. It’s also great that your wife makes Chinese food. I think it’s healthier than most other cuisines.

    Walking around my house now, I see beautiful mahogany dining room furniture from the Philippines where we lived, Pakistani rugs my husband brought home from his travels, and many Chinese brush paintings that I painted. Everything is according to my taste, and I think it fits together well. If you like art, paintings and scrolls are a good way to include scenes from places you love. (Or calligraphy, as you mention above.)

    1. One of my friends parents have an interesting home as it has all kinds of art pieces from around the world his father collected during his business trips. They went as far as to has each of the major rooms a certain theme such as the South America theme in the floor, East Asia in the living room and so on 🙂

  22. My best friend (cambodian american) and her husband (japanese) have three kids under the age of 6. The kids know 3 languages, if not a 4th (mandarin) from international school. It was amazing to see the kids only speak to their dad in Japanese. The nanny in Khmer and their mom in english. Kids are amazing. Your boy will be just as fluent if he’s continually feed with all these languages. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the feedback. It is always good to hear stories where it worked well raising the children with many different languages. I wonder when Nathan starts to speak and in which language 🙂

  23. Our flat wayback in Kuwait doesn’t resemble any Dutch household or Filipino. It’s totally a mixed-used modern one.My husband love the traditional Kuwaiti woven rug and I think that’s the only thing that is by far of Kuwaiti influence. Our decors reflects more of our personality & taste.
    Here in Germany, our house is the same. Houses here are built differently. We love the fact that our house looks so airy & homely after we ‘re done with decorating it once we moved.We have wooden clogs decor for my daughter and I think that’s the only indication of Dutch-ness here.
    I wonder what language Nathan is babbling now?

    1. Haha, yeah everyone has a different approach. Soem friends I have in Finland (Chinese Finnish with a child and another on the way) have pretty much nothing showing that some Chinese might be living there, looks totally Finnish but then again Finnish Design is awesome which is why we have also some of it in our current apartment 🙂
      Now Nathan is talking some Chinese and German while trying to count till 20 in those languages and English 😮
      Just crazy how much he is interested in numbers and the alphabet, when he just turned 2 he knew the alphabet already but could say nothing much more than Mama and Papa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s