Europe, Russia and CIS

Monday, October 13th, 2014

French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family


French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family
My husband comes from the south of Italy and I am French. We often have differences in the way we raise our children. Although our culture clashes are unique to our own situation, I am sure other couples in multicultural relationships have faced similar issues when parenting.   Take a look at how some of our parenting philosophies stack up.   Italian Parenting French Parenting 1 Mother’s role   The mother is the person responsible for running the family.  Read more »

What Confused Me Most about Brits

Almost 10 years ago when we first moved to the UK, I had to adapt culturally.  Read more »

Making Sense of the Berlin Wall as a Multicultural Family

Spending a year in Berlin means that my kids are treated to all sorts of new experiences.  Read more »

Not a Fan of Disney Princesses? Six Ideas to Change the Script

When my eldest daughter was younger, I imagined I was raising a tomboy.  Read more »

The Great Ear Piercing Debate in Our Multicultural Home

By Jan's wife Souad. Piercing the ears of our daughters is a debate I have been having with my husband since our eldest was born, over eight years ago.   I never suspected ear-piercing to be such a controversial subject. Well, suffice to browse a couple of UK forums to witness tempers flaring and name-calling as soon as the question is asked: "At what age is it appropriate for a girl to get her ears pierced?"   I asked my English friends.  Read more »

What the British and Algerians Have in Common

We take a break from Jan's regular blog postings to bring you a post from his lovely wife Souad.   What the British say and what they really mean is not always the same. This is of course an understatement, I have been living in the UK for over nine years.   Let me tell you: learning to read English is a walk in the park compared to learning to read THE English!   As an Algerian, I grew up within a complex social code where, similar to England, what you say and what you mean do not always go hand in hand.  Read more »

Real Intercultural Family in France: Spanish, French and English

Where are you from?   Maria: California   Samuel: Paris, France   Where do you currently live and what countries have you lived in together?   Maria:  In a suburb of Paris, France. We've also lived in Provo, Utah and other surrounding cities of Provo during and after our Brigham Young University (BYU) studies.  Read more »

The Coolest Latvian Celebration You Probably Haven’t Heard of

You have a what day? The question I have encountered from locals and expatriates innumerous times throughout a decade while living and working in Shanghai, China and now, in Canada. To a person who has grown up celebrating her Name Day every year, as well as that of my mom, dad, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and classmates, the puzzling look of people at first made me feel uncomfortable, almost apologetic, as if I’ve made up a story and now can’t proceed convincingly with my own lies.  Read more »

Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?

There are a number of us in the States who seem to be falling over in toddler-styled apoplectic fits over the positive press French parenting has been receiving of late. One of the most common complaints I saw emerging from the comment discussions is the French propensity for la fessée or spanking.   I think it is best we clear the air and address this head on.  Read more »

Travel to Paris with 5 Children’s Books

If you’ve already exhausted the Babars, Fancy Nancys and Madelines, here are a few more to take your kids to Paris whether you have your tickets booked or not. Even without any travel plans, books are one of the best ways to travel to new cities without spending a cent.     Everybody Bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman         What’s not to love about a girl going around the city seeing everyone greet each other? And isn’t the title charming enough to get young children excited about Paris? The illustrations cover all important landmarks and simple text points to different places and people who Bonjour.  Read more »

Croque Monsieur Recipe: A Parisian Classic

One of my favorite aspects of Parisian life is the relaxed schedule. Rather than punctuating long workdays with hasty meals, the French seem to punctuate long days of eating with a few hours of work. Granted I am biased, as my time there has been as a student or vacationer, but it’s a bias I hope to savor. I have fond memories of long lunches at sidewalk cafes, almost always eating my favorite late afternoon snack of choice: a croque monsieur  Read more »

When Language Immersion Doesn’t Come Easy

My son has learned three languages in his short lifetime. Now seven and half, Amir was born in Spain, but was instantly privy to a world where three different languages were regularly spoken in his home environment. His father—who speaks Arabic with his family members—and I communicate to one another in Spanish, and my native tongue is English. As his primary caregiver, I felt it was important to speak to Amir in English, and it became the language he was mostly surrounded with in those early years, especially after we moved to the United States when he was only six months old.  Read more »

Bulgarian Cuisine: Adopting a New Culture

A few months ago, my husband and I had the pleasure of eating like Bulgarians for a night, thanks to our generous host and hostess, Nick and Milena Koshar.   The Koshars are from Bulgaria but have lived in the U.S. for nearly two decades now. We were connected with Nick and Milena through what I like to call the adoption woodwork effect. That is, by way of the adoption journey, you meet all kinds of new people or are connected in a new way to people you already knew  Read more »

Easter Recipe: Aunt Angie’s Italian Cookies

I come from a family of Italian-Americans, at least on one side. The thing is, I am actually only one-quarter Italian, as my maternal grandmother is second-generation Italian and my maternal grandfather, Austrian. Yet my Mom and her five sisters identify solely with the Italian side. Visiting my grandmother growing up meant spaghetti with meatballs, eggplant parmesan, helping her dig up potatoes in the garden (she grew all her own vegetables) and chocolates “hidden” away in the same spot in a child-accessible cabinet  Read more »

Is French Parenting Really Better? Part 1

Baguettes vs. Big Macs: A Series on French vs. American Parenting   Someone turned to me the other day in response to a comment I made, slightly in jest about depriving my kids, and said: "What kind of mother are you?!”   I laughed it off but it got me thinking. I don’t really like putting myself in any kind of box, unless it is dark, sound and toddler proof for about eight hours.  Read more »

Baba Marta Day Craft: Martenitsa and More

In Bulgaria, March 1 is Baba Marta Day. Baba Marta--Grandmother March--is the mythical personification of the change from winter to spring, and she is just as changeable as the weather can be at this time of year! To appease and honor her, Bulgarians wear a martenitsa, red-and-white talismans usually made of yarn, in the form of bracelets or of little dolls.  Read more »

When People Confuse my Heritage

I interrupt my regular posting, to bring you a post from my wife, Souad. At the doctor’s recently, I received a funny question about my accent and heritage. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a cataract in my left eye (I was only 33!). For the last two weeks, I have been experiencing some pain and loss of vision in my right eye, the "good eye".  Read more »

How Francois Grosjean Broke My Multilingual Heart

Francois Grosjean broke my heart with an article he wrote recently, "Helen or Hélène." The actual quote that touched me was not from him but from Uriel Weinreich, who was a language researcher in the U.S. It goes "few language users are poets." The idea is that if you are multilingual, you are trying to be more efficient with your communication.  Read more »

Cultural Faux-Pas: What Not to Bring to an Armenian Wedding

We were an unlikely group—a Russian, two Germans and an American, spanning over four decades in age. Max, the Russian, had only two things that rallied his national pride: his fondness for the word ‘motherfucker’ and his love of cigarettes—his teeth were so heavily stained from smoking they bordered on rotting. Gerhard was a German hippy—the real kind--who engaged in some serious German revolutionary movements back in his day and told funny stories of trying to hide the smell of his marijuana plants when his wife’s very square teacher friends were over.  Read more »

Raising Girls in the U.K. so They Don’t End Up Pregnant at 15

I have lived in Germany more than half of my life. I spent almost seven years in France, and I have been living in the U.K. for eight years soon. Am I still a German? Not really, I guess. I am not an Englishman, either. So who am I? This question gets more and more difficult to answer. I will never be an Englishman, I reckon. Or rather, I won't ever feel like one.  Read more »

German Recipe: Pheasant in a Creamy Wine Reduction Sauce with Sauerkraut

While the international community is traveling to Munich to drink beers from huge glasses and eat grilled chicken or schweinshaxn (roasted pork knuckle) at the world’s most famous beer party, Oktoberfest, we look for something a little lighter but every bit as German. Serves 4

For the pheasant:
1 (1  Read more »

Fall Picture Frame from Fallen Leaves

Take your kids for a walk outside and collect some leaves in the spirit of fall! Materials: Newspaper Paint and paintbrush Paper Leaves Ruler or anything that can be used to draw a straight line Instructions: 1. Collect some freshly fallen leaves, not yet too brittle. 2. Allow the leave to flatten overnight between the pages of a book. 3.  Read more »

Germany’s Oktoberfest: September 17 – October 3

Germany's Oktoberfest, one of the largest fairs in the world, attracts over six million people annually to Munich to drink locally brewed beer, eat German specialties, sing and dance. The beer comes from six local breweries and the most typical foods are roast chicken, pork knuckles, sauerkraut, and sausages together with other foods like potato pancakes and apple strudel.  Read more »

Breasts are for Babies? Perceptions of Breastfeeding in Italy

Before the seventies, breastfeeding was the norm in Italy. All babies were breastfed either by their mothers, even though in some cases these women were too poor to have a good enough diet to feed their babies, or by other mothers when the mother had to return to work in the country. Babies who were breastfed by other mothers were considered to be something like step-children to these women, and they called these wet nurses “Mamma Filomena,” “Mamma Maria,” etc.  Read more »

Midsummer Recipe: Ginger-glazed Salmon Over Warm Potato Salad

After browsing many Scandinavian recipes for this issue, we struck upon one that is summery, Swedish-inspired and delicious. The place where we found it is sort of the Swedish stereotype—eh hem— Ikea . Just because Ikea makes some of the most popular furniture worldwide doesn’t mean they can’t cook as well so we thought we would give it a try  Read more »

Nudity: Getting (Un)dressed in the Czech Republic

As a heat wave hit Prague this spring, clothes came off faster than the record breaking temperatures rose. Strolling through Prague's parks, I encountered locals sunning themselves and even saw a few toddlers in the buff testing out the city's newly activated fountains. While I managed to keep my own and my kids' clothes on (though I lost the battle over shoes), I noticed many Czechs of both genders stripped down to their underwear in the public parks.  Read more »

Favorite Swedish Stories: Emil in the Soup Tureen

Emil in the Soup Tureen is a story by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, who is best-known for the classic children's tale Pippi Longstocking. The story paints a quaint and idyllic picture of farm life in rural 20th century Sweden, in the village of Lönneberga, Småland, complete with charming pen and ink illustrations of Emil's misadventures as well as the family farm, called Katthult.  Read more »

Real Intercultural Family in France: German, French and English

Welcome Metrice and Don!   Where are you from?   Metrice: I am American. I grew up in Silver Springs, Maryland (a suburb of Washington D.C.). Don: I was born in Germany. My mom is French and my Dad is American. My parents met in Germany. I was raised until I was 16 in Darmstadt, Germany and at 16 moved to the U.S.   Where do you currently live?   Montpellier, France   Which countries have you lived in since you’ve been together?   U.  Read more »

Don’t Ask ‘How Are You’ in Germany

It hadn’t taken me long upon arrival in Germany from Armenia to figure out that Germans didn’t do small talk. The taxi drivers didn’t chit chat like New York cabbies. Neither did receptionists, bank tellers, cashiers or anyone really. In fact, they didn’t respond much at all to my attempts at small talk.   Each day on my way to the office, I stopped at the same bakery to get a broetchen (roll) followed by Wacker’s café for my morning latte machiatto.  Read more »

France: Behind the Times and Unconcerned

In France, officials and pundits like to talk about how France is 20 years behind the United States. Sometimes this is portrayed as a positive (obesity rates, crime statistics), and sometimes as a negative (technology, business, customer service). As an American living in France for over ten years, I can see how it's both.   Those Americans who grew up before the 80s may remember certain freedoms we had as children: playing outside on summer evenings on the sidewalk with the other neighborhood kids, riding bikes around aimlessly, walking to swimming pools and friends' houses to play.  Read more »

The Burning Question Part 2: Education Issues for Multicultural Families

One of my greatest fears as a new parent, right after Matthew's birth, was about putting him in school in France. While I hadn't done much research on the system, its results surrounded me: a culture where it's a bad idea to accept responsibility for one's mistakes, where apologizing is seen as a sign of weakness, where people talk down to one another in a way that sounds suspiciously like what you would hear a caregiver say to a naughty two-year-old.  Read more »

Real Intercultural Family in Norway: English, Farsi and Norwegian

Welcome Tine and Kambiz!   Where are you from?   Tine: Åndalsnes, Norway Kambiz: Tehran, Iran   Where do you currently live?   Oslo, Norway   Which countries have you lived in since you've been together?   Egypt, Tajikistan and Norway   Tine: We first lived in Tajikistan together.  Read more »

Stereotypes in Bringing up Children

(This is the follow-up to the article Cultural Stereotypes) Where to live? On a recent long-haul flight, I was talking with an American who lives in Germany and has lived in France for some time. We spoke about family and children and I mentioned that I was not sure whether I preferred my children to grow up in the UK or in France. I have three girls and my feeling is that I'd probably like them to be French rather than English.  Read more »

On the Hunt for French and Twi Books

We are always on the hunt for books in our family to support my childrens' language acquisition. For French books, this is fairly straightforward. After all, it's the tenth most widely spoken language in the world, with around 130 million speakers, which makes for a lot of books! There is a French Amazon, and the Canadian Amazon carries lots of French titles as well.  Read more »

Armenian Christmas Recipe: Anooshabour (Armenian Christmas Pudding)

This is a traditional Armenian Christmas recipe. In the early days, at every Armenian feast, Anooshabour was a traditional must!

1 c. skinless whole grain wheat (also called shelled wheat berries)*
1 1/2 c. golden bleached raisins
2 c. dried apricots
3 qt. water

 Read more »

Armenian Craft: Weave a Carpet

More than its rich history, artists or cuisine, Armenia is probably best known for its carpets. While carpets are not synonymous with Armenian Christmas, they do represent something typically Armenian, so this month's craft is to weave a carpet. This is a fun project for kids and also good for fine motor skills. Materials Scissors Glue Various types and colors of paper Instructions 1.  Read more »

Armenian Recipe: Tina’s Armenian-Kiss Martini

Pomegranates are the Armenian national fruit and you could easily say that vodka is an Armenian national pastime. Combine the two together and you have an explosively delicious cocktail, rich in Armenian flavor. This is a great one not just for the holidays but any festive occasion.


1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
2 ounces quality vodka
1 ounce cointreau or Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
1 tsp  Read more »

Armenian Christmas: January 6

Armenian Christmas, also known as Theophany, is celebrated one day before the Orthodox Christmas. Although Armenia follows the Gregorian calendar, when the Romans changed the date of Christmas to December 25 in the fourth century, Armenians held to the original January 6th date. Santa Claus/Father Christmas is known as Gaghant Baba to Armenians. He traditionally comes on New Year's Eve (December 31st), which is the start of the holiday season leading up to Christmas.  Read more »

Hanukkah Recipe: Noodle Kugel

By Stacey Snacks The Yiddish translation of Kugel is any baked pudding in Eastern European Jewish culture. My favorite is a noodle kugel, also known as noodle pudding. There are two types of noodle kugel: a sweet kugel and a savory one (which has no sour cream or cottage cheese). The sweet one (made with dairy) has to be served with a meal that is free of meat, and the savory one could be served alongside a meat dinner (making it kosher)  Read more »

The Expat’s Dilemma

Eight days before Halloween, on a misty Saturday afternoon, I had what the French call "un grand moment de solitude." I was in a nearly-deserted park, one designed on a truly grandiose scale. Matthew, age four, was standing next to me, dressed in a raincoat and boots, with a king's cape. A golden crown was on his head and a foam sword was tucked into his improvised kingly belt made out of a playsilk that had been languishing, unused, for years in his toy box.  Read more »

Reinforcing the Minority Language

Early on, I read quite a bit about language acquisition and discovered that children need interactive language exposure in order to learn a language. This means that sitting your child in front of the television to watch minority language (ml) programs alone will not teach them that language. Your child needs to be highly motivated to actually use the language in order to learn it, which is only possible if they are brought into contact with people who speak it and who they want or need to communicate with.  Read more »

Real Intercultural Family in Montenegro: German and Serbian

Welcome Thomas and Zagorka! Where are you from? Thomas: Germany Zaga: Montenegro Where do you currently live? Thomas: Montenegro but we also have an apartment in Germany How many different houses have you lived in since you've been together? Thomas: three (two in Montenegro and one in Germany) How did you meet? Thomas: Work. We (my company) were carrying out a workshop at a bank in Montenegro and Zaga was one of the participants.  Read more »

Adventures in Raising Trilingual Kids

Welcome to my blog! I am bringing up my children, Schmoo and Pan-Pan, to speak three languages: English, Twi and French. I started learning French at school (age 11) and loved it so much I ended up studying it to MA level (age 26). So after all those years of struggling to learn another language I wanted to give my kids the easy option! As my husband grew up in Ghana, he speaks fluent Twi, so it was easy to add this third language into the mix.  Read more »

Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart

Apricots are a traditionally Armenian fruit. If you haven’t had apricots in Armenia, you haven’t tasted the sweet juiciness that apricots can be. What follows is a wonderful apricot tart, inspired by the Armenian fruit.

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups canola or vegetable oil

 Read more »
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