Let’s discover about some expats living far from their homelands and how they share their culture(s) with their children. Today, let’s get to know a bit more about Naomi, a Canadian born to a Japanese father and a Canadian mother with Scottish ancestry, living now in Slovakia. Naomi has completely embraced the culture of her Slovak husband. This has just added to her already multicultural background and influences the way she raises her four kids.
KITNDO: Do you pay special attention on transmitting to your kids their cultural heritage and how?
Naomi: I didn’t learn my father’s native language as a child and feel I missed out getting to know that side of the family as well as the culture. So, making sure my children are bilingual is very important to me.
Food and special holidays are the easiest ways to transmit their Canadian cultural heritage. For example, on New Year’s Eve we have Slovak Kapustnica for supper and Japanese sushi during the night. This year we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving properly for the first time and one of my children asked what Thanksgiving was. Oops. We incorporate both Canadian and Slovak traditions for holidays like Easter (Easter egg hunt) and Christmas (food, opening presents both in the evening and gifts from Canada in the morning).
I also sing with the children and teach them songs I learned as a child. We read books aloud, from children’s books centering on Japanese culture to historical fiction chapter books (like Anne of Green Gables and the Canadian Girls series). Here in Slovakia, the children go to a children’s folklore group where they learn traditional songs and dance, as well as wear the traditional dress for performances. It is easy to take for granted that what I know as an adult, everyone must know, but we need to be intentional about teaching children.
KITNDO: What do you miss the most from your homeland?
Naomi: Besides friends and family, I grew up on a farm in the mountains and miss that lifestyle. There is not much snow where we live, and I grew up doing lots of winter activities outside in the Canadian Rockies. Having all that land with animals, living far from town.
I also miss the availability of ethnic foods from all over the world. There is a lot more here now than there was 10 years ago, but I still have to go to the city to get some.
KITNDO: Are you in touch with any Canadian community or with other expats in Slovakia?
Naomi: I know a few expats in my town from various countries, but don’t have connections with any expat community in particular. I live in a small town and it is logistically difficult to go often to Bratislava.
KITNDO: What other ways help you to keep in touch with your homeland?
Naomi: Video calling with family, two of my children have pen pals, I always bring books back with me when we go visit Canada.
KITNDO: What new tradition or recipe, that you learnt in the country you live now, would you take with you if you should move somewhere else?
Naomi: My favorite Slovak dish probably: strapačky (potato dumplings sautéed with sauerkraut and bacon). I love the traditions associated with food, like the process of pig butchering or making sauerkraut.
I also really appreciate traditional Slovak crafts, like embroidery and pottery. Music is one of my favorites – I always enjoy and marvel when a large group of people are together and everyone can sing along because everybody knows the songs.