Whoever comes from a family where one parent comes from another country than the other, certainly knows these clichés. He or she probably went through situations where he/she realized that others make assumptions on certain things – simply because you’re a “multi-culture-kid”.
Here are 3 of the clichés that multi-cultural or multi-national kids are confronted with – and the truth behind them:
1 – “… so you speak both languages fluently!”
That is possible, though it is not very probable that a child acquires the languages of both its parents equally well. One of the most obvious reasons for this is that the family is likely to live in only one of the countries. Even if the parent speaking the ‘second language’ speaks nothing but that to his child, the latter will acquire the language of the country she is living in to a much greater extent. The child is exposed to that language much more – in everyday life at school, with friends, etc.
Without a doubt, it is possible to be well-versed in both languages – but you should not be seen as a matter of course. As with every other form of language acquisition and language learning, it depends a lot on exposure to and willingness to engage with the language.
2 – “… so you are at home in both countries!”
Unless he or she has spent a considerable amount of years in both of the countries, this applies only to a certain extent. Visiting your family every year in the country you usually do not live in does not make that place your home in the actual sense. There is no everyday life, no school or job, no routine and no true assimilation into the culture – and therefore, it is hardly possible to build up a social network that compares to the one in your ‘first country’.
That is not to say that you do not feel at home in your ‘second country’. But there are different kinds of feeling at home. Whoever has grandparents who live in another city knows this: arriving there always feels kind of like coming home. You feel comfortable and are happy to be there. But it is a very different thing from being where your own daily life actually takes place, right?
3 – “… so you know [country X] by heart! What do you think of [city Y]?“
It is probable that you know your ‘second country’ rather well, that you have seen at least the most important cities and sights and know quite a few things about it in general. At the same time, you should not underestimate the fact that many multi-cultural families follow the same routine each time they make their annual visit to the country. Especially when the time and the budget are limited, many restrict themselves to the main points on the list and everything else remains undone: a few days at the grandparents’ house, then a visit to aunt X, maybe a few days at the beach or in the mountains (depending on the country), and a quick trip to the capital city – and the holidays are over, before you had the chance to see that city Y or that region Z that people ask about in your ‘first country’. Each and every time.
As you were able to see, these clichés are not generally untrue. Most of the times, it suffices to go one step back with ones assumptions in order to get closer to reality. Moreover, there of course are people who fulfil these clichés even in their extreme form – after all, they had to come from somewhere 😉