This summer I spent 5 weeks visiting my family in Europe, and we did a lot of traveling together. Taking mini vacations and making memories. My all time favorite was our trip to Croatia. It’s one of my most liked places on earth! Especially when it comes to relaxing and spending time at the beach. So this summer I went for a week long vacation together with my husband, kids, parents, and sister. Then a question popped in my head: “Should everything always be amazing, perfect and bubbly when you are together with your family 24/7 for weeks?!” Let’s talk about this…
What happens when a multicultural family, with various generations and cultures goes on a holiday together? How did I experienced this, and what kind of emotions and thoughts I had during this time? Not just during our vacation, but overall when we are traveling together as an intercultural family.
We all have our own struggles. And I’m sure this doesn’t only happen with multicultural families. Scheduling time, finding interests that are similar and good for all of us, trying to fit in everything we want to do, …etc.
“What are we going to have for dinner?”
I had to realize that my kids are old enough now to notice the differences. They are used to eating food in America, and developed their taste buds different than mine. I’m not only talking about new ingredients that we don’t have back in the States. Or fresh seafood. But even basic foods that we have (milk, bread, spices, fruit and vegetables..) often taste different. For example, my daughter loves cantaloupes, but she didn’t like the Croatian cantaloupes. Kids are picky eaters anyway, and if you are too, this is something you need to think about when visiting a new country.
If you are going somewhere as a tourist, it’s a great advantage to travel with somebody who knows the area. When I was little, my family used to go to Croatia every year, plus my dad travels there for work all the time. So we speak the language, and know places that are worth visiting. Which is a huge advantage! Just like in most countries, when you know their language, or even just trying to express yourself in it, (with basic words like “thank you’ ‘please’ and ‘hi’) the locals are most likely to interact with you and help out. So for us, speaking Croatian is a pretty big advantage, and it helps us a lot when we are lost, trying to find a restaurant, the grocery store, or the ferry’s schedule. Also, locals always know where the best beaches are, right?!
Being multilingual in Europe may not be a special knowledge to have, but you never know. And even if you speak the language, they will sense your accent. You may be thinking most people in tourist areas speak English (and I assume you do too, since you are reading this, haha), but it’s not always the case. And if you like discovering less knows areas, they won’t even have any signs or descriptions ( boat schedules, restaurant menu, etc.) displayed.
This may not have much to do with cultures, but it’s definitely part of it. Some people are willing to compromise, others just want to have their vacation the way they imagined.
Just simply finding a beach can get complicated. Do we want it to be close to our apartment, so we can go upstairs for lunch and naps? Are we looking for a sandy beach, that is kids friendly? Or a more quiet place, where my parents can relax? How about my siblings, who are looking for a busier, fun area with activities?
The more people we go on vacation with, the more problems we need to solve. And this is maybe just my family!… I donno! We all like to voice our opinions, and get what we want. LOL!
Most Instagram posts you see about families uniting are joyful and happy. Everybody is excited that after all of these months (or years) their can finally be together. And not just by visiting each others home, but going on amazing vacations. Last winter, for example we went to Mexico with my parents. And I am so grateful and thankful that we are able to have these adventures together. Because there are a lot of people who can’t afford to travel, or don’t have big families. Maybe you have parents who are too old, so they can’t travel everywhere with you. Or maybe you have little kids, which makes everything really challenging. Or you wish to have children…There are a lot of different family situations and dynamics. Some grandparents, for example love to watch the kids and play with them, others just want to enjoy their vacation in peace.
Ok, let’s continue the list… What if you are not married, and are going back to visit your family. Or, you do have a spouse, but decided to travel to your home town alone.
One of the conversations I’m having with my husband all the time is that he has to spend (I don’t want to use the word ‘waste’) all of his traveling opportunities, time off of work, and money; just to travel to Hungary. (Or spend his vacation in Croatia) Truth be told, he is getting bored of all of these destinations, which is understandable. He would like to explore new places, and that sounds great, not gonna lie! But this is something that we didn’t really expect the need to discuss. Until now!
My parents are in the same situation. They would come to Arizona to see us almost every winter. I know, I know! This is a good problem to have, and some of you are thinking; “Oh, I wish I would have these kinds of problems; that I have to be in Croatia every summer or travel to Arizona every winter!”
Let’s get back to Instagram. (Or Facebook… Whichever you like the most!) Looking at other people’s feeds, everything sounds and looks amazing! (At least to the public.) And you may be thinking; “I wish I would have a family this big, with kids and grandparents surrounding me! Traveling to beautiful places!”… But I just want to be honest with you! Everybody is experiencing things differently! It’s ok to be jealous, but what happens behind those social media posts? You see happy families, and hear amazing stories about people uniting with loved ones. But sometimes we struggle! Yes, we have this great opportunity to travel with our family, so we should feel grateful for the experience, right?!
Don’t get me wrong, I live for those memories! But after 13ish years of living in a long distance with my parents and siblings, -and being a parent for 10 years -, it gets challenging when we visit our family!
You don’t see your family for a year (or two), and then you have to compress that lost time into one of two months, or even just two weeks. Imagine if you could live in the same town with your extended family, and you guys get to see each other quite often. Maybe every Sunday, once a month, daily,… whatever you prefer. But when we are in a multicultural family and have to travel thousands of miles to each other’s home, usually we would live in the same house with them, right?!
Plus I have my own kids and a husband. In my parent’s eyes their daughter has moved in! Again! I think you can see how things can get complicated quickly. Especially when your spouse is from a different culture, and doesn’t speak the language. Different routines and beliefs.
And on top of that, we go on a vacation together?? Ok, so let’s stay in the same house again, share rooms, bathrooms, cook and eat together, get ready, do the dishes, go to the grocery store…wake up and go to bed at the same time,…and so on, and so on. Most of our every day routines we don’t do with these family members anymore. But now, all of the sudden we have to accommodate everybody. And have to make sure that all of us is enjoying this vacation the way we want to. Ah…
Sometimes we change. I mean, if you live in a different country, you most likely have changed! Then we start to feel like our family doesn’t understand us anymore, and we get frustrated. Our beliefs have changed, the way we live our life have changed, our morning routine have changed… I often feel overwhelmed, because I have two kids now. It’s not like it used to be, when I would just lay on the beach with a book in my hand. But that’s how my parents know me!
When we go back to visit our family at first we are so so happy to be with them! Soaking up every minute! Then all of the sudden we feel guilty, because we start to get frustrated. Why don’t they understand this?! I’m trying to explain to them that I live my life differently now. I speak differently. I’ve changed! Then I realize that I can’t get mad, because in a couple of weeks I have to say goodbye again. And who knows when, -or if- I’m going to see them again.
We feel this pressure of doing everything perfect, and wanting to be happy and grateful all the time. But sometimes we are not. And I just wanted to tell you that it’s ok!!!! My advice is; don’t hold it back! Talk to your family, talk to your spouse. Maybe you’ll have some arguments along the way, but it’s worth it at the end.
For example, your mom and dad telling you how to parent. Or sitting at the dinner table and your spouse is getting frustrated, because he or she doesn’t understand the conversation. These are very typical conflicts that happens in most families, not just international ones. But I think multicultural families have the type of family dynamics and situations that could bring up language barriers, habitual, cultural and traditional differences.
If you start to feel frustrated with your family (who you haven’t seen for sooo long!) just talk to them about it. Tell them what you’re thinking. But don’t hold grudges and don’t make the other feel guilty for making different choices. Don’t get personal! Try to fix the problem itself as a team, not as each others enemies! Respect the other. Your parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse and children! And lastly: you have to compromise! A LOT!
Maybe at first they are going to get upset or mad, but ultimately we all know that we are a family who is here for each other! We all know that even distance and time can’t tear us apart! All those Skype calls, late night (or early morning) FaceTimes, sending endless pictures and videos to each other, spending thousands of dollars (or whatever your currency is) just to be together… All of this effort shows that you care!
A little bit of frustration of “Ah, I had enough! 24/7 with these people, and I’m just ready to go home and have some peace!”.. But then you’re going to feel so guilty having these thoughts! “I should enjoy EVERY SECOND that we have together, and I’m not. And now I feel like I’m a horrible person!”…. Beath! It’s ok! I’m right there with you!
We are all the same, and we are all humans. Regardless of the culture! When you scroll on your Instagram feed, and see all of these families being happy, smiling at each other and looking perfect, you may be thinking how come they never fight? And how are they always able to travel to so many places?…Well, there is always more behind those pictures, believe me!
And since we are talking about Instagram… To be completely honest with you, I haven’t posted anything since I’ve arrived to Europe. I have this time here that has an ending, and I don’t want to spend that on my phone or laptop. Although I miss it incredibly, and I’m craving some quiet time just for myself, but I know that I’m going to regret it.
Because the only thing we have limited, is time. We will never get it back. I have to be very very cautious about how I spend my time here. Even if it’s fighting or arguing or being annoyed. I’m still with the people that I love the most, and with the people that I came here to be with. And when all of this ends, we are going to have pictures to look back all of the beautiful memories we made. Pictures that will remind us that arguments that we had just built our relationship even stronger.
Although I was born in Serbia, graduated in Italy and have been living overseas for 14+ years, I'm very proud of my Hungarian heritage.
I love documenting my life adventures, trying out healthy recipes and herbal remedies, or going on family trips in our new home, Canada.