You are in mixed-cultural marriage. You might just not realize it.

monochrome photo of couple holding hands

Wait, so what IS is culture anyway? 

In some relationships it’s overly clear that there are multiple cultures at play. For instance, it’s obvious that this is so in mixed-racial love relationships, but when people look at us, the Cleymans, they wouldn’t assume that there are cultural differences at play. However, whenever two different continents come together in marriage, you can bet all your savings on the fact that there are cultural differences that will play out. 

Over the years, we met many couples who would find it interesting that Europe and the USA mingle in a marriage. Often times we would hear: “Oh, but we don’t have cultural differences in our home”, said by a woman from New York who wed her Californian husband. While they may not be as obvious, you bet that there are cultural differences there. 

The Cleymans Blended Family Culture Coaches
The Cleymans Blended Family Culture Coaches

So, do you have to come from two different countries or even continents to mix cultures? In this blog post, we’ll examine that, together. 

Inter-culture 

When it became clear to us that we had different ‘world views’, we went online to look for tools to help us navigate the challenges that arose along with it. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of resources out there. 

So, we explored scientific literature, curious to see if this phenomenon was researched, if at all. We were hoping we could find evidence of some “do’s or don’ts.” 

The first interesting fact that we found is that scientists describe that when 2 totally different cultures come together, a 3rd culture is born. This 3rd culture has elements from both cultures. 

To us, it felt like a relief to know that we both could let go of the idea or feeling that we had to fight for our own cultural values. At the same time, it means that, from both other cultures, some elements will get lost. 

When sharing this finding with friends and family, they would often acknowledge that this is also the case in their marriages; this just naturally happens when you and your spouse come together. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re from the same ethnic culture, or whether you have totally different backgrounds, everyone faces some cultural mixing and blending in a marriage. 

Values 

When we’re talking about the word ‘culture’, we’re talking about beliefs & customs. Sometimes, different cultures stand out, for instance in our Belgian-American marriage: we share totally different world views. And the funny part is that the longer we’re married, the more the differences start to emerge. It’s as if there are many layers, like an onion, and every time we peel off one layer, another one gets revealed. Sometimes, the one most shocked is the spouse that’s discovering these layers within themselves.  

And since there are no 2 people in the world that are the same, a new ‘joint’ set of values and beliefs will always have to be established in any marriage. No 2 people have the same values and beliefs, not even when they’re from the same city, the same street, or even the same school. 

kim cheyanne cleyman

When we take a closer look, we see that even people that are raised in the same household will have different world views. Even though they were raised by the same parents and by the same set of values, the siblings will have totally different experiences growing up in the same family. 

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Origins 

According to Meriam-Webster’s, raising children means that we ‘cultivate’ them. Even though ‘cultivate’ and ‘culture’ don’t share the same meaning, but they do share their first four letters and so, both words evolved from the same foundation. Both words come from the Latin word ‘culturare’, which means ‘to grow’. By the 15th century, it meant ‘cultivating soil’, which evolved into ‘growing the mind and manners’ in the 16th century. The word ‘culture’ itself arose in the 19th century. 

So, in the meaning of the word ‘culture’ itself, it shows that no-one is born with culture; it is 100 % nurtured. 

Normal 

Whenever you find yourself saying: “that’s not how you’re supposed to do it” or “this is how you’re supposed to do it”, that’s your culture speaking. 

Whenever you think of the things that you find to be normal, that’s your culture speaking.  

Since we’re all unique, we all have our own ‘normals’. 

And in a stepfamily, there are many ‘normals’ coming together, and they need to come together as one. 

Doing so is the very quality that sets the successful stepfamilies apart from the unsuccessful ones. 

Structure 

Since culture is rather abstract, it needs something to make it tangible. 
That something is structure. 

Structure is the vehicle that brings culture to life. 
Structure could mean: 

  • The rules and regulations that a family maintains in their home. 
    How you speak to one another, the rules and regulations that a family maintains in their home. How you speak to each other or treat one another reveals the culture in your home. 
    It’s when we come together as a family and communicate. (Link naar blog communication
  • The photos and quotes you find depicted in their home. 
    Visual instigators trigger memories and show values you find important. 
  • The customs that govern in the home. 
    How are holidays celebrated in your family? Do you have traditions you live by? 
    Every household has their own rhythm, their own flow and habits in living daily life. 
    How do you put the kids to sleep? Who does which chores? 
  • Add link here for blog post about raising kids in different cultures  
  • The stories that are being told during family festivities. 
    The story that starts with: “Remember that one time when”, will still be told in twenty years. 

Using this list above, we aimed to paint a picture of some of what ‘culture’ entails. 

In our own marriage, all of this is very obvious and “in-your-face” and yet ‘culture’ is woven into the fabric of every household. The thing is that they are SO normal to us, that we don’t see them. 

The list above says a lot about the culture of a family. At the same time, if it is your intention to alter the culture of your home and family and make it into something uniquely your own, the list above could give you some inspiration.

If you’d like more help & support in “how” to do this in your own home, reach out to us. THAT is our secret sauce, our passion and our mission. We guide couples on how to successfully do this in their own families. We look forward to hearing more about your family and seeing how we can help yall thrive together. Talk soon!  

The Cleymans 

Published by Kim & Cheyanne Cleyman

We're a blended & Belgian-American couple who helps couples in stepfamilies to co-create a family & home that feels like happily ever after

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