As a multicultural family, there are all sorts of cultural habits and holidays to adjust to create our own family culture.

My husband Masashi is native Japanese and also lived in Uganda, while I am from America. Our family is a unique blending of cultures and languages. His mother cannot speak English. My parents cannot speak Japanese (though my mom is learning it).. and at our home in rural Japan, we often speak a mix of Japanese, English, and “Japanglish“.

Beyond the background of where we grew up, we have multiple other differences, such as related to our educational upbringings.. and we’ve spent time living in both the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan (which are different culturally, even within the relatively compact island country).

Some of my family members were also more recent emigrants from Europe (not hundreds of years ago as is the case with many American-European “mutts”, but within the last century), and bilingual. This means my family heritage is not fully diluted.

And it creates a lot of questions..

Cooking okonomiyaki when I was still engaged, with my mother-in-law.

For example: which holidays do we keep, and which do we toss? What do we eat? What about table manners? What do our family traditions look like? How do we blend our backgrounds into one home? 

In Japan especially, the lack of role models or examples of multicultural families can make things harder (and the comedic fictional ones on Japanese TV are probably more detrimental than helpful). Japan is still a mostly homogeneous country, and while many people are accepting of families like ours, some hold reservations. 

Although not everyone may think that multiculturalism is a good thing, we believe that blended families can be beautiful, and that we are together for a reason.. and while it would be impossible to answer every question about our family’s culture in one post, I’ll attempt to start with the basics. 

We believe that culture and our upbringings are secondary to other, more important things.. for example, loving God and each-other, regardless of ethnicity or background.

This does not mean to say that where we are born or where we live holds no meaning in our lives, but that the greatest defining factors of our identity do not come from nationality or customs.. and there is room for beautiful diversity.

Pictured: spending time with a diverse circle of friends, some of whom became “extended family”.

Every family is different, and has its own unique traditions.

And being a blended family is fun!

We get to participate in the world with a broader perspective, enjoy more celebrations, eat a global diet, and pick the best things from each of our upbringings. I come from a country that values independence and individuality, and Masashi from one based in interconnections and community. Together we bring balance – the best of both worlds.

That doesn’t mean that blending always comes easily.. being a unique family unit comes with a lot of unintentional “firsts” and challenges. Sometimes we must also draw boundaries, and say “no”, even when it’s uncomfortable. 

In fact, if I’m being honest, sometimes being a blended family looks painful. It looks like attempting to gracefully handle multicultural misunderstandings with those who do not understand our backgrounds or beliefs. It looks like praying through encounters with discrimination.

Yet ultimately, even hardships serve to bring us closer together. 

The most important thing in our family is not what country’s cuisine makes it to the dinner table, but how love shows up on a daily basis in our lives.

Creating our own family culture means learning what it means to live love, across borders and languages. Everything else is secondary. We are a home of coffee and tea, tatami and wood flooring, enka and showtunes, dango and apple pie.. but most importantly, a whole lot of love.

That love is the source and greatest feature of our family culture.

How do you create your own family culture? 

Please leave a comment below.