Thoughts on International Parenting

Bi-national and expatriate families, by default, are always straddling three cultures—the parents’, the host country, and the children who live in both worlds—hence the term “third culture kid,” which is a reality for many people who live in this global world.
What I find curious is that I am a completely different parent to my child when in Manila and when I am in Germany. It is a given that a complete lifestyle change occurs when moving to a new country, that the rhymes and rituals that were well-established in the old are chucked for new ones. It mostly depends on the climate and the pace of life in the new place. The host culture also dictates a huge part of how a child is raised.
Germans, for the most (not all) part, have strict rules when it comes to children: Children are meant to be seen, not heard. Let’s take bedtime for example. Children watch Sandman at 6:30, have dinner, read a bedtime story, and are sent to their own bed promptly at 8 pm. I am not generalizing here, since rules differ from household to household, but in an idealized German household, children are to be held to a schedule. “Kinder brauchen Regeln,” and one would be hard-pressed to find children out and about during normal weekday evenings by nightfall.
In the Philippines, children are much, much more involved in family activities, especially during social events. I remember my last night in Manila: We went to a karaoke bar and sang our hearts out until 1 am. There were four children under the age of 5 in our group on a school night! While normal in the Philippines, this is completely taboo in Germany.
This has of course created a hybrid in how I raise my child. I am too strict by Filipino standards, while I am too lax for Germans. I find that in Manila, I expect my child to act more “Filipino,” in that I expect independence in the form of playing with his cousins. In Germany, I don’t have the heart to force my child to sleep in his own bed, because sleeping next to your children is normal in the Philippines.

In another vein, how I parent also changes where I am. I find myself to be a more “top-down” parent in Manila, while in Germany, I spend more time with my son. I guess this is because much of the grunt work is taken from me by the household help.

Has your parenting style changed after an international move? I would welcome answers!

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