How can other cultures ways help you in your life?

Why would you want to learn about how another culture lives?

I have raised my children on four continents, five countries, and five US states over the past 15 years. I started seeing that there are many different ways others around the world parent, and best of all, I found that there is more than one way to be a good parent. I started researching how other successful parents, cultures, or generations parent. This is what I share.

When we moved to Germany, I suffered from chronic mom guilt syndrome. I thought I had to be everything to everyone all the time. I was always overwhelmed and constantly tired.

I believed I had to give 100% of myself to my family, kids, husband, and friends and still take time to be balanced by working out, meditating, bla, bla, bla. It is a never ending list... Little did I know I was about to learn a fantastic lesson from a fantastic culture. The German culture taught me the importance of child time, family time, and adult time.

Child time: children are encouraged to be alone or away from their parents. Kids are given the freedom to entertain themselves, explore and experience without someone navigating their every move. It was here that I saw the opportunity to teach my children to do things independently.

One example, I would send my six-year-old into a bakery with some money, tell her what I needed and wait outside for her. She would go in and, in a foreign language, navigate what she needed and exit the bakery with the correct bread and a packet of gummy worms gifted to her by the women who served her. As a teen, she has no issues speaking to anyone.

Family time: Shops close at 1 pm on Saturdays and all day Sunday. Everything shuts down to allow everyone to enjoy time with their families. Plus, most events are created family-friendly so parents can make memories with their kids. Even Oktoberfest is designed for families during the day, and at 5 pm, children leave.

Adult time: Evenings are for adults, and you will seldom see kids out past dark. They are at home while the parents enjoy time alone or with friends. Evening occasions and restaurants are mostly adult events. Most places have adult-only areas while the children are safely home with a sitter or grandparents.

This concept taught me:

It's okay to spend time out with friends, and your kids don't have to do everything with you.

It's okay to let your kids explore the world without entertaining them constantly.

It's okay to invest in friendships.

It's okay to spend time with your partner.

It's okay to set your family time as a non-negotiable and not allow any other distractions.

Seeing how this culture operated gave us a gift of not feeling the enormous pressure of having to be everything to everyone all the time - plus allowing everyone in the family to fulfill their needs too.

While we were there, my family was fortunate enough to become friends with our village mayor (Burgermeister) and his lovely wife. They were an elderly couple and would invite us to many village events as their American guests. Although their English was not excellent, and our German was horrible, they still managed to teach us two valuable lessons.

One was about travel, and it completely changed my view of languages. When discussing our travels around Europe, the mayor's wife reminded me that when you visit a country that does not speak your language, and you don't speak their language, if they choose to speak to you in your language (in this case English), it is a courtesy, not a requirement.

She said sometimes she felt English speakers from all over the world thought it was their right to be spoken to in English. It is not. I loved that perspective, and it changed how I travelled and dealt with people. I always try to speak in their language, then ask if they speak mine, and always leave the conversation complimenting their English and thanking them for making it easy on me. It has changed my interactions altogether. How this relates to parenting, I do not know, but it was excellent advice nonetheless.

The second lesson this couple taught us was about setting up expectations for children. We were always amazed at how well-behaved German children were. They were quiet, too, but only when necessary. Germany is a very quiet country; from restaurants to airports to shops, you never hear screaming kids or anyone shouting.

I asked the mayor's wife, a mother of two, and a grandmother of two, why this was the case. She spoke of how she raised her children always to know her expectations. Wherever the family went, the children would understand the conduct expected in that environment because their mother would clearly explain her expectations to them.

If they were going to church, she would say, "We are going to church now, and you need to sit still and be calm the whole way through the service. After church, you can play outside with all the other children and have a wonderful time."

So, before they even arrived at church, the expectation was laid out and understood. In a shop, the children were told to stay quiet, close, and not to ask for anything. If they were going to a pool or a park, they knew they could make as much noise as they wished, because again, the mother would clearly explain her expectations.

She continued, "If you allow your kids to act as they wish in any environment, how can they learn to act as adults in a professional workplace?" No one acts as they want to whenever they want. So why would we let our children behave that way? How else will the children learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not?

These were a few great things from a great country.

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