As part of an assignment for one of my classes, I was asked to write about my family culture as if I were going to share it with my students. I thought that it would be a nice addition to my blog.
I am a first generation Thai American. I am an only child, and my parents are from Thailand in Southeast Asia. In my home we spoke mostly English although English is not the native language of my parents. I grew up with an understanding of Thai, my parents’ language and perfected my Thai language knowledge when I spend over three months in Thailand at the age of 10. I speak Thai in the main dialect and understand it in three dialects, the main dialect, the northern Phrae dialect, and the southern Yala/Pattani dialect.
My religious background is Buddhist. My parents grew up Buddhist and passed along the basic principles of thought to me. I was taught if you do good, you get good and if you do bad, you get bad. In addition I was taught to have great respect to elders and not to call them by just their first names. Therefore, I grew up with many “aunts” and “uncles”.
Education was very important to my parents and family. I went to private Catholic schools even though my parents were Buddhist because they felt that good education mattered more than the religion that was taught in the school. I was taught to do well in order to achieve my goals. I had cousins that came here for their higher education as I was growing up, and I was told that if they could do it, I could too. There was no question in my family about going to college. I was going, and I was going to get a master’s degree. Which I did!
Usually, we ate rice at one meal a day, most of the time, it was dinner. We also ate American foods and went out to dinner a great deal when I was growing up. We were not a family that had to eat traditional Thai food everyday.
I married a first generation Filipino American. He is the sixth out of six children. In his home they spoke mostly Tagalog, their native language, and he has an understanding of the language, but does not speak Tagalog fluently. He grew up with a Catholic background, and it was very important to his family to follow the church’s teachings. Through his culture he was also taught to have a great respect for elders just like I was.
My husband attended public schools even though they were very religious. Education was very important in his family also, and he was highly encouraged to go to college. In his community the Filipinos gathered together for social events, have a cultural center, and many social organizations that are based on their shared culture.
As he was growing up, my husband ate mostly Filipino food with rice as the basis. I believe that they mainly ate at home although they would sometimes go out for other types of Asian food. Foods that they ate that were American were ones that were easily paired with rice such as fried chicken, hot dogs, and SPAM.
As we raise our children as Thai/Filipino Americans, we combine our values and our culture. Our children are taught the same respect for elders that we grew up knowing. They are baptized Catholic and are raised Catholic although they are still influenced by Buddhist teachings because all religion is inherently good. They have grown up learning only English because it is the language that we are most comfortable speaking. Hopefully, one day, they will be able to travel to Thailand and the Philippines, and that will spark their interest in learning the languages. We raise our children to aspire to be all that they can be, but they have to go to college first! Both of our children love rice and will eat it plain as well as with chicken, SPAM, and bacon. We mainly eat American when we are out because it is convenient so the children are chicken nugget lovers, but rice is still an important part of our lives and we eat it a few times a week.