| FYI |

Five Things I Wish You Knew About… Having a Parent from a Foreign Country

For some of us, having a parent from a foreign country means that his English is choppy and broken

If you’re lucky enough to go visit your parent’s country of origin, it’s really fun to go on cool trips and take lots of pictures that you can hang on your locker, decorate your loose-leaf with, or hang in your room. It feels exotic!

Having a parent from a different country means that many of our relatives still live in that country, while we live across an ocean. It’s hard that our grandparents live thousands of miles away. We can’t just hop on a plane with the entire family to go visit whenever we want. We don’t all get to go for bar mitzvahs or weddings, and our relatives can’t always come to our simchahs. Although now that Zoom has become a “normal” way of participating in simchahs, this has allowed us to share recent simchahs with our overseas family.

For some of us, having a parent from a foreign country means that his English is choppy and broken. (Our Israeli cousins have the same issue with their American mother, who speaks a very American Hebrew!) As a little kid it embarrassed me when my father would talk to my friends or teachers in his foreign accent and not-very-smooth English. Now I’ve grown not to care, and it even makes for interesting conversations when people ask where my father is from!


We’ve gotten used to our father traveling to his family for extended visits. It used to be harder to understand, but now that I’m older, I’m happy when he gets to go “home” to his parents and siblings for two weeks a year. It must be hard to live in a country so different from where he was raised. We feel like he comes from a foreign country… but for him, America is a foreign country!

Language can be a real barrier when it comes to our father’s family. Our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins don’t speak English very well, but we don’t speak their language either, so we often need someone translating as we try to get by with lots of sign language. I think it’s very hard for our grandparents, who wish they could communicate more easily with their own grandchildren. I have a friend whose father comes from South America, and he purposely speaks to all of his children in Spanish from the time they’re born. Though they are not very fluent, they understand it well enough to communicate with their father’s entire family.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 834)

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