Whether it’s a special birthday outing or a famous Thanksgiving side dish, every family has a tradition they’ve carried with them for years. Going abroad can seem like a time when these traditions are in jeopardy: beloved vacations to familiar locations aren’t possible, reunions with relatives are suddenly much harder and the marshmallows needed for dad’s famous sweet potato casserole aren’t sold in any local grocery stores.
However, keeping family traditions going while abroad is an effective strategy to help families integrate into a new culture. As a global mobility manager, you should make an effort to help families keep their traditions going, and expand upon them in their new location. Here are some steps to encourage family traditions even during the relocation process:
Encourage the sharing of familiar ways of life
For an American family, a simple tradition like baking of peanut butter cookies in the fall is commonplace, but for many other cultures, it’s novel. Help your employee find some imported Jif and encourage them to invite both fellow expats and new friends to enjoy a bite of American baking. Throw a Superbowl party and teach local friends about American football while you serve delicious American dips and snacks. By sharing traditions with others, employees will create deeper relationships with their new colleagues and friends, helping them feel more comfortable in their new environment.
Help them find replacements for what they know
An all-American apple pie may be perfect for a Thanksgiving back home, but for a family relocated to India, a jackfruit pie is a delicious opportunity to pair known tastes with new ones. For a child’s birthday, an employee in Brazil might think of serving some brigadeiros e beijinhos alongside the birthday cake for a traditional and tasty way to celebrate their new culture. Incorporating resources and elements from their new culture into old traditions is a fun way to keep old family traditions alive, while helping to bridge the gap between a home culture and a new one.
Enjoy the new surroundings
Many traditions revolve around holidays, and scrambling to find a Christmas tree in Manila or stockings for the hearth in Amsterdam simply might not be possible. Instead, encourage employees and their families to take a break from traditional American ways of celebrating. A filipino parol is a neat alternative to a Christmas tree (and doesn’t involve all the pine needle cleanup) and the Dutch tradition of leaving out wooden clogs instead of stockings is an exciting adventure for all ages. If it’s not possible to complete American traditions, help employees and their families discover the new traditions of their host cultures.