How to help spouses from different cultures?

Can studies on cultural differences help spouses of different cultures?


It is now a common phenomenon. Our century has reduced distances and increased meetings, the origins of various couples.

A wave of difficulties often appears with the arrival of the first child.

For the couple, the impact is even more severe than it is unexpected.

Each parent is driven by an uncontrollable need to give their child the same framework of values ​​that he himself/herself received. Although parents are also determined to do the opposite regarding certain things that made ​​him/her suffer in his childhood.

The extremely stabilizing force capable of creating a cycle is referred to by scientists as “homeostasis”. Whether they like it or not, parents tend to transmit the education they received. Geert Hofstede notes that “culture is unconscious mental programming” and it is natural that the parent obeyed the program.

Even more strongly here, reproducing our own upbringing induces a “loyalty” towards the parents. It is a form of recognition of his/her parents, his/her group, his/her culture, to educate a child as we have been educated ourselves. It is not natural (or current) to not do so and the parent who would, could reveal a deep identity problem.

I hear young parents exclaim, “precisely, we want to offer dual culture to enrich our children!” Here we are at the heart of the problematic; emotional, intellectual and cultural problematic. Double culture – according to the work of Hofstede – is impossible.


If you are French and your spouse American, you must make choices. Will you tell your 4 year old child: “You eat what we have prepared for you and you eat with us,” or will you leave your child to decide what to eat, when he wants and where he wants?

Here, a deep cultural element; the relationship with authority and power, is at stake American parents hate the idea of coercion, and a patient advocate dialogue. French parents wish to initiate the young child to the culinary variety, to live together, to respect for the elder.

Another example?

If you Belgian and your spouse Indonesian (or Moroccan) until what age is the child allowed coming into the parents’ bed: until the age of 2, 6 or 12?

Again, this is a deep cultural element that is individualism: the ability to care of yourself.

The subconscious will guide each parents in different directions; tensions can arise, become significant and discussions may turn into arguments.

As parents have not identified the source of the problem lies in cultural differences, the danger never really fades.

The solution?

Learn the Hofstede method can be a great way to broach the subject.

The father and mother can make a journey together and discover the challenges of their educational requirements. Because the common aspiration of any parent is to carry into adulthood a being who respects both cultures, but that will be anchored in a set of coherent characteristics.

It is by increasing the awareness of what is at stake that they will be able to settle on educational choices.

This fact, this topic is no longer a source of discord in the couple.

What is it?

Parents will set a process, emotionally interesting and intellectually pleasant. It is therefore not a therapy or a “work on oneself” that requires investment and courage. It is rather about increasing awareness of the characteristics of each culture and peacefully study the challenges in educating the children.

Then it will be easier for parents to set ​​educational choices corresponding to values they wish to convey. This will in turn become a “culture”.

This will not prevent the child from having a “dual culture”, ie: speak in 2 languages, know the values and behaviours of both cultures and have appropriate behaviour for various he/she will later face.

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