Ask a Neighbor is a new series where we seek to discover the cultures of other international families living in Beijing, breaking out of our social bubbles. If you’d like to be featured next, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance!
Cherelyn Lom, previously a flight attendant, is a full time mother of two sons, the ten-year old Kai and six-year old Kieran, both of whom attend The British School of Beijing Sanlitun. She and her American husband have been in Beijing for eight years.
What is culture to you and your family?
Throughout the years, my husband and I have built our family values and home culture. We have combined the best values that we have learned in our own lives, as well as values learned from parenting.
As a Filipina, I taught my children some of the basics of my culture for them to use when we go to the Philippines or when they meet other Filipinos. I think it is important that they know the difference between Filipino and American cultures. For example, in the Philippines, you can’t address your elders by their first name, but you need to use their title (ate, tita, auntie, uncle, lolo, or lola depending on the age difference) as a sign of respect.
I’m thankful that our children go to an international school where they can learn the different aspects of a variety of cultures. I consider learning in a diverse environment a privilege for them. They have friends coming from all over the world; they can taste dishes from different cuisines; and learn words in different languages from their friends. Seeing them eager to learn about other cultures makes me proud. I believe that these days, having them exposed to different religions, people and beliefs, is the key to raising our children to help the world become a better place in the future.
What would you say your culture was like before coming to China?
I was born and raised in Italy, but moved to the Philippines when I was 16 years old to attend college and complete my BS degree in Tourism. I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a flight attendant. I had always wanted to become one, so that I could travel the world and learn from different cultures.
Living in the Philippines was a beautiful experience, and there is nothing like living among people of other cultures to make you understand why people do what they do. Different religions came from different places, as did ideas, moral codes and the arts. When I became a flight attendant, I met with many unforgettable people from all over the world and learned a lot from them. I learned that we are one people, and each culture has its own treasures–we just need to dig them up and enjoy them.
How has China influenced your culture?
I wouldn’t say that China has influenced my culture, but I can say that my knowledge about living as an expat has expanded. China has taught me the importance of trying to learn and appreciate our differences in order to interact with people from other cultures. It is important to learn how to adjust, and how to respect other cultures in order to enjoy your life in a new country.
Do you think your culture will change when you leave China?
Living in China for almost eight years has been a wonderful journey. Our second child was born here, and we have been calling China our home for the past eight years. It will be hard when the time comes to move away as we have had great memories, and we have all learned so much in living here. We have made many memories to keep in our hearts forever. We have improved our communication skills, knowledge, adaptability, and self-confidence. I believe that these years spent living in China will be of a great advantage for the future of our family and, in particular, the futures of our children.
Photo: courtesy of Cherelyn Lom