A World Cup Identity Crisis

German Image: Werner Kunz // Argentina Image: Billy Quezada
I am fifth generation German.

It's something I hardly ever think about. Until... you know... Germany is trouncing Brazil. Then I'm thinking, Hey Brazil, I may have stood on your border and revealed in the beauty of Iguazu Falls, but did you know I'm 5th generation German?

I mean, seriously, if I'm going to be a bandwagon fan, I can change teams, right? Just kidding. I stayed loyal to Brazil through the painful end, but it did get me thinking about my heritage.

We've tried to be so intentional in raising our children to appreciate their multicultural heritage. We are staying the very bumpy course of their bilingualism. We celebrate Central American Independence days and attend a bicultural church. It's super important to us.

And then I realize that when I consider my own identity, I tend to analyze my whiteness or my American-ness. I'm really not connected to my German heritage, even though both sides of my family are very German.

Then I wonder if Ella and Isaac's great grandkids will say the same thing. (Also... how funny is it to imagine your children as great grandparents?)

My grandfather said his parents spoke German at home. I can count to 3.

Of course, I have an inkling that Spanish language will be even more common in the U.S., regardless of your family background. I already know several other families who are not Latino teaching their kids Spanish. (Make sure you check out this great guest post from Bronwyn if you missed it.)

I don't feel any sense of loss, which also makes me strangely sad. I have sat with monolingual young adults who lament their lack of language and connection to their parents' culture. And I've heard parents bemoan their children's lack of cultural engagement.

I know those emotions probably exist somewhere in my family tree.

Of course, times were different. World War II made German ancestry complicated. And "blending in" was a common immigrant strategy. I can't quite imagine processing through those identity questions.

These have just been some my thoughts on cultural identity as we prepare for the Germany-Argentina game on Sunday. As much as I think about my own kids' multicultural background, I rarely think about my own history. Hats off to you, World Cup, for that.

Now don't get it twisted. I will be cheering for Argentina on Sunday. Or to put it more accurately, I will be wearing team-related clothing inside an Argentine bar. It's also a possibility that a flag as a cape will be involved. (Cleaning out my guest room turned up our Argentine flag just in the nick of time!)

But behind that cape will be a girl who, per usual, identifies with more than one country.

How many generations has your family lived in the country where you are now?


  1. Oddly enough, my family's American heritage goes back before the Revolutionary war. On both my mom's and my dad's side. There's some English and Swiss/Germany in there, but it's pre-Revolution. My kids will be the first generation in my close family who have any non-European roots, my husband's family goes all the way back to the Pharaohs in Egypt. We like to shake things up. :)

  2. Wow. That's awesome! Also, shaking things up is my favorite. :)


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