What is a Family?

What does family mean to us?
In every culture worldwide, the family holds a special importance. International students from Korea, Mexico, Brazil, France and Germany tell us what family means to them.

What Constitutes a Family?
Ickchan Lee from Korea

Ickchan Lee considers the definition of 'family' and reflects on the significance of the family in Korean society.

Literally, family is defined in Random House Webster's Dictionary as parents and their children considered as a group. It is a group in which persons are together under the same identity. Family often stands on top of social hierarchies with its strong power uniting all the members. That means it is something more than the sum of each member. There are a lot of constituents in the meaning of a family. Beginning from one origin, a family traditionally shares blood. As they say in the famous proverb— Blood is thicker than water, blood ties often makes people show superpower behaviour in case of a family emergency. The sense of sharing blood gives people a unique identity as a family, the most exclusive group in the world.

Photo from Ickchan Lee Family is the highest school of education—the school for teaching almost everything, including love.

Home is another word for a family. Even though all the members are not in the same place, they each keep the home in mind as the only and the very best place for each family member. They expect almost everything at home, which they don't at all outside the home. Despite the industrialization scattering each member all over the place, home still takes its firm place as family in their minds. Family is the highest school of education—the school for teaching almost everything, including love. Love is the best virtue that can be taught by family because it is a family. A family without it is no longer a family. It means the end of the world, too. In addition, family brings a genealogical record. Simply speaking, family is based on its genealogical history. Each member should know it well and keep it for the next members. It usually says who the family's first member was and who the most famous or greatest one was, and so on. They will feel safe when they find their names listed as members of the family. They put very special meanings on this like pride, tradition, and identity. In Korean society, it is not too exaggerated to say that the family is constituted by its genealogy. Whenever they talk about the family, they think of it as the very beginning and as the last measurement gauge for everything. In other words, they believe that a family is made up of all its

family members: those who have been, those who are, and those who will be.

A Family Means Love
María E. Huerta from Mexico

María E. Huerta feels the most important element of a family is love.

From my standpoint, I think a family is a group of persons whose members love and try to help each other. One of the characteristics of this group is the motivation to help by thinking of the benefits to members. I think a traditional family is formed by a father who is the wage earner, a mother who is the housewife, and brothers and sisters. The role of each member is very important because they influence the development and behaviour of the children who live inside the family.

Photo: S. Peters The main factor for maintaining a family is love, but it's also important to be conscious that this feeling is pure.

The main factor for maintaining a family is love, but it's also important to be conscious that this feeling is pure. Other factors that help to keep families together are respect and trust. Everyone in the family must show respect to the other members because nobody is more important than the others. Some people think that only the parents deserve respect, but I consider that this is not true. If the kids do not trust their parents, the parents won't be able to teach them all the experience they have. In brief, I think that a family is a group of people united not only by blood, but also by LOVE.

How I See a Family

Stella Tupinamba from Brazil
Stella Tupinamba writes about the closeness of families in her country.

Family is where you can find your best and closest friends. Members of a family take care of each other. They are always ready to help even if they have to change their personal plans. Parents change their own plans all the time to stay with their children when the children need them. Sometimes they give up their dreams to realize the dreams of their kids.
Photo: S. Peters Family is where you can find your best and closest friends. Members of a family take care of each other.

Families don't have to be necessarily a father, a mother and kids. Today we have different kinds of families. We have single parents, stepfathers or stepmothers, half brothers and sisters, or families without kids.

What is important is if they support and love each other before anything else. It's the way we see a family in Brazil. My grandmother says that the family must support our members even when they make mistakes.

The Notion of a Family
Antoinette Ferté from France

Antoinette Ferté feels the family is a very important to the French people.

The word family is very important for me because when you are young, the people around you are very precious. I love my family, and I can't stand when someone criticizes them. When someone says "family", I think about a lot of people because my family is very big, and it is not always a biological family.
Photo: S. Peters The function of the family is very important in the lives of the French people.

In France, I think that the notion of family is very important. The function of the family is very important in the lives of the French people. But we have—like in the other countries—a lot of kinds of families. We have the traditional family where you have the mother and the father and the biological children. After that, it is more complicated. You have some extended families, often in the country and especially on land that is used for farming. Childless families where the two parents work and haven't the time or the money to

have children. We have a lot of single-parent families and more and more blended families I think that in France the number of single-parent families has tripled. The way of life has changed in France, and we have today a lot of kinds of families. I hope that my family stays a traditional family.

What Family Means to Me
Caroline Behne from Germany

Caroline Behne writes about how important her family is to her.

Photo: S. Peters You have fun with your family no matter what you do.

In a family you can talk about anything. You can tell them everything because they are like your best friends. You have fun with your family no matter what you do. Even if there is a fight or a misunderstanding, you have to tolerate each person because when you fight with someone, you notice now much you miss that person and how much you love that person. You just can't live without that person.

If you go shopping with your mother, you see her just like a friend. Or if you go and have lunch with your father, he is also a friend of yours. Or, if you do something with your brothers, they are also like your friends. I think it is very important that you have a family because you are learning so many things. You learn to live with other people, you learn to share things, and you learn to show consideration for someone. I just can't live without my family because I would miss them so much. I would even miss the mistakes they make.

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