Culture Clash – Seven tips for surviving a family weekend

valuesThis weekend we had a family get-together; we have been a blended family for 10 years now, so many of the initial issues have passed and we certainly learned many lessons along the way!

Spending four days in a very small three-bedroom house with seven adults and five children, four of whom were under six, reminded me again on why bringing families together is so similar to merging two companies or countries (and you wondered why the European Union has never really worked!!!).

Each family has its own culture, if you are lucky there are some similarities e.g. Switzerland, Austria and France all share the same Alps and between them have some common languages, but that’s about it.

merger acquisitionYour family may have the same ethnic, religious and territorial background, but don’t expect that there’ll be too much else they have in common. Additionally, once children become adults they create their own unique culture, especially if they have a partner.

Why is that?

Each person (and family) has his own unique set of values that drives his life. These values fall into two categories: core (enduring) and transient (current).

Core are partly laid down when we are children and are influenced by our family, our teachers, our early experiences and some we seem to bring into this life – for instance our 10 year old granddaughter has tactile issues and therefore values cleanliness and tidiness, which is the complete opposite to other members of the family!!!

Transient values are things that are important at the present time e.g. one member of our family is starting her own business, so having time to work on it is very high on her value list right now, much to the chagrin of her sister who wanted to spend ‘sister’ time with her. Another is currently into motorbikes and spent the weekend discussing them with anyone who would listen. Previously, he has been into skateboarding, deejaying and rowing, all of which were of the same high value at the time, but eventually served their purpose.

If differing values is not enough, we all have varying needs, personalities and different love languages as well. How you see the world is a combination of all of these and is unlikely to be exactly the same as any other member of your family, no matter how close you are.

Here are seven tips that I have learned that helped to ensure a smooth running and conflict-free (well almost) get-together.

Tip 1: Recognise that each person will filter any event through his or her own values and experiences. Same event can happen, but viewed very differently. Getting to understand what is important to each person (whether core or the current transient value) will help to frame communication and conversation and avoid subjects that will ‘push’ people’s buttons.

Tip 2: Be extra vigilant in the judgement department. Your view of what’s ‘right’ will not be the same as other family members’. The more you judge based on your values, the more likely opposition will arise. Think of fulcrum or cantilever and how they need balance to work.

Tip 3: Steer clear of old ‘hurts’ or perpetual issues; they haven’t been resolved in the past, so why would this weekend be any different? Learn to avoid those unsolvable differences with defusing strategies.

Tip 4: Learn to accept, value and celebrate each other’s differences. It would be a very boring weekend if you all thought the same, did the same or acted the same way. What would you have to learn and grow?

Tip 5: Be organised and have a loose agenda or schedule – people like to know what is happening and it helps to manage expectations. Have rosters for meal preparation, cleaning up and other chores that will keep the place running smoothly. Ensure no one person does the lion’s share of shopping, putting groceries away, looking after children etc. Whilst it is good to have leadership, letting someone do all the work will likely lead to resentment, whether spoken or not (more likely to be the latter).

Tip 6: Never expect to agree on parenting styles. Even though the siblings were parented the same way, other influences have come to bear since they grew up e.g. partners and experiences. Commenting or criticising how someone parents their children can be one of the quickest ways to ‘light the blue touch paper’.

Tip 7: Be tolerant, it is only for a short time and ask yourself: “Will __________ (fill in the blanks) really matter after we leave this place, will anyone remember?”

Most families love each other, but find it hard to live together, even for a short time, so recognise this and don’t be under the illusion that everyone is going to get on all day, everyday that you are together. Understanding why this is (unique values), being tolerant and managing expectations will help your lasting memory to be a good one, and not one of dread next time a family get-together is planned.

If you would like to learn more about values, and how they impact every aspect of our life, one of the best sources is


Author and experienced relationship coach, Gillian Andale is the owner of Love2Last, a coaching and resource centre dedicated to couples who have found love again, want a new beginning and aim to strengthen and grow their relationship as well as need help in blended family situations.  Visit to browse and see the wealth of information available.

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