My blog was originally about travel and dating cultures around the world, though having been in a relationship for over 3 out of 4 years I have been writing this blog, the dating side has been somewhat lacking. So to spice things up a bit I thought I would share a few stories from other people’s travel love adventures, multicultural relationship experiences and perhaps a few funny date escapades. If you are interested in sharing one of your stories on my blog get in touch.
First up we have the lovely Ash from Idaho who shares her 4 rules for a multicultural relationship.
Nearly three years ago I met the wonderful, fabulous African man I call “husband.” It’s been an absolutely amazing adventure, and our time together has taught me more about myself and life than I’d ever thought possible. Its also resulted in an enormous amount of hair loss and cursing at the sky. Any relationship comes with challenges, but the joining of two different cultures bring in a whole other chapter on frustrations. Luckily I’ve learned some things along the way that make all the hair pulling worthwhile…
Respect Is Social Gold
I used to take a lot of pride in how open and respectful I was. I thought I was a pretty damn considerate and conscientious human being. A shining example for humanity! I felt like I was one heck of a lady, and then I met my dear sweet African man who pretty quickly put me to shame. Don’t get me wrong! I’m still a pretty awesome person. But African standards take respect and consideration to a level I could have
In Africa and other countries, elders are deeply valued for their wisdom and their years of experience. You eagerly listen to what they have to say and appreciate their years of insight. And you pretty much do whatever they ask you to. Because of this, my father in law is LITERALLY the head of the family. It’s not even expected that my husband will discuss major decisions with him; it’s a given
This seemed like a pretty ridiculous notion to me given my distant relationship with my family, but I’ve come to value it. We all know that two heads are better than one, and this is even better when you can throw in a head with another 30 years of life experience. Multiple perspectives are valuable, and having the wisdom of one’s insight is actually a good idea. I would never take major decisions to my own father, but I can trust my father in law 100%, so his involvement gets my thumbs up (even though there are times when my initial nodding is done with gritted teeth).
This respect is absolutely mandatory when it comes to interacting with people older than you, but it really extends out to relationships of all ages. You don’t talk trash or make negative comments about people. That kind of thinking hurts relationships which will end up hurting other relationships, so it’s like biting yourself in the butt. If you wouldn’t want people to see or hear you doing something, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Giving and showing respect is critical. Especially if you’re looking to receive it. That means you eat the food and you get up off your butt and dance. I mean, is it really going to kill you to try to have a little fun? Get over yourself and embrace the moment. You’ll be amazed by what you’ll learn. Guaranteed.
Privacy Has Its Perks
The modern world loves to talk. Everything from relationship problems to sex lives gets shared. We even blab about the details of others personal lives! Talk and gossip is everywhere we go and, ironically enough, it’s used as a way to connect with people. Open as we may be though, not all countries share this “tell all” philosophy.
In Africa, privacy is as valued as it is guarded. At first this struck me as superficial – even a bit deceptive – but now I see it differently. We all have our stories, but those are our stories. They’re ours to share with whoever we wish to share them with. And if we don’t want to share, we don’t have to! We may not feel the need to talk about the past or other people, and even if people are dying to get the details, we don’t have to go into them..
My husband and his family are very much focused on the here and now, and how to make the most of it. Talking about the past isn’t something they really do. Especially with memories they aren’t particularly fond of. Dwelling on hard times takes away from being here in the present, so it’s a ridiculous thing to do. What happened yesterday is irrelevant when you have the opportunity of today.
Stay Out Of Family Matters
There’s a wise saying that goes, “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” Remember this when it comes to family. You can say say whatever you want with your family, and your partner can do whatever they want with theirs, but you cannot say and do whatever you want with their family.
Many countries have very strong family values and familial bonds. This makes respect a HUGE part of everyday interaction — especially with elders and close family. This means that everything you say about your love’s family needs to be thought out and considered in advance. What seems perfectly normal here in in our own culture does not fly everywhere else.
When my husband’s grandmother died, he told me he would be at his parents the night of the funeral. All night. Even though the funeral was in Africa, they were going to be on the phone for hours and hours to be kept up to date on the event. This seemed pretty ridiculous to me considering that he had to be at work at 6am and there was nothing for them to literally contribute to the funeral, so I kind of balked at the idea. Especially since it was costing his dad thousands of dollars (and he was but one of multiple siblings contributing). This costly funeral celebration with all its heavy family involvement was like absolutely nothing I’d ever experienced. I didn’t understand it, and because I just had to open my big fat mouth, my confusion and bewilderment had me looking pretty insensitive.
Whether the family matter be big or small, stop to think before you speak. Or better yet, put your foot in your mouth so you can see how they handle business their way. Then feel free to do some informed blabbering.
My Way Isn’t The Only Way
I’m always joking with my African friend and family about “African time.” Here, we’re all about punctuality, time management, and moving onto the next task as soon as possible. In Africa, that’s not the case. I had assumed that my understanding of time was shared the world over, but the concept of time varies between cultures.
In Africa, time begins not at the strike of the clock, but at the moment that people come together. That makes the hour on the microwave irrelevant. When our African friends and family tell us they’re coming over, it may be 2-6 hours before they arrive. Sometimes they don’t even make it! And the same goes for us with visiting them. We don’t need to text updates or eta’s, and we sure as heck never have to apologize for not making it over earlier. As soon as the door is opened, open arms and smiling faces await.
This might seem a bit whacky given the modern need for “efficiency” and “productivity,” but Africa cares more about the quality of their relationships. Getting pissy over someone being late damages relationships. Besides, we all have lives to live, so if today doesn’t work out then we can always push for another day. What matters more than anything is being happy.
I’ve learned things about time, relationships, the roles of males and females, and on, and on. Fortunately I was usually wise enough to bite my tongue so I could observe things rather than jump to conclusions. This was the smartest thing I could have ever done because my cultural worldview had me perceiving Africa from an American perspective. I had a whole lot of unfavorable assumptions and ideas running through my head, but as I sat on them and watched things play out, I came to see that the way my husband saw things painted a completely different picture than my own.
It’s kinda crazy because it’s like going from 2-D vision to 3-D. There are so many angles and other ways of seeing things, but you don’t know until you know because it’s all you know. Ya know? So before you go on a feminist rant or jump up to “stand your ground,” make sure you take some time to ponder where your love is actually coming from. It’ll save you a whole lotta trouble!
The culture clash of love can be one heck of a whirlwind, but it comes with a whole new view on life. I wouldn’t trade my man for everything, and I’ll be forever grateful for everything him and his family have taught me. I don’t always get him, but he has a love for me that goes beyond my wildest dreams. So best of luck with those cultural matters of the heart! Love is always worth it!
Ash Stevens is a mother, writer, and a wannabe shaman. She loves health, gardening, simplicity, culture, chocolate, and sarcasm. If she isn’t writing or talking family and relationships on her blog, then she’s surely playing badminton with the kids. Find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!