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Thread: Cross-cultural love

  1. #1
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    Cross-cultural love

    There seem to be many, many forer@s here who are (or were) married, or in a serious relationship, with someone from a different culture.

    Looking at all of us, we should have some really interesting stories about how we got around the potential misunderstandings and different habits.

    From the Canadian - Bolivian perspective, a big issue was the completely different perception of time.

    One phrase that gave me no end of trouble was "I'll call you tomorrow". I'd hear this, take it literally, and hang around the phone in a love-induced fog waiting for a call. It took a long time to learn that the Bolivian translation of this was "If I'm still in the same mood I'll call you tomorrow ... or maybe the day after .... or next week ...." As a result I thought my boyfriend at the time was completely unreliable, and he thought that I was completely anal.

    I could go on, but I'd rather hear your stories than tell mine ....
    "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse." Bruce Cockburn

  2. #2
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    Good story, but aren't men from everywhere the same? "I'll call you" means not much to them (I am told).

    From the Scottish-Venezuelan perspective the worst thing is not complaining enough (Scottish) and apologising for things you haven't done....

    I guess my beau could say that the latino temperament has been... interesting.... to deal with :-). But there's been a lot of missunderstanding. Like the other day I was ironing and he wanted something and I said in Spanish "pero no ves que estoy ocupada anda y búscalo tú!!" (which probably sounded like very fast and loud talking to him, actually) whilst I pointed at the iron that I was holding and waving in the air with the other hand.... He said that he had never been threatened with an iron before!... and I thought I was just talking normally!....

    Oh the fun we have.... :-)
    Corrections are more than welcome.

  3. #3
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    I'm an Irishman married to the same Irishwomen for the last 23 years. She grew up about 120 miles away from where I grew up and we occasionally misunderstand each other's usage of certain words.

    Women are another culture altogether!

  4. #4
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    I agree with maxiogee. The usual woman comment: 'I 'll call you tomorrow' means: 'I will torture you for weeks till you have no self-respect and YOU call me".
    Only a Spanish speaker. If you need an exact translation, wait for better opinions.

  5. #5
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    I'm of two minds on the subject:

    1) Male-female relations are difficult enough... why complicate things by adding in cultural differences?

    2) Then again, male-female relations are so difficult, what's another difference to add to the mix? Really, cultural differences are small when compared to the differences between the sexes.

    3) In the end, personality differences have much more relevance to a relationship than cultural differences, which become insignificant when two people have a connection. (of course, you guys know that I have a "thing" about personality

    Wait... that's three things! Isn't there some female saying about men's brains that would apply to this situation?
    Ignorance --> fear --> anger --> hate --> violence. || Knowledge => tolerance => acceptance => love => peace.

  6. #6
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    I completly agree with Fenixpollo, I had a mexican boyfriend, a spanish boyfriend and now I am married to a Bolivian that has grow up within the same culture as mine, and I still have the same problems that I used to have with my ex boyfrieds. So I think the problem is not the culture but rather the sex, I read a very interesting book "los hombres son de marte y las mujeres son de venus" and basicly it says that when men say something, women understand something completly different and viceversa. I think it is true, for me saying "I will call you tomorrow" means that I will do so, but when a man says "I will call you tomorrow" you don't have to wait for the call because maybe he will never do that and he will be waiting that YOU call him (as Fernando said) when you get tired of waiting.
    América

  7. #7
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    OK, guys, I have now laughed long and hard at my own expense!

    The truth is, I've been married so long to somebody who DOES do what he says he will that I'd forgotten that it was a gender issue.

    Speaking of cross-cultural love, he's urban and I'm rural through and through - and we have more issues arising from that combination than ever rose through my relationship with a Bolivian!
    "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse." Bruce Cockburn

  8. #8
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    I'm from the U.S. and my girlfriend is Colombian. One major difference is our concept of family. Don't get me wrong, I love my family (preferably at a comfortable distance) but my life does not revolve around them. For her (and for every other Latina I have dated) family is soooooooooooooo important. Another difference is the issue of space and personal independence. I understand the reasons this tends (or seems to tend) to be so and I'm not critical, just noting a couple of differences.

  9. #9
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    I used to be married to a Colombian, and I used to get sooooo angry with him because of what we finally realized was a cultural difference.

    Sometimes when we'd have an argument, he'd look down or away from me when I was telling him how upset I was over something he'd done. This just got me extra mad, until we finally figured out what was going on:

    The way he was raised, if you did something wrong, looking down or away was like admitting it, while looking directly into the other person's eyes was considered defiant. So by not meeting my eyes, he was in essence saying "Yeah, ok, I shouldn't have done that." And he couldn't understand why I'd then escalate the situation into a big argument.

    But the way I was raised, I was taught that when you do something wrong, you look the other person in the eyes when you talk about it/apologize. It's really hard to do sometimes, but you have to so that the other person can see that you're sincere and honest. Looking down or away when someone tells you that you screwed up is like saying you don't care or that your apology isn't for real. It's like saying "Geez, are you still talking? When is this going to be over? How much longer do I have to sit here listening to this crap?" (I can still remember my mother saying: "You look me in the eye when I'm talking to you!!")

    So I'd be angry about the original problem and then I'd think my husband was blowing me off, which would make me even angrier. It took us quite a few arguments to figure out what the real problem was -- these cultural things are so ingrained that sometimes you don't even realize what's driving your emotional reactions.

  10. #10
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    Oh yeah, another thing: I think that N. Americans (me included) tend to be quite direct and no nonsense (good old Anglo-Saxon pragmatism) and this was a bit difficult for my Colombian girlfriend to get used to.

  11. #11
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    I'm Italian, married with Slovenian. I taught her Italian smoothly, she taught me slovene with more difficulty, and today when we write or translate,she corrects my Slo texts and I correct her italian letters.
    Efficient, isn't it?

  12. #12
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    Re: cross-cultural love

    vlazlo, if you would allow me... To me, when I read you, your comments have an air of almost superiority that I cannot quite put my finger on.

    I hope I am wrong, else your relationship problems will not have anything to do with the cultures you are from!

    Saludos,
    Whisky con Ron (AKA Corin Tellado).
    :-)
    Corrections are more than welcome.

  13. #13
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    whisky,
    thanks for your observation and directness. i wasn't making any validity statements about anyone, just noting differences i have seen in general (albeit in a somewhat tongue in cheek manner), i.e., differences between my girlfriend (i think i made reference to other latinas i have dated, well the generalizations hold for them too) in terms of the manner in which we relate to/with family and levels of comfort being honest about what we want and need. culturally we are a bit different and sometimes that can lead to confusion, misunderstading and misinterpretation. i think it is vital to be aware of the differences of perception (via cultural lenses) and, as much as possible, learn to appreciate and respect one another for who we are. so, that being said, thanks for your observation, noted.

  14. #14
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    Jinti, I loved your story.

    In a lot of cultures, you show respect (or admit wrong-doing) by looking down, NOT looking at someone's face. It still gets a lot of North American native children into trouble in our European-based school system. I'd thought that it was a children's issue, however - I had no idea that this also applied to adults.
    "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse." Bruce Cockburn

  15. #15
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    WARNING: The following comment drips with sarcasm and should only be considered for entertainment purposes, since it very clearly is an exageration of the facts. All similarities with actual living or dead persons is entirely coincidental.

    Hi, forum-brethren!
    I'm a mexican married to a mexican, but goodness gracious me, might as well we were from different planets!
    Check it out: I was born and raised in Mexico City, the biggest doggone city in the world (which feels, smells, and looks like it, by the way)... My wife is from the northmost part of Mexico, where most everything is rural and laid-back.
    We each have different vocabulary, slang, accent, everything, even though we speak the same language!
    So instead we speak English to each other, to avoid confusions, since we both learned to speak English in the same city in Texas, USA.
    As you can see, you don't have to go and marry someone from your Antipodes to get in trouble!
    Ah, but loving each other helps, ¿no?
    Be well.
    Dan F

    P.S. The part about the love thingy is not a joke, it's the truth, alright?
    Last edited by danielfranco; 27th March 2006 at 1:51 AM. Reason: by popular demand...
    ¿88 relatos descarriados? Un leve desliz…

  16. #16
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    Quote Originally Posted by danielfranco
    So instead we speak English to each other...
    that's a bit extreme. Are you going to make sure that your kids don't learn any spanish too?
    Corrections are more than welcome.

  17. #17
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    My mother is Irish, and father Mexican. Mum still doesn't understand why in Mexico after a party, the "goodbyes" start in the party and continue at the door, finishing by the car. So they take about half hour (after begging the guests not to leave and have a "last drink") Other thing: when someone offers more food at a meal, we say "no thank you very much". The host asks again and again, and same answer. Fifth time: the guest says "ok, just a little bit" Mum used to offer more, and people said no, so sat down, and continued chatting...and Dad had to tell her: offer more than one time please!!
    We, 5 children, have a bit of both and the result I think is a good balance! We have learned to love both countries and cultures. But at the end, I believe Mum has become more Mexican than Dad! She corrects all our spelling mistakes for example, including Dad's!

  18. #18
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    Quote Originally Posted by Whisky con ron
    that's a bit extreme. Are you going to make sure that your kids don't learn any spanish too?
    Two things:
    My little story was a hyperbole, and I thought that was perfectly clear. For goodness sake, whoever heard two people couldn't communicate using the very same language (apart from Americans and British, that is) (ahem, another hyperbole...)? The point is that things can be worked out if one wishes it so. And we do. So there.

    Secondly, don't you worry about what I teach or do not teach my children. Worry about your own and we'll all be fine. I say this in the most respectful and tactful way I could, but I thought we need to be direct when addressing a transgression.

    Now, I hope we can all continue enjoying this interesting thread.
    Thank you very much for your consideration.
    Dan F
    ¿88 relatos descarriados? Un leve desliz…

  19. #19
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    The main barrier is humor. My boyfriend and I can be watching TV and he'll start laughing for no reason (to me at least). Since he doesn't speak much Spanish sometimes I have to explain my jokes and he hardly ever gets them.
    That's the main reason why we never go to comedy bars.
    Saludos desde New York, Karla

  20. #20
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    Re: Cross-cultural love

    Quote Originally Posted by danielfranco
    My little story was a hyperbole, and I thought that was perfectly clear. For goodness sake, whoever heard two people couldn't communicate using the very same language
    You'd be surprised, Dan -- I've met several people living in the US who share the same native language but only speak English, and their children grow up monolingual Americans.

    Your hyperbole was not clear at all. You didn't preface your comments by saying, "I'm speaking in hyperbole", and we didn't hear the sarcasm in your voice when you spoke those words, because you only typed them. Whisky only reacted to what seemed a serious post by you in an honest way... and in the same way that I reacted, I might add.
    Ignorance --> fear --> anger --> hate --> violence. || Knowledge => tolerance => acceptance => love => peace.

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