Cross-cultural love

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Chaska Ñawi, Mar 23, 2006.

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  1. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    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. :p

    I could go on, but I'd rather hear your stories than tell mine ....
  2. Whisky con ron Senior Member

    Venezuela / Español
    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.... :)
  3. maxiogee Banned

    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. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    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".
  5. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    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 :rolleyes:

    Wait... that's three things! Isn't there some female saying about men's brains that would apply to this situation? ;)
  6. América

    América Senior Member

    Español Bolivia
    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.
  7. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    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!
  8. vlazlo

    vlazlo Senior Member

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    English, U.S.A.
    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. jinti

    jinti Senior Member

    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. vlazlo

    vlazlo Senior Member

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    English, U.S.A.
    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. Juri Senior Member

    Koper, near Trieste
    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. Whisky con ron Senior Member

    Venezuela / Español
    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!

    Whisky con Ron (AKA Corin Tellado).
  13. vlazlo

    vlazlo Senior Member

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    English, U.S.A.
    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. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    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.
  15. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    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?
  16. Whisky con ron Senior Member

    Venezuela / Español
    that's a bit extreme. Are you going to make sure that your kids don't learn any spanish too?
  17. steffiegomez

    steffiegomez Member

    Mexico City
    Mexico, Spanish & English
    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. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    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
  19. Span_glish Senior Member

    New York
    Guatemala, Spanish
    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. :)
  20. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    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.
  21. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    Okay then, fenixpollo!
    I went back and edited my post. Now tell me, are you also going to be judgemental about the way I might or might not raise my own children? Then you are welcome to read my post prior to this one and take it to heart.
    Thank you for your contribution.

    Now, back to the thread:
    As we can see in the many examples graciously shared by forum members, sometimes it is difficult to reach a ready agreement when differences of opinion arise that are not constructively addressed. This situation seems worse when the people involved in it also have different backgrounds: It could be cultural, linguistic, of ethnicity, gender, finances, political, or religious... But most of those differences can be overcome with a little bit of tolerance and respect for each other's differences.
    Still, sometimes it can drive one nuts!
    Thank you.
    Dan F
  22. teqyre Senior Member

    For what it's worth, the hyperbole was pretty clear to me (even before you added the "here-comes-sarcasm" warning ;)), and I think you were right to make that point to Whisky con ron.

    I had a girlfriend from the States who, although could (usually) understand what I said, the big problem was with our different senses of humour... I wouldn't go as far as to say that she had an irony-deficiency problem, but... in fact, yeah, I would. :D
  23. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Returning in a non-confrontational and non-hyperbolic way to the subject of what one teaches one's children, my girlfriend and her husband managed very well.

    She's a bilingual Quebecois and he's a Bolivian. She speaks to the children in French; he speaks to them in Spanish; and when they're all together they speak English. The children are perfectly trilingual, although their preferred language probably depends on which country they happen to be living in at the time (meaning which language their friends at school are speaking).
  24. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Are you challenging me to? I could read that sentence and think you were trying to be confrontational, or I could give you the benefit of the doubt. You reacted quite harshly to whisky's comments without practicing the tolerance you speak of. I was just pointing that out to you, and pointing out how my experience as a teacher of immigrant children in Dallas-Fort Worth differs from yours -- I met so many people who didn't teach their kids the language from their home country, it was amazing to me.

    You haven't told us how you raise your children, so I have nothing to judge you about. If you decide to post that info, however, Whisky and I will collaborate on a scathing critique of your childrearing methods and post it here in the form of a personal attack. K?

    (that last paragraph was sarcasm.) :-D
  25. maxiogee Banned

    Aaah drat and bother! I was looking forward to joining in a bit of cross-cultural hate about raising children born of cross-cultural love.

    Whatever way you folks raise your chisselers, I'm agin' it! :D
  26. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    We be cool then... Perhaps I bristled out of long standing, knee-jerk like reaction to anyone that offers any sort of comment about my children without invitation. So maybe it's just me, alright? It was just the double-barrel approach that got my undies in a bunch.

    Now, like Chaska said, meanwhile back at the ranch...
  27. gato2

    gato2 Senior Member

    España, español
    What does "chisselers" mean?
  28. andresmanuel New Member

    well. im colombian, I agree with the most of you, because try to understand to your couple is very difficult sometimes, or majority of times, any way every one is different and when you are in love with someone, you should try to understand your couple by chatting, chatting and chatting. we are human beings and that is the way to solve problems.
  29. maxiogee Banned

    Children - usually irritating ones belonging to other people! :D
  30. germinal

    germinal Senior Member

    Bradford, England
    England English
    Could not constant chatting, chatting, chatting become one of the problems?:D
  31. Cereth

    Cereth Senior Member

    language of love
    Well, good or bad i have this fascination for foreigners (maybe it´s a characteristic of my malinche roots).

    i had a japanese boyfriend and the only thing that i never couldn´t understand was why the hell he was so slow in replying my messages..but everything else was pretty good, he spoke a little bit of spanish, i speak a little bit of japanese so most of the time we understood pretty well.

    just a funny thing he loved pop music in spanish - which i hate-, and i like so much japanese pop -which he hates-...:)
  32. Bettie Senior Member

    United States.
    Wow, yeah, that is sooooooooo true, I do the same thing, if somebody offers me something when I go somewhere I say no, thank you, I don't even think about it, it's automatic, when I told about it to my now ex-boyfriend (he is American) he couldn't understand me, hehehe... but why do you do that?
  33. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    MOD WARNING: Speaking of chatting, chatting, chatting, this thread is at serious risk of becoming a cross-cultural chat-filled string of fluff.

    If you wish to continue serious (okay - semi-serious) discussion about the joys and pitfalls of having a relationship with someone of another native language and culture, you are welcome to chime in.

    Further chat, even about the use of hyperbole (obvious or otherwise), will be deleted.

    Thank you for your understanding.
  34. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Thanks, GenJen.

    Perhaps I should have been quite clear about what I was asking about, instead of leaving things so open-ended.

    I was curious about, as GenJen so nicely put it, the joys and pitfalls of an intercultural relationship: potential misunderstandings, what parts of one's culture gets passed onto one's children, relations with the in-laws, subjects or behaviours that are taboo in one culture but not the other, worrying about whether you're more in love with the culture than the person, conflicts with your own family .... a lot of things which could come out of this thread instead of chat.

    Here's one last try at a conversational, informative (and, incidentally non-chatty, non-hyperbolic, and definitely non-confrontational) thread.
  35. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    I'll grab on to the in-laws thing.

    My parents are of the Teutonic/Anglo-Saxon/Whateveryawannacallit style of family relationships. Loving, but distant; caring, but reserved, trying not to 'smother'; when the kids were 18, they got pushed out of the nest. We talk once every week or two, just to keep in touch.

    My in-laws are of the Mexican/Hispanic (from Hispania) style: effusive, affectionate, closely involved; rather than the "empty nest" concept, it's one of a lifelong connection.

    I perceive her parents as warm, and I get along wonderfully with them. She perceives my parents as cold, and... well, let's just say that the visit from her in-laws is a stressful occasion. :(
  36. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    to tell you the truth, I have dealt with cultural differences much more easier than cultural similarities.

    You see, it was easier for me (and my ex non-Greek boyfriends) to accept our cultural differences than any of the following

    a) Going over the "no, Greeks/Italians are the most noisy/talk more/love to argue more/have the most choking kind of family"

    b) Convincing a 2nd generation Greek-American that today's Greek-Greeks' culture should be considered Greek

    As for misunderstandings, well, the most common one was them insulting my fellow Greeks because they kept forgetting that showing "Five" with your palm towards the other person and the fingers apart is considered a big insult around here.

    The fact that we like hyperbole doesn't help much either. First time my mother cooked for a foreigner and he didn't go ecstatic for at least 10 minutes about her cooking she was ready to commit murder and told me my boyfriend was rude.

    Oh, and name days (the day set apart for a special commemoration of the saint you are christened after) are a really big thing around here. Forgetting one's name day is a big no-no. This almost invariably passes on to children of mixed marriages (and has been known to cause misunderstandings )
  37. irisheyes0583 Senior Member

    San José, Costa Rica
    English (USA)
    Well, there are gobs & gobs of stories that I could mention, but I think that they would all show a common theme (for me, at least). Many times a problem appears to merely stem from language, but we must remember that language is not just language, but involves culture as well.

    Case-in-point: I'm American (oh, don't even get me started on this word-choice/language/culture issue!) and in the US, we often introduce our boyfriends as our "friend" (i.e. "Grandma, this is my friend ________"). It's clear that we mean "boyfriend", but it's almost rude to give all the details of our relationship by saying "boyfriend". However, my Costa Rican boyfriend was extremely offended that I called him my "friend" because in his culture, that would imply that we were either not boyfriend-girlfriend or that I was ashamed to be his girlfriend. After much pouting and hurt feelings, he finally told me why he was upset. I explained to him that in US English, calling him my friend was exactly the same as calling him my boyfriend (in the introduction scenario), and I apologized for making him feel bad. Problem solved. But this kind of thing happens all the time... what fun languages & cultures are!
  38. Bilma Senior Member

    Spanish Mexico
    Ohhh...Do not forget the "who takes out the garbage" issue !!!:rolleyes:

    At home in Mexico whoever sees the garbage can full takes it out, the first time I took out the garbage my husband was sooo offended. It wasn't a big deal for me but it was for him. Needless to say no matter how full the can is I do not touch it:D

    P.S. My hubby is American:)
  39. América

    América Senior Member

    Español Bolivia
    Happy you! for Bolivian husbans the only think of home labors they do is to drive you to the supermarket. Women have to do everything (besides working of course)
  40. Bilma Senior Member

    Spanish Mexico

    Not that different ! That is all he does. He sometimes cooks and sometimes does the dishes but that is all!! Ohh and he mows the yard....women do not know...:eek:
  41. borhane

    borhane Senior Member

    Algerian Arabic
    hi all
    what do you think of mixed marriages, between a man and a woman from different countries, cultures or religions
    explain well and argue please
  42. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    I always come out with my sloppy, corny, romantic notions that as long as two people really love each other, they shall surmount all obstacles and their love will rise, like the eagles, soaring through the heavens, etc. etc. etc.
    But in truth, for the people who actually have a problem with this concept, they will always find some way of segregating people...
    For example, I married a woman who has lighter skin color than I and has colored eyes, where mine are just dull brown. She comes from a rural area, I from the largest city in my motherland. She comes from humble origins, I was from the middle-class. She was christian, and I was a lapsed agnostic (?). She's a woman, and I am a man. She has curly hair, and I don't...
    So, if I had felt a mixed marriage was not desirable, I wouldn't have married her.
    But I did. Because, as long as two people really love each other blah blah blah....
  43. Just_Wil

    Just_Wil Senior Member

    Spanish/ Costa Rica
    I agree with Daniel, it may sound corny, but as long as two people love each other, the marriage should succeed, and there are a lot of cases that confirm this "theory".
    Love isn't a matter of culture or nationality, I think. I don't see negative aspects at least.
  44. Bienvenidos

    Bienvenidos Senior Member

    I think mixed couples can learn a lot from each other (maybe one can teach the other a language :) ) I see nothing wrong with it.

  45. lizzeymac

    lizzeymac Senior Member

    New York City
    English - USA
    Or, if a man actually does "call you tomorrow" after a first date, all of your girlfriends drive you crazy by wondering what is wrong with him that he isn't playing games with you? Does he live with his mother? Own 10 cats?
    You can't win for losing.

  46. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    I disagree with crosscultural marriages. There are a lot of difficulties with cross cultural marriages. An American dating a Chinese person would require both people to learn about each others' cultures and traditions to not step on each others' toes in misunderstandings. I definitely discourage intercultural marriages. But if it works, then congratulations! More cultural interaction will result.

    But interracial marriages are a different thing. Race and "ethnicity" should not matter and therefore interracial marriages ought to be a natural thing in multiethnic societies. The fact that it isn't very common reflects the continued presence of racism and the resultant segregation of society into racially-defined cultures. "White" Americans and "Black", "Latino", and "Asian" Americans should not be afraid to date each other. I hope to see a rise in interracial marriages which generally reflects a decline in racial segregation.
  47. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    Thanks for the congratulations.
    I will let my Yugoslav wife know that she and I have your approval.
    This is a most confusing post and I am not sure which way to understand your mind on this matter.

  48. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I don't disagree with crosscultural marriages. Most marriages involves female and male perspectives, and that's as much a cultural divide as anything you might point to.
    Frankly, for me to disagree with a choice two other people--any two other people--make regarding marriage would be presumptuous. I have quite a few friends and neighbors who have what you seem to characterize as "crosscultural marriages", and they don't appear to have any special difficulties.
  49. maxiogee Banned

    Wow, what a load of preconceptions —
    a) What is wrong with learning about the cultural background of the one you love? You're going to marry this person, there's loads of things you need to learn about each other, one more category won't matter.
    b) What's the difference between 'intercultural' and 'interracial'?
    c) Do black, white, Latino and Asian people not have different cultural baggage?
    d) Are you not just a being a bigotted nationalist about 'foreigners'? Surely a white American of Irish extraction would have about as much in common with an Irish-born person as they would with a black American?
    e) "I definitely discourage intercultural marriages. But if it works, then congratulations! More cultural interaction will result." What? You're against it, but you favour the results it produces?
    f) Has it not occurred to you that someone with a white, ten generation, rural background in say, Wyoming is more likely to be culturally different from a ten generation New Yorker than from someone with ten generations of rural Latino Texan background?
  50. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Why are you bringing up race? Are you associating race with culture again?

    Of course that someone from Wyoming with a white, ten generation background has more in common with the rural Latino Texan. Based on my previous posts on multiculturalism and racism, it is shocking to me that you would even suspect I would think otherwise.
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