Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Discuss the problems that can occur in relationships with differing cultures and help overcome any barriers that exist.

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HEPZIBAH
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Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by HEPZIBAH » Tue Jun 21, 2016 2:36 pm

No, this is not about me. It is an article that has made me think though. When I was younger, I probably would have jumped through hoops, physically as well as mentally, had I been romantically involved with a man of a different culture to mine. I know there are things that I could not and would not have compromised on or changed, but overall I know I would have been the sort of person who do their best to take on my partners culture as much as I possibly could, and yet I also know I would most likely also to have been struggling to know just where I really fit in. It would not have occurred to me, well not strongly anyway, that my partner should be trying to meet me part way and learning to understand, if not accept my culture too. As I've got older, I've probably become more sure of myself (although that is debatable) and less likely to follow for the sake the of following.

This article is not about a marriage with an Egyptian, but I'm sure it doesn't take a huge stretch of the imagination to see how some that are married to an Egyptian could feel this way too.


Culture is in the eye of the beholder


Most people view culture through the kaleidoscopic prism of travel and tourism: the exotic, glittering differences that sear the senses – the smell of incense, the colours of freshly ground spices and the way they catch in the back of your throat, the sound of a tuk-tuk or the azaan.

Few see its other side; the restrictive, controlling, imprisoning aspect, a grid reference for life and living, a means of imposing sameness; a human construct not a natural wonder. An indelible stereotype.

Culture can be captivating and deadly – like a Venus Fly-Trap. You may be screaming to break free of it or banging on the door to be admitted. I’ve been both.

Where do I fit in?

Everyone has a cultural role. Whether a visceral blood-tie or an administrative passport identity, we acquire it somewhere along the way and are bound by unwritten rules to uphold it, celebrate it, answer for its shortcomings and rejoice in its gains – agree or disagree, our loyalty is non-negotiable.

It all seems strange to me, reminiscent of picking teams at school or some other such shortsighted grasp at social elitism/exclusivity, yet it’s the bouncer on the door of international relations. It’s what makes cross-cultural marriage a social taboo.

i
Having married into a South Asian family I’m not sure which is worse – being labeled a traitor to my culture by members of the race I live among or spurned by those I sought to embrace.

i
The villain of the piece

My new family perceived ‘Western’ to be less a directional designation than a receptacle for all the ills of the modern world. It meant liberal to the point of immorality, Godless, selfish and arrogant. It was something I unwittingly and unavoidably became an apologist for.

The funny thing was we had much in common. I too was born in a country with a blasphemy law, with no shortage of people to tell you what you’ll burn in Hell for and exactly how it will feel.

Ireland, like Pakistan, is convinced of its direct line to the Creator. I too had moved to a colonial power that once scorned and sought to control my countrymen. I too had endured racist taunts. We may have been from different parts of the world but our experiences were a common bond.

But they didn’t see that. Each news episode or differing cultural perspective was an opportunity to highlight hypocrisy and lay blame at the door of the West. ‘Amreeka’ (America) was the great ‘shytan’ and ‘ghoré’ (white people) were all tarred and feathered with the same brand of moral and spiritual degeneracy.

A privilege and an honour

Call me stupid (I certainly did in the years that followed, though I prefer patient and even-handed now), but my admission into the heart of a Pakistani family still left me humbled and honored. I felt a bit ‘David Attenborough’ – conscious I was privileged to experience something inaccessible to many Westerners.

In the same way I’m randomly struck by the delight of remembering I’M IN CANADA, there were moments when I’d view the scene from outside myself and feel amazed to be a part of it all – asking in Urdu if anyone wanted chai, watching Kasautii Zindagii Kay on STARPLUS, my father-in-law reclined on the floor in front of the electric heater leafing through the Daily Jang, half-listening as everyone debated the latest real-life family drama – yet, however involved I was, I never lost that feeling of being just outside the circle.

My skin was an inescapable reminder of my Western-ness, as a child’s features confirm its true parentage regardless of names on a birth certificate. Throwaway comments hinted they were waiting for me to reveal my true colours, for the façade to drop and their suspicions to be endorsed.

Watcher or watched?

My imagination often cast me in the role of researcher, conducting an observational study, but I wasn’t alone – my new family conducted experiments of their own. Tentatively we danced around each other, feeling our way in this pioneer relationship, exploring the boundaries of what we could say and do.

My sister-in-law asked in the darkness of a shared bedroom what nightclubs were like and confided her fears about marriage, but raged to her mother when I wore knee-length shorts and a tank top. One part curiosity, one part mistrust.

My mother-in-law, for her part, liked to take advantage of my cultural naivety by jovially asking how I’d handle things when K took a second wife (it’s commonly held up to four wives are permitted in Islam, though not without the fulfillment of certain conditions). I found it incredibly difficult to weather this kind of provocation and my budding trust in my new husband needed a lot of reassurance once we could speak in private.

I learned the deeper meanings of the innocuous. Noticing I was reading a book by Deepak Chopra, my husband advised me not to let my in-laws see it. They would be suspicious of me reading something written by an Indian.

Spot the difference

Time passed. My Urdu and Punjabi improved, the cultural etiquette became second nature, I attended shaadis (weddings) and janaazas (funerals) where my father-in-law extolled the virtues of his ghori bahuu (white daughter-in-law) to friends. I passed recipes for gulab jamun on to my mother-in-law and ran up my own shalwar qamiz on my sewing machine. But excoriating criticism of my same-skinned compatriots and Western culture continued.

I was torn between feeling like an honorary Pakistani, part family life and culture in spite of my skin colour, and a Guy Fawkes, subjected to the burn of inflammatory remarks, a scapegoat for my tribe. I didn’t know whether to be insulted or exultant. Was it a sign I’d been accepted, this confiding of grievances? As it turned out... No.

What’s in a name?

Kinship plays a significant role in Asian families. Each relation has certain duties and responsibilities and as wife of the eldest son, I had a caretaking role as far as the household and younger siblings were concerned. This position ordinarily earned an individual the respectful and affectionate term ‘bhabhi’ from junior family members. Not for me. Similarly, although I called my father and mother-in-law Abuji and Mummyji, they never referred to me as ‘beti’ (daughter).

I’ve benefited immeasurably from my immersion in Punjabi culture, however uncomfortable it might have been at the time (going to meet my in-laws after marrying against their wishes was the hardest thing I’ve ever done).

I still believe I’ve had a golden opportunity – compliments from strangers when I wear shalwar qamiz, ‘You look beautiful didi!”, and the surprised smile when I pepper a sentence with Urdu remind me of this. My world view has expanded, enriched by kathak, Bollywood, South Asian literature, Qwaali, chillies and masalé, and an ability to see things from more than one angle.

It’s sad my in-laws don’t feel the same way.

Aisha Ashraf is a freelance features writer and mother of three currently based in Canada. She’s written for newspapers, magazines and a range of expat and mental health websites, and has been a cultural chameleon since she first emigrated aged eight.
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06 ... 64374.html


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Re: Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by HEPZIBAH » Tue Jun 21, 2016 4:38 pm

Thinking about the article above, I realise that much of it is applicable to forums and our relationship with other members and how we react and interact with them.
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Re: Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by Ruby Slippers » Tue Jun 21, 2016 7:18 pm

What a really interesting article, Hepzi! I couldn't help thinking though, that many of the cultural differences she mentions, could equally apply in many Western countries. I mean, between different religions e.g. Protestant and Catholic; Scottish and English or Welsh etc. Which type of domicile you were brought up in and what type of education you've received also has a bearing on being accepted in certain strata of society.

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Re: Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by LovelyLadyLux » Tue Jun 21, 2016 9:48 pm

Interesting article and very interesting to know the if, when, how re: being accepted into a culture different from the one you are born into.

The author, to me, didn't define really well what she actually wanted she more talked about what she seemingly didn't want.

I can only relate this to me that I think the notion of "being accepted" is really very individualized. I think there are lots of same culture families who never fully accept the daughter in law or son in law. Granted some families own boundaries are more lax and so anybody more easily fits in with them while other families have very rigid roles, boundaries, expectations such that nobody ever fits in.

I wonder too at (in the article) the husband's Mom. At one point in her life she married and would have been brought to the home of her Husband's family. I wonder how she was introduced to the family, how she fit in, where she was in the 'wife' order of daughters in law and how her own Mother in law treated her? Curious as to the Moms education, literacy level, worldliness etc.

I know a few Pakistani people and compared to Canadians they are aggressive. This is a generalization and I'm sure they're not aggressive within their own culture but compared to ours they come across as aggressive. Speech patterns, vocal intonation, mannerisms all come as aggressive sooooo the question becomes how does one 'fit in' so as to become accepted?

I have only two experiences re: being accepted. One is from decades ago when I was working with First Nations people. There are definitely strong cultural differences re: speaking patterns, eye contact, body language etc. Long story short but after approximately 7 yrs of working on this one Reserve I suddenly realized that everybody was joking around me, telling insider stories, relaxed. I'd finally become accepted (somewhat) as being OK and they no longer had to defer to me (which I never demanded or required it was just their way).

The other is my continued going to Trinidad where I've also lived. I'm liked. I'm talk to (and probably talked about) and invited to all manner of happenings but my sense is that I'm a "token" - a token white person. I'm included but there is no expectation that I 'know' any protocols or reasons why. When virtually everybody else is fasting I'm tacitly excused as not having to as I don't understand why I'm fasting (although I DO know the reason) and/or it is just plain I'm not 'them' so I don't have to.

All of this is ok by me and I feel quite comfortable being accepted only as a token however if I was actually married to whomever within that culture I might have felt quite different.

One last point. I'm old. I think I was born old and strong. I've always been 'me' and have never doubted me or my actions. I'm not tentative and trying to 'fit in' to be accepted. I do try to fit in so as to make others comfortable but - well just hard to explain.

Interesting article Hepzibah :a65: (I like the sun icon now that I've found it)

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Re: Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by Dusak » Wed Jun 22, 2016 4:27 am

No matter how well a document such as this is presented, at the end of the day its mainly just one persons view of things, as it has affected them, or how they guess it would. When a person integrates themselves into a totally opposite cultural family and their life style I view it as the English man that wants to own his own castle or a Rolls Royce. They see what they can only dream about, a thing that now exists in front of them, but remains just out of reach. They do not necessarily ask for things, but do, after awhile, expect a piece of the cake, usually the bigger slice. Of course, not all think, or expect this.

And if people find it an easy exercise to compromise their past, and sometimes strong religious beliefs to take a part in such new friendships/marriages, then they will find it easy to change their attitudes concerning almost anything.

Its an age long observation that a black male [native to his country] with a white person on their arm, within that persons social circles, is considered to be quite a catch, financially and sexually. Again not all see this as so, but more do than not. Visa versa, a white male with a black woman for company [in any country] usually forms just the one conclusion in folks minds, and not a financial one.

When the terms of ''you are now our brother/sister'' is just a term used in an attempt to get you, the wealthy newcomer that has become so deliriously happy that you have been excepted, to share, or take over, the family financial commitments. Again not all do this, but it is more common than not.

There are mixed couples that between them have nothing, just themselves and their love and devotion for each other. I think that they and their story paint a truer picture. If you receive a deep cut to your finger, you have to be able to see the possible results if you do not, first of all, stem the flow of blood, and secondly, treat the wound against infection that could, if left untreated, infect the rest of your body. All in my opinion of course.
Life is your's to do with as you wish- do not let other's try to control it for you. Count Dusak- 1345.

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Re: Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by HEPZIBAH » Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:16 am

Of course this article was only giving one woman's view, from her own personal experience. However, it illustrated for me some of my own observations on other peoples relationships. Very often, regardless of race, creed, colour, status, or wealth, one person is more the giver and the other the taker. I don't mean in terms of material things specifically, but in general terms of adapting to the life together rather than seperately.

No two relationships can ever be the same afterall, we are all very unique beings. There can usually be certain generalisations drawn however, and for me this article highlighted some of them, whether the author intended that or not.
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Re: Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by LovelyLadyLux » Thu Jun 23, 2016 7:45 am

I wonder if men worry as much about being accepted or fitting into another culture as women do?

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Re: Will I ever be accepted into my husband's culture?

Post by Frater0082 » Sun Jul 03, 2016 2:03 am

Yes we do at least I do some times

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