In my last post I talked about ways my husband and I found intercultural marriage easier than we expected. Today I’m tackling the inverse — the hard stuff! As I was thinking about this post. all sorts of disclaimers came to mind. I kept procrastinating writing this because 1) I don’t want to generalize or stereotype any experience and 2) it’s hard to balance honesty with privacy. So after some brainstorming on my own, I asked my husband what he would include without showing him my list and both our lists included the same categories below! Always a good sign!
- Food: Before our marriage, I knew we would have differences in our experiences with food, but I never knew the extent to which those differences would matter! I will never forget one of our first major arguments of our young marriage 9 years ago. I came home from work and made soup from scratch with bread and salad on the side. I served it with great pride and smiled when my new husband said it was delicious. Then he asked, “what’s for the dinner?” I burst into tears because in my family soup and salad was often the main dinner. His mother, on the other hand, routinely makes 2 or 3 different meat dishes always with noodles or rice and vegetables. In my family, we didn’t focus as much on the food part of dinner as much as the conversation. It was the opposite for in my husband’s Taiwanese American family where the delicious food played a central role. In fact, I was surprised at his house with the lack of conversation during dinner. They were all focused on eating or talking just about the food! It’s obvious that communication is key. After the Soup Incident we talked about what our expectations for a meal included. (And honestly my hubby started cooking more!) and we talked more during dinner time!
- Health and Medicine: I mentioned in the earlier post that my husband and I have different experiences and cultural views on medicine. This has been a positive in our marriage because I have learned so much about a brand-new category. It has also brought some surprising challenges that we work through intentionally. I have found that for me when it comes to my health or my children, I can become very defensive about any suggestions or comments. It is a personal subject and I have learned patience and perspective in listening to my husband or his family’s comments. I know that they have our best interests at heart. I used to feel offended at an auntie’s suggestions for my family but my husband encouraged me that it is a way that they show they care. Now after 9 years of marriage and living in Taiwan for a year, I find myself doing the same and offering unsolicited comments and suggestion to my girlfriends!
- Role of Extended Family: Like the first category about food, the role of our extended families is something that I was aware was a cultural difference in our marriage but I don’t think I fully understood at the beginning. I grew up in a very close immediate family. We moved nearly every year overseas and across the States. As my mom would say, the only thing that stays the same is God and your family. We visited extended family including grandparents every couple years in the summer. My husband’s family is, again, the opposite! His grandparents lived with him his entire life. He had aunts and uncles and cousins also live in the home at various parts of his childhood. And as the eldest son of 3 children, the expectation is that his parents will live with us if they want, someday! (Although full disclosure my sister in law cooks much better Chinese food so they may pick her!) I thought these differences growing up would be a burden in our marriage but it has really been a positive. It has been a challenge that we have had to communicate clearly.
I would love to hear about your experiences in an intercultural marriage as well! Positives and challenges alike!