Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Foreign Fiancé Wants me to Spend all My Vacation Time Visiting His Family”

I live in Belgium and am currently in a relationship with someone who grew up in Croatia. His mother is Belgian but lives there with his father, on a beautiful island. He moved here five years ago to study, and he has decided to stay since he’ll have more work opportunity here. We started our relationship one year and four months ago, and I can honestly say he’s everything I ever wanted. He asked me to marry him, and of course I said yes. We’ve been living together for eight months now, and, although we sometimes argue, it has been super. We even work together as a team (we work in advertising) and are successful in doing so.

The thing is, I don’t speak Croatian. I plan to, in the long run, but for now I only understand a few words. He wants to visit his family and friends every year, which I totally get. Last year I went with him, and stayed for one week while he was there one month. In this week I met his friends, who didn’t really bother to speak English although they can. He says it’s because they find it exhausting on their holiday. That means I felt like the third wheel the whole time. His family was no different, albeit very friendly and nice. I like his mom a lot.

He wants to go again this summer. And he wants me to come with him the whole two weeks he’ll be staying there. We would stay with his parents, as he always does. But, I feel like it’s not really a holiday for me, but more of one for him. I feel stressed out a lot during the year. I feel like I’m entitled to a relaxing holiday as well. So I told him I’d be glad to come for a week and then part ways. I am a very independent person who’s always traveled far and at times alone. I also want to meet up with girlfriends I don’t see very often anymore. But he’s really pushing the stay for two weeks together, even suggesting I stay home a few nights with his mom, as he goes out to party. Yeah, I’m not really feeling that one.

Also, the fact that we both live together and work together makes me feel a bit closed in. Is it selfish of me to want to take a holiday alone? Even just BE alone? Or should I do everything I can to meet his needs and fit in with his friends and family whom I can’t even speak to (save for his mom)? I feel kind of conflicted. I also asked him what would happen if we had kids? Would we always go there? And would his friends keep excluding me?

I could really use some advice. — Cross Cultural Divide

First of all, regardless of language and cultural boundaries, visiting one’s in-laws is rarely a “holiday,” so adjust your expectations on that front. For most people, part of being married does entail spending time with in-laws. If your in-laws are long-distance, you can pretty much count on traveling to see them at least once a year. That’s just the way it goes. Would it be selfish of you to refuse to accompany your soon-to-be husband on one of these trips? Not necessarily. My husband didn’t come to Germany with me this month to visit my parents, but his reasons were more financial than selfish. You aren’t even asking whether you can skip the whole visit. You just want to skip part of it, and I say that you’re entitled to that. Two weeks is a long time to spend with people who not only aren’t “your” people, but who also don’t speak a language you understand.

Frankly, I think it’s pretty selfish of your boyfriend, who met you in Belgium, to expect you to spend so much of your vacation time visiting his family in another country. And that he’s already planning to exclude you — i.e. leave you home with his mom while he goes out with his friends — is a red flag. If he wants time to spend alone with his boys, why is he so insistent that you not go home after a week? What is he afraid you’ll do left on your own? That’s what you need to find out. It almost sounds as if he wants his mother to babysit you or something.

And speaking of babies, it’s smart of you to begin a conversation of what travel to the in-laws will be like once you have kids. Does he still plan to visit his parents for several weeks every year? Would he want to bring kids for that whole time? Would his family be willing to help care for them? Would they be willing to come see you in the early years (traveling with babies is hard) instead? Do you have room to host them? There are no real right or wrong answers to these questions, but they’re definitely questions you need to ask now before you walk down the aisle and begin a family with this man.

The short answer to the question you’ve asked here, though, is: no, you are not being selfish in wanting to retain some individual free time away from your betrothed and his family. You met a men in your home country who happens to have grown up somewhere else. By marrying him, you will have to make some compromises that you wouldn’t have had you married one of your own countrymen. But it isn’t fair to think you should be the one making all the compromises. If your fiancé has chosen to marry a woman from his host country, he needs to be flexible with her travel schedule, patient as she learns his native language, and grateful that she’s willing to tackle the work necessary to bridge some of the gaps that exist in an international relationship. And if he isn’t those things, you better remind him to be before you marry him.

73 comments… add one
  • Budj

    Budj July 20, 2012, 9:05 am

    WWS!

    Definitely not selfish and I think it is really bogus his friends wouldn’t speak a common language and he didn’t push the issue more. That didn’t exactly add incentive for you to come back…

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    ebstarr July 20, 2012, 9:11 am

    Wow. I just have to say, if your fiance has sympathy for his friends who find the mere speaking of English “exhausting on their holiday,” why doesn’t he have sympathy for you finding it exhausting to spend multiple weeks of your holiday traveling to where *he* wants, staying in with his mom while he goes out, and listening to conversations you can’t understand with people who don’t seem interested in including you? Seems like that would be much more deserving of sympathy.

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      Guesteriffic July 20, 2012, 9:52 am

      I do think it’s incredibly selfish to go to a foreign country and expect the locals to speak your language, even if they are able to do so with proficiency. I was raised in Germany but live in the states. Whenever I go home I relish the opportunity to actually immerse myself in my native culture. I want to be as German as possible while I’m there. I want to feel at home. If I have to speak in English the entire time I’ll feel like a tourist. If you opt to come with me then you should understand that.

      That being said, I do think it’s BS that he’s pressuring her to come with him and spend what they both know is going to be a miserable two weeks in a foreign country – trapped and isolated. They should just opt to take separate vacation – him with his family in Croatia and her with … well, whomever she wants, wherever she wants.

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        Clare July 20, 2012, 10:10 am

        It’s not as if she is a tourist who is going to museums or restaurants and getting frustrated when people won’t speak to her in English. She is being deliberately excluded from the conversations with her fiance and his friends. I agree that they’re probably not likely to speak in English the entire time, but it seems strange to me that none of her fiance’s friends are interested in getting to know her (and that that doesn’t bother her fiance at all). She said she wants to learn Croatian, so I know now would be a great time to start. That could help start the conversation with her fiance’s friends to break the ice a little.

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        bethany July 20, 2012, 11:10 am

        I agree– Sure, she can quickly learn a few key phrases that will help when she’s out and about, but she’s not going to be able to really get to know his family and friends with her limites knowledge of the language. She wants to learn it, which is great, but she can’t be expected to be able to freely converse with these people in their language after such a short ammount of time.

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        Clare July 20, 2012, 11:47 am

        Yeah, I meant if she knows a few key words and phrases by the time they go to Croatia, that could help start the conversation with the friends. Obviously they will need to speak in English too, but just saying “Hi, how are you?” is better than nothing.

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        ele4phant July 20, 2012, 11:55 am

        I agree. It is obnoxious when tourists go to a foreign country and demand the local culture accommodate them. But she’s not a tourist, she’s essentially part of the family now.

        And it IS exhausting listening to a language you don’t understand (or barely understand) 24/7. Would it kill them to take brief breaks for English? Or briefly ask her a few questions so she feels like she exists? Or maybe every once in a while someone could briefly summarize what they’ve been talking about so she’s just not sitting there clueless all day long?

        And if she’s engaged a bit, she’ll have an easier time learning the language than if she just sits there mutely all two weeks.

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        ebstarr July 20, 2012, 10:26 am

        I agree with Clare; she’s not a tourist, she’s his fiance, and if these people are at a social gathering with someone who hasn’t yet had a chance to learn their language but there is an option to speak in a language everyone understands, it’s the bare minimum of good breeding to do so. It’s not like walking into a Croatian grocery and demanding that the cashier use English.

        (That said, that’s exactly why the fiance shouldn’t force her to come on such a long vacation — so that he has a chance to hang out with his friends and speak Croatian without being rude.)

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        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 10:37 am

        It is possible for people who are at a rather low level of a second language to switch back and forth and be more inclusive. When I lived in Russia while speaking almost none of the language, the younger generation would stop and chat with me, even when I was in all-Russian situations. They might be able to comment “We are talking about Star Wars, now,” or ask “Why do your men not shake our hands when they see us?” or “I don’t speak English very well. What do you think of Putin?” It was enough to be inclusive. The rest of the time, I listened carefully and tried to understand what they were saying, and the stronger speakers would translate bits and pieces for me, and share my comments with the group.

        When I got better, and was in Russia to observe theatre rehearsals, I would listen most of the time, but throw in comments in Russian of my own that showed I was following the conversation. They would watch my face and see that. If I was confused, they’d throw in an English word or sentence so I could catch up. I’d eat whole meals with people and puzzle over my language learning. And when I was alone with the younger ones (the same ones who had been inclusive the year before when I knew nothing) we would have short chats (Me, “You looked good in that show.” “I was wearing . . . no clothes.” “Da . . . bylo kryto!” [Yes . . . it was cool!” And then we’d crack up just because of the situation and the fact that I’d made a joke, and used a slang word, and chat about what other slang words I knew.

        I suspect the younger Croatians know rather a lot more English than some of the Russians I was talking to. With a little effort on both sides, it is possible to have a great time with people who don’t speak each other’s languages well.

        Why aren’t the LWs friends making the effort? Or the LW’s fiance? Or the LW?

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        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 11:13 am

        Argh, that should have been “kruto” not “kryto.” It’s easy to start code-switching even when typing…

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        Clare July 20, 2012, 12:08 pm

        You really can say more than you initially think, even with just a bit of language knowledge. In this case, it’s clear that most communication for everyone to understand would be in English, but in my experience, people really appreciate any effort you make to speak their language. I’m living in Spain for the summer and even though I am light years away from even full conversational abilities, I can get by and I can tell people are glad I don’t just walk in speaking English (especially since I’m trying to speak the regional language and not just Spanish). I can understand a lot more than I can say, and a little bit of effort can go a long way, even if you can only express things in a very basic manner.

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    bethany July 20, 2012, 9:17 am

    You asked: Is it selfish of me to want to take a holiday alone? Even just BE alone? NO- It’s not selfish. You agreed to spend 1 week there with his family. You tried to compromise. IMO, he’s the one being selfish.

    I see nothing wrong with spending a week with his family and then going off and doing whatever you wanted for the other week. If I told my husband that he was going to spend 2 weeks with my family, he wouldn’t do it. There’s no way he would. And I would never expect him to. I think your fiance is asking too much of you in this situation.

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    Muffy July 20, 2012, 9:19 am

    You should go with him to visit them but you don’t need to stay the whole time. Say you need to go back for work or something and then take your other week’s vacation some other time of the year to go away with your girlfriends (unless this is THE time to go then I guess you go…)

    The reason I say that you should take your alone or girlfriend vacation another time is that cutting your in-law trip short to go on your own vacation will likely rub your in-laws the wrong way and in-laws are already difficult enough to deal with (so I hear).

    I wouldn’t want to stay with them the whole two weeks either if I always felt like an outsider. For the one week you do plan on staying do you think you could learn some phrases and words in Croatian – maybe through rosetta stone or some other program? I think it would make things easier and make your time more enjoyable.

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      ktfran July 20, 2012, 9:44 am

      I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that living in Belgium, their holiday time is different than in the U.S. I wouldn’t be surprised if they always took two weeks at once, or if the company closed for two weeks. I’ve met people from other countries and a two week holiday, or more, is standard. Please someone, correct me if I’m wrong.

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        Lydia July 20, 2012, 1:45 pm

        Though I’m Dutch, not Belgian, the situation may be similar. Here we have a mandatory minimum of four weeks of paid vacation time a year – some employers choose to give more. These four weeks can be used in whatever way you want; all at once, a week here and there, or even in single days spread out over the year (most people do a combination of these). A two week holiday is a pretty standard amount of time to take off in summer.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar July 20, 2012, 9:21 am

    Your compromise of one week there and one week away on your own was perfect! You see his family one week – even though only the mother can talk to you – and then you spend the next week with friends or doing your own thing….AND he can spend that time seeing his friends with no problem since his plan was to meet up with his boys and not even have you present. You weren’t asking him to cut short his trip for you and to join you on your holiday – which quite frankly would be a valid compromise as well – he picks one week and you pick the other…you are telling him he is free to spend all of his holiday the way he wants and you will spend the last half of yours doing what you want. Since relationships take compromise – ask him explicitly what he is willing to compromise with respect to your holidays. Your compromises are clear and more than fair.
    There is such a thing as setting precedent, my dear. Be firm and set the one you want now – because this is not a fight you want to have every year of your life together.

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    • katie

      Katie July 20, 2012, 9:47 am

      You make an awesome point about setting a precedent. This is true of many things, but is really needed here. He needs to understand that you don’t see spending your whole vacation at his parents as fun. If you let it go now, this will become your yearly vacation.. And that is a recipe for resentment disaster.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom July 20, 2012, 11:44 am

      And they aren’t just setting a precedent for how they’ll spend their vacations. They’re establishing how they work out differences of opinion in their life.

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    Muffy July 20, 2012, 9:21 am

    Just as an aside – I agree that you don’t have to go for the whole 2 weeks – 1 week is fine – I just think it will rub your in-laws the wrong way if the reason you are only staying for a week is to go on another vacation. I would go back to work after that week and then take my alone/girlfriend vacation (which you are definitely allowed to do!) another time

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    Clare July 20, 2012, 9:22 am

    I think going for one out of the two weeks is definitely a good compromise! I have a similar kind of situation with my boyfriend (traveling home every summer for vacation) but I actually really enjoy spending time at his parents’ house and with his family, so it works out okay — plus, we’re both grad students so we have flexibility with vacation dates and working from other places. But, this issue has come up with his sister-in-law. They have to fly out to visit the family and generally come for 10-14 days, but I know his sister-in-law wants to only come every other year, and it has caused a lot of tension (especially since there are grandchildren involved). Wendy is definitely right to suggest that you get this figured out BEFORE you have kids because that will only exacerbate any tension you already have in regards to this issue.

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      Clare July 20, 2012, 9:24 am

      Also, I think you should work more “alone” time into your everyday life — if you live and work together, you definitely need to make time for your own hobbies and friends so you can have not just your life with your fiance, but also your own individual life. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting some separate time and space.

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        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 10:26 am

        Absolutely. It can be too easy to get wrapped up in yourself as a couple to a detrimental degree, and it becomes hard if you don’t have time to recharge (alone, if you are an introvert, and surrounded by friends, if you are an extrovert).

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle July 20, 2012, 9:24 am

    Yes, you are entitled to spend at least a week of your time off with girlfriends or however you want. Staying one week with your fiance & one week on your own shouldn’t be a problematic request– it sounds perfectly reasonable.

    I’d approach this calmly but firmly with your fiance– just tell him you’ll be spending a week on your own to catch up with old friends/relax/etc. If he’s overly insistent that you stay with him & his family the entire time, that’s kind of bad news.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh July 20, 2012, 9:25 am

    I feel like there are a few different issues going on here.

    First, living with your teammate at work has to be stressful. My husband and I might make a good couple but I’m not sure we’d be as a great of a couple if we worked together every day. That’s a lot of togetherness. Perhaps you need to find ways to have more ‘me’ time aside from your yearly vacation.

    Second, it’s tricky when your in-laws live far away because a lot of you vacation does go to visiting family. Most of our vacation time goes to visiting family, sometimes it does get a little frustrating. Do you live close to your family now? Do you think your fiance is jealous of the amount of time you get with your family? If so perhaps some of his issues of wanting you to spend more time with his family are because of that. Although the whole wanting you to stay home while he parties is not cool, that’s a great example of why a week together and a week separate would be perfect.

    And lastly maybe he’s a little hurt that you haven’t learned to speak more of his native language yet and just hasn’t said anything? Not that I think after a year and a half you should be able to speak/understand Croatian. Have you tried to get him to help you learn some words? There is really no excuse from his friends, it was pretty rude. Although another great example of why one week together and one week separate would be great. It’s completely different hanging out with old friends with and without you s.o. At least I think it is, especially if there is a language barrier.

    Like Wendy said I would talk to him and if he is adamant about not being flexible at all I’d take a step back too. Does he dominate all the decision making in your lives? Is that really what you want in a marriage?

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      spark_plug July 20, 2012, 10:16 am

      I don’t think he has any reason to be hurt that she hasn’t learned to speak her language. Learning a new language is hard – especially when you’re working full time and living with someone. I’m eastern european and I would never expected someone to learn my language. Maybe a few pleasantries like hello or how are your or thank you – but that’s about it. Learning a language is a huge investment and time commitment – I’d honestly rather spend some quality time with my significant other having fun rather than having them struggle to learn a new language so that *I* can be happy.

      Which brings me to a second point – being eastern european, I know that some people are very nationalistic. I once had a guy break up with me because I’m from one eastern european country and he’s from another – my family and I could naturally understand only 20% of his language – which wasn’t good enough for him. I personally chose not to date men from Eastern Europe anymore but that’s my choice – my comment to the LW would be however just to stand firm on her demands. It’s great he loves his family and country so much, but he shouldn’t be placing that love over his love for you. A lot of times these men might not even realize they are doing so – so you gently, but firmly, need to remind him so.

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        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 10:24 am

        Well, I’m a native English speaker and I learned to speak Russian in three years to a fairly advanced level. I may not be typical–perhaps I am a bit more naturally inclined towards language learning than most Americans who have grown up surrounded by one tongue (I’m from the South). But I was highly motivated. Isn’t a relationship worth marrying for worth working hard on learning a second language?

        A friend of our family–native English speaker–learned enough Ukrainian to converse with his future father in law and ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and get through the wedding, in Ukrainian. He did that in less than a year, without them actually living together.

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        jlyfsh July 20, 2012, 10:59 am

        i think you are probably special 😉 i’m definitely one of the not very good at learning new languages people. and i don’t necessarily think she needs to be fluent but like you said learning a few words/phrases to converse with his family might be all he is expecting. or he might not be upset about that at all. just something i think the LW should consider and talk to her fiance about.

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        MMcG July 20, 2012, 11:31 am

        Just an anecdote: 6 years of foreign language study – middle school, high school and college – I still can’t even begin to speak French. My brain just doesn’t work that way (typical right brain/left brain thing) and not only can I not read music, or draw a straight line… it took me 4 years of speech therapy in elementary school to speak English correctly (couldn’t even pronounce my own name because I could not say R)!!

        It’s not a matter of the LW not wanting to or learning the language… it’s the issue of people, including her fiance, knowingly excluding her from conversation — when they have the ability to speak her language a bit – and making her feel like a crappy outsider. Seriously, if there was no language barrier involved what would we say to a LW who wrote in about the week’s vacation they took when their fiance basically ignored them the entire time in favor of old friends!?!

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        spark_plug July 20, 2012, 3:31 pm

        Although even if she didn’t want to learn it, I think it’s okay. I mean, it’s not like she’ll be moving to Croatia for her fiance. Or at least I wouldn’t expect my significant other to learn to speak the native language of a country I don’t live in anymore.

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        SpaceySteph July 20, 2012, 11:04 am

        3 years is still a long time though. They haven’t even been dating for 2 and I doubt anyone would be “highly motivated” to learn a language for a guy they just started dating so she probably didn’t decide to learn until they got more serious.
        And for some without a flair for language (I studied Hebrew for years in grade school, starting at age 6, and in the height of practicing could barely choke out a sentence) it can take many years to gain any sort of proficiency.

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        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 11:18 am

        That is true. And I was also fortunate to discover that I *could* learn a new language so well when I was already 26, which is fairly late to begin serious language study. I think my point was better summarized in my post further up–that it is possible to communicate rather a lot even if both sides have a limited amount of a language. As different as Russian is from English, we managed to communicate. A few words here, a few words there, and I made connections with people. But the effort had to come earnestly from both sides…

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        camorzilla July 20, 2012, 12:28 pm

        Were you living in Russia? Was your friend living in Ukraine? It’s MUCH easier (in my opinion) to learn a new language in the country instead of doing it by yourself. The LW does know a few words. Yes she could make more of an effort but if her fiance, his family, and friends aren’t willing to help her learn and just want her to magically be fluent then that’s kind of a big issue.

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        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 8:58 pm

        My friend was living in NYC and had never lived in Ukraine. His fiancee was Ukrainian, and she helped him learn.

        I spent three months in Russia before studying any Russian (study abroad) and then returned to the US. Because I decided I wanted to move to Moscow for a while, I then spent a year in self-study (with no one to talk to), which was enough to allow me to test into second-year level Russian when I did an immersion course. Then I went to Russia, and did the immersion course twice more. So yes–I did very intense study. But just by myself I was able to reach “advanced beginner” which allowed me to be conversational (again, at a basic level) after one year of study–with no one Russian-speaking to talk to.

        The LW does have a live in Croatian speaker, which seems to me to be a distinct advantage. I think my point is that 1) if you are really determined, you can surprised how much you can learn on your own (especially if you live with a native speaker) and 2) that communication is possible with very low language skills, if both parties make an effort to reach out to the other.

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        Anthrocuse July 20, 2012, 5:06 pm

        yes you’re a fast learner, but if the LW is Belgian AND works in Belgium, she likely speaks three languages already and should have a higher ability to adapt to a new language.

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        Lydia July 20, 2012, 5:53 pm

        I think you’re overestimating the language abilities of the regular Belgian a bit… I was in Brussels a few weeks ago and most people I met only spoke French, or at best some broken English.

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    • katie

      katie July 20, 2012, 12:19 pm

      i understand both sides of this language issue, but i see this as a larger issue… more as just a general lack of wanting to get to know the LW. i mean, if my best friend brought a fiance from a foreign country i would be especailly concerned with getting over the language barrier and making them feel comfortable. and the whole “its exhausting” part of speaking another language i just dont understand…

      i feel like its kind of similar to when my dad comes to my house, i dont serve him pork, because he doesnt eat pork. thats a courtesy i give him… i feel like these friends wouldnt do that. its more of just a language thing… they just dont really want to get to know her it sounds like to me.

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        jlyfsh July 20, 2012, 12:46 pm

        i don’t disagree, i was just putting it out there as something she should talk to her fiance about. i mean i definitely think his friends were being rude. and maybe he didn’t defend them because he’s upset she can’t speak more of his language, or because he really enjoys being able to relax and speak in his native language, NOT that it’s ok for him brush his friend’s actions off the way he did because of that. more of a reason in my opinion why the splitting up of vacation time just makes sense!

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      • katie

        katie July 20, 2012, 12:48 pm

        oh yea, i definitely agree with you too.. i just think this goes deeper then just a simple language barrier… there is more to this specific issue, i think.

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    Sasa July 20, 2012, 9:31 am

    Don’t hesitate to put all your concerns on the table and openly discuss them with your bf, be it with respect to the holiday or the issues with living together and working together. Tell him if you need more space for yourself. Just tell him all you’ve written here. And don’t be afraid of a fight. If you don’t do it now this stuff is only going to cause problems once you’re married. Part of getting ready to be married is to find a way to resolve such conflicts.

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  • katie

    katie July 20, 2012, 9:37 am

    i think that this same advice would apply even if you werent visiting his family and you were just going somewhere he wanted to go or he had planned… one person in the relationship shouldnt dictate where you spend your entire vacation, period. you should, as a team, decide. of course you should understand that he wants to see his family, and understand that he probably wants you to come as well- you are already a part of that family if you are planning on marrying him, right? it is natural for him to want you there… but at the same time, it is ok for you to not want to spend all your time there. i totally agree that is not a “vacation”.

    me and my boyfriend run into this sometimes too, but we know that there should always be three vacations- one for my family, one for his, and one for just us- one that is actually relaxing, and a real vacation, you know? now, the fact that your family is where you live (im assuming) makes it easier- thats two vacations. one for his family, and one for just you guys (or with friends or whatever- but its the “fun” one).

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      Clare July 20, 2012, 9:54 am

      I like the 3 vacation thing! That’s a great approach to making sure you have a nice vacation together but that both people get to see their families too. It’s holidays that really complicate things…

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        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 10:21 am

        Unfortunately, as my hubby and I know, three vacations (especially of any length and together) can be very difficult if you are working from home or self-employed. I guess the letter does not indicate that they *do* work from home–just that they work together. But I wonder if there aren’t other factors here.

        Aren’t two weeks vacation rather little for Europe? Many countries give three weeks or more. Is it possible that there *is* another vacation possibility and this is part of why he isn’t compromising in this case?

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      • katie

        katie July 20, 2012, 12:28 pm

        yea its hard for a lot of people to take 3 vacations.. i mean, i havent even done that every year, but its the ideal, you know, for two people who both want to see their families.

        i guess another plan would be 2 vacations a year, one being “fun” and the other being to one side of the family, and then you switch each year the side of the family…

        i guess bottom line is just that it should be equal, and you should be able to have a “fun” vacation, because lets be real, visiting family is not always fun.

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      • katie

        katie July 20, 2012, 12:32 pm

        oh, and about europe’s vacation system… they may be changing. i remember hearing a thing on NPR about the upcoming french elections (this was some months ago) and they were talking to french people about who they were voting for and why.. .and this one guy was voting for the one guy because he was going to change the system related to vacation, and national holidays or something like that.. and he was all, “we have to be more like the chinese! they will work 24 hours a day if they have to!!” and i was just like NOOOO french guy please do not give up your wonderful way of life!!! dont do it!!

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom July 20, 2012, 9:42 am

    Please wait to get maried until you’ve worked out this issue so that both of you are satisfied. If you don’t this will eat away at your marriage and people do get divorced over unresolved issues. If you have a relationship that will last a lifetime it will last a few more years while you work out issues and if it doesn’t last a few years while working out issues you will have dodged a divorce.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray July 20, 2012, 9:49 am

    Wait, he drags you to a beautiful Croatian island to vacation for multiple weeks a year?! I say dump that mother fucker! I’m kidding, WWS.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray July 20, 2012, 9:51 am

      p.s. Do you live in Bruges? Cutest. Town. Ever. I was there in 1997 and at the time I bought a pair of red suede New Balances that I still have. I could really go for some ice cream-topped waffles and a side of fries with a bowl of mayo about right now. … And then mix it all together. Yum!

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        iwannatalktosampson July 20, 2012, 10:40 am

        Too far Addie, too far. Mayo belongs on nothing.

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        Nadine July 20, 2012, 11:12 am

        Mayo is so gross, and when you order chips in a pun in England they bring them to you with a bowl of mayo and a bowl of tomato sauce. To mix. I am disgusted.

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      • avatar

        Nadine July 20, 2012, 11:13 am

        *in a pub, not a pun…..

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      • SweetsAndBeats

        SweetsAndBeats July 20, 2012, 4:05 pm

        Try saffron aoili, which is just a fancy way of saying mayo with saffron in it! So fucking delicious on crispy fries.

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        Clare July 20, 2012, 10:54 am

        Mayo is gross, but Bruges is amazing!

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      • FireStar

        FireStar July 20, 2012, 11:14 am

        Ignore them Addie – spicy mayo and frites is amazing. And hello…. how can you have a BLT without mayo?

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        MMcG July 20, 2012, 11:34 am

        I’m on Team Mayo for you here AP!!!! No need for the hostility for such a lovely condiment that I enjoy in salads, sandwishes and dips… of course I can eat straight too so I might not be the most normal;)

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        Lydia July 20, 2012, 1:50 pm

        Yes! Fries and mayo are the best thing ever. Especially Belgian mayo, with that tinge of sourness. Mmmmmm.

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      • Moneypenny

        Moneypenny July 20, 2012, 2:53 pm

        Ew on the mayo, but the waffle with ice cream sounds delicious!

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        lets_be_honest July 20, 2012, 2:59 pm

        Try horseradish mixed with ketchup. Mmmmmm.

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      • avatar

        MMcG July 20, 2012, 3:58 pm

        aka… Cocktail sauce:) excellent with a dash of worchester!

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  • avatar

    demoiselle July 20, 2012, 10:18 am

    I’d be concerned that this early in the relationship your fiance isn’t willing to compromise on such a basic issue. Yes, he wants to visit his family. Yes, he wants you to be a part of it. Yes, he wants to speek his native language (and wants you to learn it as well).

    But one week is plenty of time, and it isn’t too much for him to ask friends who do speak English to spend the time you are hanging out switching back and forth as they feel comfortable, to make you feel included. The rest of the time, he can be generous and inclusive and translate for you. The whole idea that he’d want to leave you behind with his mom so he can continue to hang out with his friends alone show there are problems–he wants to get away for some time.

    And that’s natural. You, too, are expressing concern about the stresses of living and working together all the time. It’s hard. My husband and I both spend a lot of time working from home, in the same office. Fortunately, we don’t do the same job, or it would be even worse. We are having to learn to find activities to get us out of the house–together or separately.

    It might help ease his stubbornness about two weeks in Croatia if you start learning Croatian aggressively and begin speaking it at least part of the time at home. Perhaps then he’d feel a little less “deprived” and a bit more eager to compromise. But in the end, I think the ball is in his court, and he’s being quite inflexible.

    Remember that these traits that you are seeing early in the relationship will only grow more pronounced as time passes.

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    • avatar

      ginger July 20, 2012, 11:27 am

      If I were the LW I don’t think I would have the motivation to put extra effort into “aggressively” learning a language, without a guarantee that that the fiancee would be willing to take the other steps you discuss. Why should she, when it sounds like hes probably going to do exactly what he (and his friends) want to do whether she likes it or not.

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      • avatar

        demoiselle July 20, 2012, 11:52 am

        Good point, also. His behavior does give reason for pause.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom July 20, 2012, 12:04 pm

        Hi behavior may be cultural. There are lots of Eastern Europeans in England and when we were there this summer we were watching a show where a man bought a house without talking to his wife. When asked about that he said he’s the man and if his wife disagrees she’ll have to get over it.

        The LW needs to proceed cautiously because she needs to find out her fiance’s assumptions about marriage and the roles of men and women in a marriage. They could both have assumptions that don’t match and not realize it. He may think it’s natural for the guys to go out together and for the women to stay home together. He may assume he chooses vacations as in where, when and how long.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle July 20, 2012, 12:10 pm

        re: your last paragraph– I’m definitely getting the same vibe.

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        Savannah July 20, 2012, 12:24 pm

        This is exactly what I was thinking when I read the letter. Cross cultural relationships are hard! I think people underestimate how hard. Culture is not just the funny hats great uncle wears or the way my grandmother says ‘ut’ instead of out (canadians…) but the values we live our life by and how we filter in the world around us. It’s kind like going up a level in the dating game. Now not only do you have to find a guy whose value system matches yours, you have to do it with two different value spectrums.

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      • katie

        katie July 20, 2012, 12:44 pm

        yea, i definitely picked up on that as well.. it reminds me of the gypsy shows here in the US, where the men go out, make all the money and make all the decisions, and the women stay home, have babies and clean.

        my slovac coworker has told me that there are lots of gypsys in eastern europe.. is eastern europe, i wonder, as a whole just less progressive then western europe? i would assume that, but i dont actually know.

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      • avatar

        spark_plug July 20, 2012, 3:38 pm

        This is exactly why I don’t date Eastern European men unless they moved when they were very very young or born outside of Eastern Europe. I had a Polish boyfriend and he would get jealous when I even talked to guys on a professional basis, much less hung out with guy friends. He was actively trying to convince me that Poland was the coolest thing ever, even though we both have equally deep roots – and at the same time, he did not care to learn anything about my culture.

        His friends would speak Polish all the time, but since I don’t really understand it that well and always midunderstood things they spoke in English on my behalf (granted, are living in the US so it was easier for them).

        I’m sure that the LW’s fiance is a very nice guy, but this is something to keep an eye on. I’m def not one to want to stereotype, but from my experience, I stay away from Eastern European men as far as possible for these very reasons, unless proven otherwise.

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  • avatar

    Daisy July 20, 2012, 10:37 am

    I’m in a situation more like your boyfriend’s side of the equation (I live in my bf’s country and only get to see my own family about once a year), and I still think the LW is completely justified in wanting to cut her time with his family to a week.

    To be honest, since I get so little time with family I’m happy to have them all to myself when I visit! Don’t get me wrong – I love my boyfriend and am incredibly excited for him to come home with me for the first time next month (eeeee!!). But it’s also nice when I go alone and get to completely immerse myself in my own language with my family and childhood friends who’ve known me forever.

    That said, I see it as a perfect compromise that you’d go for one week and he’d stay for another week. That way he’ll get to show you off and take you to all his special places, but then he’ll also have time after you leave to bond with his friends and do other stuff that might just bore you (ie. I’m a little worried about what my bf will do while I’m catching up on all my shopping!)

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  • avatar

    Daisy July 20, 2012, 10:49 am

    Also, I’d say it’s a red flag if your bf’s friends don’t make any effort with you and it doesn’t bother him. I had a relationship for a year and a half with a guy whose friends totally ignored me — it was before I was confident in their language, and they also couldn’t be bothered to speak English (which I do understand, but they all had British or American parents so it shouldn’t have been such a big deal). Anyway, it really upset me that they’d barely even say hi to me, and my boyfriend would basically laugh about it! Like, I’d be in tears and he’d say, “Oh, haha, they’re jerks, just ignore them.”

    Looking back, if he’d been serious he would’ve told his friends, “This is my girlfriend and she’s important to me. You don’t have to be best friends with her, but you do have to have the decency and respect to smile and say hello when she comes over.” That’s not asking for a lot!

    If you haven’t already, tell your boyfriend that it makes you uncomfortable that his friends leave you out (and that HE leaves you out when he’s with his friends). Maybe he genuinely doesn’t realize (it’s possible he’s so caught up with seeing his old buddies that he kind of loses track of everything else). Maybe he’ll be more aware and make more of an effort to include you next time; or maybe he’ll agree that it’d be better and more fun for both of you if he stayed in Croatia alone to hang out with his friends after your part of the trip.

    But if he keeps insisting you stay the whole 2 weeks AND he continues to not include you with his friends, then I’d say it’s a potential dealbreaker. I only knew how much how I resented my ex-bf when I met my current bf’s friends for the first time and they made a real effort to get to know AND my bf translated what I didn’t understand. I used to think I was being to needy by wanting my ex’s friends to say hello and treat me like a human. Now I’m just sorry I wasted so much time!

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  • avatar

    Anna July 20, 2012, 11:21 am

    You guys live together and work together and you haven’t torn each other’s heads off yet? When I was with my ex, we worked at the same place on the same shift for about a year while living together. We were literally together 24/7, right down to sharing the commute to and from work. That was too much togetherness for us, and we started to fight about stupid little stuff. Things went back to terrific when I got a promotion to a different department and went on a different shift. No matter how perfect your relationship is, you have to have alone time.

    About the vacation, you have every right to want to use part of your time off to hang out with people you miss and do relaxing vacation stuff by yourself. It sounds like he’s being a little controlling. I mean, he asked you to stay home with his mother while he goes out with his friends?! That’s not normal. The compromise you suggested is perfect and he should be willing to work with you. If he’s going to insist that you can’t do anything fun without him and balk at the idea that you have people in your life you would like to spend time with, that’s a huge red flag that maybe he is controlling and maybe you should think twice before marrying him.

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  • avatar

    MMcG July 20, 2012, 11:43 am

    “But he’s really pushing the stay for two weeks together, even suggesting I stay home a few nights with his mom, as he goes out to party.”

    Ummmm, either he’s a clueless jerk, or a selfish jerk, but the notion of telling someone you love and want to marry that you want them to follow you to whatever vacation you decide and then can stay at home with mom while he has fun is HELL TO THE NO CRAZY CRAY! I wouldn’t even tolerate it if it was a 2 hour car ride…

    Where is your family? Does he spend a lot of time with them in Belgium so maybe there’s some bean-counting going on and he wants to make the time “even”? I just don’t understand the dynamic, or why neither of you seem to be mature enough to say that you need some time and space to yourselves!?! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to catch up with old friends from home… it’s baby red flag that he wants you to hang around waiting for him at home while he has the fun… it’s a HUGE red flag if he doesn’t extend the same courtesy to you and allow you to spend quality time with your friends. LW, you didn’t really touch on what your home life is like but it sounds like maybe y’all moved a little too fast and might need to take a step back, take some premarital counseling… take some online tests about where you see yourself in 5, 10 years.

    Definitely follow-up on the children conversation, etc. etc. but if at the end of the day you are the only one trying to compromise and/or there are other controlling factors involved… you need to know that you are entitled to whatever space or vacationing or whatever that you want in a relationship… and somewhere there is a partner who would embrace these choices, not badger you and make you feel bad about not wanting to be left behind with mommy while your fiance has a good night on the town with his boys.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina July 20, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Your boyfriend is acting selfish about this situation, but he may not even know he’s really doing that. It should be expected that both of you make compromises in terms of the languages spoken while both of you are present. You’re already feeling uncomfortable being surrounded by his family and friends where you can’t communicate with them very well, and you’re not feeling at home. I recommend trying to get to know more of his culture, like the food, the traditions, and ask that your boyfriend also try to meet you half way with his family including you more and speaking more English when they can. There are plenty of ways to get around language barriers. It sounds like you have only met his family one time too, which is not a lot of time to get to know them or make any kind of lasting impression.

    A few things I’ve been wondering..LW, are you originally from Belgium? Do you speak French or German, or is English your first language? Do you speak any languages that your boyfriend does not? Because I could see that as being part of the reason why you feel he is acting selfish, if there is a language that he may be unwilling to learn, or a culture that he is not a part of. I think it’s great that you plan to learn Croatian eventually, but in no way should you be expected to be fluent by now.

    I used to live in Hong Kong, where they speak Cantonese Chinese and prior to moving there, I only knew some Mandarin Chinese, which is much easier to learn. I got by on English, and admittedly had no desire to learn Cantonese, which ended up being fine, until I started dating a Cantonese guy. I felt so isolated around his family because they didn’t know any English, and I hated when his friends would stop speaking English in front of me, because I wondered if they were talking about me right there. I suddenly became self-conscious of every little thing I did that would make me look like an American, and that they were judging me for that. I felt like I had to try too hard to be accepted by his family, and it became so stressful to even go over to have dinner with them, because I felt like his family wasn’t trying to include me, to make me feel at ease.

    So talk to your boyfriend and go over the expectations for each other. He is your fiancé, and he should make some sacrifices to make you comfortable with his family as well. Whatever the reasons are, he is being selfish for expecting you to be a-okay with being around his family so much, regardless of different cultures. Adding in a second family takes time, and it doesn’t always go smoothly for everyone. So wanting to spend some time on your own is completely reasonable.

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  • avatar

    Chicago-Dude July 20, 2012, 1:46 pm

    In any situation, there are 3 things you have control over:
    1. What/how you think
    2. What you say
    3. What/how you act.

    General concensus leans to your fiance either being glib of your predicament or edging toward the side of selfish on this vacation issue. So are you letting your thoughts/feelings of deficienty known to him?
    You have the right idea to negotiate/pick your battles and opting to spend a week instead of 2 sounds fair – if that is what you want. During this week (assuming you don’t budge), do you intend on engaging his non-English friends with whatever phrases/lack there of of Croatian that you know? Basically, are you being proactive and doing in “Rome as the Romans?”

    That sometimes can be the tipping factor to help them better know you.
    I have been in your fiance’s position (I’m Ghanaian and my fiancee is American, for reference) – and at Ghana-centered parties/events, I do my best to include her (when pidgin is being spoken), but when she throws that attempt to be inclusive the reaction is generally embrasive (is that even a word?). It brightens the mood, she feels good and the party/socializing continues.
    Otherwise, I think Wendy and the remainder of the commenters covered this quite well.

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  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny July 20, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Totally agree with Wendy! I’m not sure if I’m adding anything new, but…

    I see nothing wrong with splitting your vacation time, spending time with him and his family, and then doing your own thing. I’m the same way, totally comfortable with traveling alone, and if it’s just part of your personality to need that time alone to recharge and do your own thing, then he *hopefully* should understand. It would be a red flag to me if he did not.

    Regarding the language barrier- I spent some time (3 weeks, a vacation) in Germany visiting my pen pal, who is native German (but speaks excellent English). I had never studied the language in any capacity beforehand, but I worked on learning some basic phrases and pronunciation beforehand, carried a dictionary at all times, and really tried to pick up on as much as I could. It was really hard, of course, as it’s always been a struggle for me to learn a foreign language, even Spanish back in elementary school. My friend’s friends all wanted to talk to me, though, the American, and try out their English on me! They were more than nice to me. Even at my friend’s grandfather’s birthday party (with all of her family members), I had such a hard time understanding any of the conversations happening, but I could get a general idea of what they were talking about, and my friend would whisper what people were talking about at the dinner table. Long story short, it’s possible that the friends of the BF in this letter are just being lazy, or are jerks. But it’s also possible the LW hasn’t taken much effort into learning Croatian (as in, when in Rome…) I think it’s important to try as much as possible, especially since they’re getting married and she’ll also be marrying into a culture that is a little different than her own. But in the meantime, it’s not terribly kind of the BF to not stick up for her or not take her concerns seriously. I think there is a happy medium that she could try to find, whether it’s taking her own vacation on her own, or learning more of the language so she doesn’t feel as isolated when visiting his family.

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