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Cultural Misgivings

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This topic contains 49 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by avatar Silvermoonlight 6 days, 4 hours ago.

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  • #847365 Reply
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    ConfusedBride

    Hi everyone! My fiancé and I have been dating for about 5+ years now and engaged for about a year, so I know his family pretty well. They are the typical upper or middle class American family that is educated but rarely travels outside of the US. They also tend to agree with moderate political views so they are not close-minded but still lean a bit conservative.
    My family is very urban and international. We travel a lot and we came to the US when I was very young because of my parent’s job promotion. We lean a bit conservative too but have a slightly different perspective on cultural norms. My wedding is abroad, so that more of my side of the family can attend the wedding. Travel to my and from home country is expensive and a lot of my family, especially my older relatives, will not be able to make it if I have my wedding in the states. I also had most of my youth there, so it would be a way for me to pay homage that would blend both cultures together. I plan to have another celebration for friends and my fiance’s family in the states in case they can’t travel abroad either. My fiancé’s family is making a pretty honest effort to learn about my home country, which I appreciate. It’s great that they are, but my fiancé and I both noticed a few awkward things in this process.

    The latest was when I was a bit taken aback when my fiancé’s grandparent asked about cultural foods in my country, which has some Latin influence. The question was posed jokingly and the food suggestions were stereotypical TexMex foods that have nothing to do with my culture. My fiancé interjected with actual food suggestions relative to my culture because he realized how offensive it sounded. We did our best to glaze over it in front of my fiancé’s family because I wasn’t about to make a scene, but I was definitely insulted by it because it sounded a bit off.

    Some other comments they also keep asking imply issues with safety and the lower standards of living. My country is a developing country so I can understand their concerns, but some of it does tend to border on insulting and even a bit degrading.

    Overall, I am not sure how to handle their concerns and do my best not to give outward appearances of being impatient or insulted but I know this will be an issue as we go further into wedding planning and our marriage. How do I deal with their lack of awareness of my culture and my reactions to it? My fiancé has also asked about ways he can help bridge that cultural gap but I’m not sure how to handle it myself.

    #847367 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    I think you want to keep in mind that they mean well:

    “My fiancé’s family is making a pretty honest effort to learn about my home country, which I appreciate. It’s great that they are…”

    It seems like they’re doing their best. Your fiancé could kindly explain to them that it’s a little hurtful to you when they talk about lower standards of living in your country. I think it’s kind of on him to put a stop to that. If they have any safety concerns they should read about them online, starting with the state department website, not bother you with them.

    The food thing, I mean, they honestly just don’t know, and you can’t fix their ignorance of other cultures. A lot of Americans are pretty clueless about this stuff.

    I don’t know, it really sounds like they’re trying, and I wouldn’t make a big thing of it. Maybe just some gentle explaining on your fiancés part.

    #847372 Reply

    He should take the lead and give them some cultural lessons. Ask him to do that.

    #847373 Reply
    bittergaymark
    Bittergaymark

    Eh… you are throwing your wedding in the land of your long ago faraway childhood home which you all apparently up and left a billion years ago because it’s more convenient for you. And the rest of your family. NEWSFLASH: it’s not very convenient for your fiancé and his family. Far from it.
    .
    Funny, since your family is so much more “worldly” and sophisticated you’d think they’d be the most up for international traveling to your wedding, but, oh no. Of course not.
    .
    This is not a battle I would engage much in. Especially as you’ve clearly already won the war. (Less of his will now be able to attend your wedding. If you are keeping score, which I somehow suspect you are.) The fact that such a mild offense — a confused question passed off as a bad joke by the elderly) had you even think about making a scene reveals you to me just yet another run of the mill boring Bridezilla. Yawn…

    #847375 Reply
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    ktfran
    Participant

    My original thought was akin to @kate‘s. A lot of people in the U.S. don’t ever take the time to learn about other cultures. TV/Movies doesn’t help with stereotypes. It’s unfortunate. Don’t take their ignorance as a personal assault, but as a chance to educate them. I also agree with @kate and @anonymousse that your fiance should take the lead.

    I totally understand how it’s super annoying. You could easily excuse yourself for a few minutes, take some deep breaths, let your fiance handle and then rejoin them.

    #847379 Reply
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    ConfusedBride

    Would it be best to approach this piecemeal, like every time it’s brought up or would it be more like my fiancé actually having a sit-down conversation to address it?

    I’m not a very confrontational person so I think the piecemeal approach might be better but I’ve never really dealt with this before. I’ve spoken to close friends about my culture before to give them my perspective but this is more of a lifelong and intimate relationship that could benefit from a sit-down. I don’t want to inflame anything either.

    #847380 Reply
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    ConfusedBride

    Also thanks so far for the advice @kate, @ktfran and @anonymousse

    #847382 Reply
    Copa
    Copa
    Participant

    Uh. I don’t think this is worth being upset or insulted over at all. Surely there are countries/cities you know little about or which you have misconceptions about, right? Because I think that’s true of everyone, regardless of political leanings (I’m not sure why you thought this was relevant, tbh), even if you travel often.

    I went to a wedding outside of Cape Town, South Africa, in February. I’m very well traveled. I was excited to visit, but I’d also heard and read a lot about the crime and issues they have there. Asking the bride about certain safety issues when the Internet had mixed results (e.g., is it safe to cab at night alone?) didn’t mean I was ignorant or insulting anyone. I was trying to stay safe.

    Similarly, my mom is from Mexico City, which is a city that seems to scare many people in the U.S. I’ve thought about getting married there and wouldn’t be defensive if I received questions about it as a destination because I know the common perceptions of the city.

    I agree that you can use this as an opportunity to educate people. Do you have a wedding website? If so, you can put information about the destination on there for people to read. You can include fun things to do in the area, places to eat, must-try foods of the region, safe traveling tips, etc. You can include links to other resources about the area.

    #847383 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    I would hope he only has to do it once. And not make a big deal of it, but just gently say what upsets you. And then hopefully they would get it.

    Or not, you could just decide to deal with it in the interest of keeping the peace and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    #847384 Reply
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    ConfusedBride

    @bittergaymark your name certainly fits your attitude approaching this question from a woman you know nothing about. It likely also fits your attitude in the way you approach your life and how you think of others.

    Nobody is thinking of this as a war against one family over another, or whatever it was. I left because my immediate family left for a promotion they worked very hard for and deserve. I would hardly think you would expect a 1st grader to stay in another country as her parents leave for another continent if she had a choice to follow her parents. My parents are paying for this wedding and I would of course like to have my side of the family there. This wedding would have been a significant financial hardship on MY family as well so it was a very difficult choice of who I wanted most there. I have a second celebration in line for those who would be prevented from coming because of my awareness that I couldn’t have everyone in the same place at the same time. It’s not a long faraway country for me – I have firm roots there and would like to pay homage to that.

    If all you have are bitter and angry comments on this question – thank you for your time and I hope you kindly see your way out of this conversation.

    #847386 Reply
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    ConfusedBride

    @copa, I have a website that I’m in the middle of putting more information on. I will of course post about safety concerns, visa info, and vaccines if they are needed.

    In general, I do understand that there are certain misconceptions around other countries and I come to these conversations with them with that understanding. It sort of just came to a boiling point when his grandfather made that comment that just rubbed me the wrong way. I understand he’s elderly and I’m not about to teach him some new way of thinking at his old age. That moment, which happened over the weekend, just made me think back on all those times when they ask questions or say things that I know are not ill-intended but do bother me a bit. for example, when his mom asks if the food at the wedding will be “safe” or if they will be in an area that they won’t get robbed or how is my fiancé treated, since he is a white guy, or when they bring up politics and ask if I expect to be “deported”…I mean it’s a bit strange and off-putting.

    #847387 Reply
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    ConfusedBride

    I brought up politics because sometimes these questions seep into me being a “foreigner” and the politics of today bring up those questions a lot. I am foreign born but did go to school here for a a good part of my life.

    They have also asked if my citizenship status (I am not yet a US citizen) is something that “helped” me decide on whether or not to marry their son, which I had to confirm that it was not.

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