How did you deal with intercultural expectations?

posted 2 years ago in Intercultural
Post # 16
Member
3068 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: November 2016

My husband is Vietnamese and I am of mixed European ancestry. 

I will say that even with being white, my Mother-In-Law still had just as many cultural “expectations”. So, if your inlaws are anything similar, you not “looking” Indian wouldn’t have helped. 

All of it hinders on communication and being a United couple. It boils down to talking about expectations between the two of you and think of “in this scenario” type of topics. It also comes down to discussing how you will work and handle issues that arise that you can’t possibly account for. They will arise. So long as you both can have a good understanding, good communication, mutual respect for one another, and mutual concern and roles…you’ll be okay. 

I don’t know your Mother-In-Law so only you can decipher where your boundaries will fall her. It may also take you trial and error because you haven’t had a chance to know her. You may have to learn to step outside your accomadating manners and learn to be firm in some areas (and this is one of those things your partner has to stand behind you on and respect you with). 

My husband and I have always been devoted to one another and putting one another first. However, even we have encountered things we never saw experiencing and it did cause issues in the moment until we could get alone and figure it out. Our relationship with his mother is heavily scaled back and I would never dream of having her stay for a month let alone stay without her booking a hotel in general (and, yes, that’s hugely taboo because her staying a month let alone just staying in our home would be normal and expected).

I will say…I spent so much time trying to shape myself around their culture that I lost sight of my own rights to being whom I am and being entitled to having different practices. While I love the culture and I’m always respectful, I needed to learn to expect the same considerations. So, somewhere you will have to figure out how to balance what you can to respect his side’s practices but also stick firm to parts of your own. 

Post # 17
Member
3463 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

akshali2000 :  My Mother-In-Law came by after midnight on the night before she wanted to have this shindig with a duffle bag full of food and whatnot. So of course, besides wanting to know what on God’s green earth she was doing visiting my suite unannounced at that time of night, I asked what all the stuff was that she’d brought. It was then (and only then) that she informed (not asked) me that the following day (when I’d be having my spa day and bachelorette party) she was inviting Tom, Dick, and Harry over and all this food was for them. Note, she was only planning to invite people from her side of the family. I kept a smile and said “oh, that sounds lovely, but I’m afraid that won’t be possible as I have plans all day tomorrow.” My husband hadn’t been informed in advance either, but because he is accustomed to this concept he didn’t think it was that weird. So I was kinda by myself. So she threw a small tantrum as I described before accusing me of not caring about their cultural traditions. Then I reminded her that we are the very same ethnicity (which she sometimes kinda forgets due to my American accent) and that there is no cultural norm of showing up to people’s $600/night penthouses unannounced and throwing parties for your own friends. And that if that was something she wanted to work into the wedding weekend, she could and should have talked that over with us before now. Afterall, her suite also had a kitchen and she could’ve hosted her friends there.

Come to find out she just wanted to do it at our place because it was fancier and she’d be able to take credit for the venue. It wasn’t something I could haven anticipated (and therefore set expectations about) but standing my ground in the moment was very important. Had I given in, I would’ve either missed my own bachelorette party and/or been exhausted on my own wedding day. She still tries me from time to time by suggesting, for example, that I couldn’t possibly know how to make certain ethnic foods or whatever because I guess she views me as watered-down due to having grown up in the U.S.

Post # 18
Member
17 posts
Newbee

Oh the flashbacks this is bringing up lol. My fiance’s family comes from Dominica so it was kind of a cultural and racial awakening for me. Like someone posted, food was a big thing to get adjusted to (fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday) and family. His family is HUGE and very involved. A running joke is they’d take a bullet for a complete stranger as long as they had a drop of shared blood between them. I have a very small family (think the wedding guests scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and we all talk maybe once a year. His aunts, uncles, cousins will come down and stay for a month or two at a time, leave, and another group will come. It was really hard to adjust to that in the beginning, but it’s gotten easier as relationships have formed. As for wedding planning, that was a battle! My fiance and I are two very old souls that just want a simple ceremony and to go out to dinner afterwards. His family, though, live for parties and can party for 48 hours straight! And again, the huge size means that if someone is getting married, a minimum of 300 guests are self-invited. It was hard to respectfully insist that the guest list would be no more than 25 people (thankfully our venue can only hold 30), but it’s still an issue over the reception at the moment. My advice would be to talk to his parents and explain where you’re coming from. It wasn’t until I talked to my future in laws that they understood why the differences in family involvement were such a big thing for me. With different backgrounds, communication is key. 

Post # 22
Member
409 posts
Helper bee

akshali2000 :  Oh my! This thread is so close to my heart. haha

I used to live in India and had many Indian friends, so I totally get how you feel. 

My husband is Korean American, his parents are Korean Korean – and I am a snow-white, weird looking (in their eyes) Bulgarian. I cannot begin to tell you the nightmare that cultural differences can cause. Especially because of in-laws expectations. The stuff they expect me to do WITHOUT even telling me about it, and then getting angry that I didn’t do it, is unbelievable. It has gotten to the point that I’d be more than happy if I never saw them again in my life. 

My Mother-In-Law stayed with us for A MONTH, a month, right after the wedding. I’m talking immediately after the wedding. Forget about honeymoon or newly wedded bliss, haha! Add to that the ‘goes without saying’ – expectation that the daughter in law treats her in laws like royalties and has to get up at 5 am if necessary to cook delicious things for them. Throughout the day you’d better cook and clean like speedy Gonzalez, otherwise you’re a failure. If you sit down even for five minutes, you’ll be labeled as a lazy slug. I didn’t know any of this, and very soon I heard my Mother-In-Law insulting me and calling me lazy behind my back. 

This escalated rapidly into a real nightmare. When we lived for a while in the same city, she was over EVERY DAY, bringing her food and staying often for the whole afternoon. 

I cannot tell you how important it is for you to put your foot down from the very beginning. I am a very kind and humble person, always putting others first – and I paid a huge price for it. Today, for them to offend me, my family, my country and culture is something that comes as easy as ‘hello’. 

If my husband was not such a sweetheart and totally on my side, I’d be long gone.

Honestly, you MUST be firm now, otherwise you’ll really regret it later. 

Post # 24
Member
37 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: March 2018

I grew up in America and Israel (where we now live) in an Israeli and Thai extremely Atheist household with 3 languages and many cultures so I never thought that having a fiance from another culture would be a big deal. My fiance grew up in an Orthodox Jewish Litvak American household. He left the religion at an early age so he isn’t very close to his family. Last month his sister got married (through the Jewish dating process in which you meet someone new for a month or so until you decide to get married) so i got to meet the entire family. His family is very nice but often times incredibly traditional. For example at the wedding when I told people that I’m 24 they kept on asking why I’m not yet married and why I don’t have at least 3 kids. I didn’t really know how to answer that. After We get married his family will probably ask me why I won’t wear a wig (in Jewish tradition married women cannot show their hair), won’t have children right away rather wait a few years after marriage, won’t have many children, won’t circumcise any of our sons that we may have, and won’t raise our children according to the Jewish tradition. We probably won’t have too much contact with his family since he’s not very close to them so these concerns of theirs won’t be a very big issue for us. Luckily he gets along fine with my family who try to understand the difficulties of growing up religious. 

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