Post # 1
Guys, I need some advice. I’m wondering if anyone can help me understand some clashes that my FH and I have occasionally. I’m not one to discuss our problems with people, but I think I am in need of some help from some bees that may have some better (first-hand) insight on this than I do.
I am caucasian and my FH is first-generation Vietnamese American (He’s the oldest child of 4, too). I am very close with his family, and I do understand many of the cultural nuances and speak a fair amount of Vietnamese. So, it’s not that I am totally clueless….However, sometimes we butt heads and I am left confused.
For example, we were out for a run last night, and he began to run out across a small intersection after the light turned green. There were cars waiting to go, and I stopped and said “Honey! Stop!” because I was a runner in college, and have seen many of my teammates get hit by cars–I’m so scared of that! So, he stopped and ran back. But then, I noticed that he was quite upset with me. He said that I embarrassed him in public and made him look stupid. He was very quiet all night and would hardly speak to me! I apologized, and explained that I was just worried about his safety! (Side note–he would have been mad at ME for doing exactly what he did–cross the road with cars at a green light. He’s extremely protective of me.) But when the tables are turned, it’s inexcusable to him.
Can someone help me understand how to handle this type of situation? Things like this happen every once in a while, and I have a feeling that it involves some cultural differences, as his family (whom I adore) operates very differently from my own.
Post # 3
There is a cultural underling to what happened in your situation. In his culture, the man makes the final decision in his household and his judgement is held in high regards. In this case, even though your concerns were about safety, from his perspective, it may seem as though you did not trust his driving ability; therefore, questioning it by telling him to “stop” which seems disrespectful. As a result, he felt embarass by your actions.
I don’t know if you were able to see it from his perspective. When you are in a interracial relationships, it is helpful if both partner can try to understand each other’s perspective. I think moving forward, if you can speak to your Fiance about these kinds of concerns openly, then it woud make your relationship stronger.
My husband is Vietnamese but he’s second generation and more Americanized but has a strong cultural tie to his heritage. I had a similiar situation to yours about his driving and have learned that it is best to keep my mouth shut when it comes his driving especially when the situations comes up right there and then. What I do is wait a few days, then bring up my concerns with him and that seemed to work better and he’s more open to seeing it from my perspective and it doesn’t result in him getting upset at me. I do this because he isn’t driving and so it doesn’t seem as though I’m questioning his ability to be safe if you know what I mean.
There’s so much to learn about his culture so keep in mind that there will be times when it seems frustrating; however, you will find that there’s a way to dealing with it that will bring you two closer than ever.
I’m sorry I can’t provide anymore feedback then that. Even though our SO are of the same culture, they were raised differently; therefore, how they see and view the world will be different. Also, temperament will play a role on how they react and response to constructive feedback.
You can message me if you have more questions.
Post # 4
Similar to what legatorain indicated, it’s a huge cultural thing. Asian cultures believe in “saving face”. It sounds like your Fiance feels that he ‘lost face’ when you made him run back across the street. In a way, I think he believes you were implying that he either has poor judgement about when to cross the street, or that he wasn’t being careful enough.
Think of it this way: He had already started to cross the street and then you yelled for him to stop (I’m assuming he was midway across the lane). He had to run back to you. In his mind, everyone in the cars at the stoplight witnessed this. Honestly, I’d be embarrassed if it was me (but I always do stupid things, so I know how to laugh at myself). I think he felt embarrassed, which is a huge ‘no,no’ for the Asian culture and he decided to take it out on you.
My advice, if you’re still having issues, is to sit down and talk to him about it. You have to be very, very careful not to come across as condescending or critical. Just say that you’re worried that he’s upset with you and you want to understand. Explain that you were worried the drivers may not have seen him and that they might have hit him. It’s not about him doing something wrong, it’s about how other people aren’t aware.
Also, there may be something else bothering him and he just chose to lash out at this one issue (I’m thinkg at work or with his family). Talking to him about it may help.
My Fiance is first-generation Chinese. Fortunately for me, he’s really more American than I am. But, I do have to deal with his family and cultural clashes. I commend you for learning Vietnamese. I am starting to learn Cantonese, which should help with the cultural difficulties. He and I often sit and discuss our cultural issues, when one of us is bothered by something. He can be defensive though – Asians are proud of their culture – so I’m usually very careful about how I phrase things, keep my voice level, and don’t try to push the issue too much (I sometimes return to an issue weeks after first discussing it, if we didn’t reach a resolution previously).
There is tons of reading online about the Asian culture (look up stuff for business – this is the best way to learn about ‘saving face’ and what is tolerated)… I’m getting my MBA now and have learned loads about how to deal with FI’s family from my international business courses.
Post # 5
Thank you so much for your excellent feedback. You both make really useful points that I will try to keep in mind in the future. Thank you!!
Post # 6
- Wedding: August 2010 - Ocean View Villas/Jasmine Seafood Restaurant
I’m Vietnamese married to a White man and I’m finding this situation to be similar to one’s I’ve experienced in my relationship. It may still be cultural differences, but I think it’s more common then that. I think it’s a trust/knowledge type thing. Like Star Orchid said, he already made the decision to run across the street. He deemed the situation okay to run. You yelled at him and thus showed that you second guessed his judgement. You could have just not ran and made him wait on the other side, but you yelled out at him. Of course, you only wanted him to be safe. But he’s likely thinking that you’re just treating him like a child.
@legatorain My hubs hates when I discuss his driving. His dad hates when his wife discusses his driving. Not sure it’s cultural, maybe just a guy thing. Or maybe that people just don’t like to feel criticized.
I don’t mean to be cynical here. I just want to point out that the explanations can sometimes be cultural differences, but a lot of times it’s just miscommunication and/or other common differences that need to be discussed.