Post Title: Notes from inside a cross-cultural marriage, lesson #2: the concept of noise (and being noisy)
Post Date: November 2014
My husband simply cannot speak at low volume on the telephone. This might not sound like much of a problem — and in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t — but when you live in a one-bedroom apartment not much larger than a shoebox and have a sleeping newborn, quiet is desirable. When the volume threatens to wake the child you spent a great part of the day trying to put to sleep, and your patience is wearing thin, you may consider punching in the face the volume-maker, no matter how much you love them (most of the time).*
It wasn’t until we spent a month in Vietnam with my husband’s family...that I realized this, too, was cultural. Sleeping child or none, all conversation is conducted at a volume I might otherwise confuse for a heated argument.
I contrast this with my own family. My younger brother has three children. When the kids go to bed in their house, everyone must be quiet. Deathly quiet. Hushed voices are the norm.
Obviously there’s a case for raising a child who can sleep through some noise. But that’s easier said than done when the (finally) sleeping child is woken by voices that could easily be lowered! (Note to self: Do NOT punch husband in the face).*
*Please be assured, this is written in jest. No husbands were harmed in the writing of this post.
Post Title: Notes from inside a cross-cultural marriage, lesson #3: family vs. individual (& which is more “important”)
Post Date: November 2014
One of the biggest challenges in our relationship is the very different perspective my husband and I have on the importance (or not) of having time to ourselves, outside of the family.
Not only do I love to have time to myself — to write, to read a paper, have a coffee, exercise, have a mani/pedi, travel, swim — any number of things — but I also love to spend time outside of my romantic relationship — with friends. My husband, on the other hand, while also very independent, is less social. His pre-baby life revolved around work, soccer, exercise, and reading for learning (with a focus on self-improvement — physical, financial, cognitive). He enjoys spending time with his friends (he doesn’t have family in town), but he could go weeks without doing so.
So there are personality differences to take into account, but there’s also the cultural dimension: in the West we value our individualism, where in the East, community and family needs are prioritized.
To my husband, my desire to have time away from my daughter — to spend with friends or on my own (doing anything other than exercise or education) — is bizarre. He seems to not understand my desire (or need, as far as I’m concerned) to do this, since he has no such desire himself.
When we spent a month in Vietnam, we did not have any time on our own — as inidividuals or as a couple. Obviously we were there to spend time with family, but I had certainly gone there expecting to enjoy some (much-needed) time as a couple while we had lots of family around to babysit. No such offer was forthcoming, and I was again left trying to readjust my expectations.
On the other hand, offers to babysit Ava in Australia so I can have a (much-needed) Girls Night Out, or so my husband and I can have a date night (or two), have already started flowing in — and we haven’t even flown out yet.
I find it hard to explain this situation to my family and friends. I know it sounds like I have a very controlling husband who doesn’t “allow” his wife much free time. I try to explain the cultural dimension, but expect that many of my (Western) friends are still probably very glad not to be in my situation. Indeed, it’s an issue that I often struggle with. I don’t have a solution to this cross-cultural marital “problem” yet…at this stage, I’m hoping that some family support while we’re in Australia over Christmas will provide the break I need, and give us as a couple some time to reconnect a little…let’s see.
Blog: With Heart on Sleeve | Author: Casey McCarthy | From: San Diego | Blogging since: 2008