Saturday, November 30, 2013

Culture Shock

As we spend the holiday season surrounded by both of our families, I am suddenly reminded of the initial culture shock I felt when my husband and I got together.  Usually the term "culture shock" is reserved for those that visit a new country or move from the country to the city (or vice versa).  I've never heard of it used in a family context and yet, I think it happens all the time.  Every family has a culture.  You might not even be aware of your family's culture.  I know that when I got married, I assumed that we would live life just exactly the way I was raised.  We would have the same traditions, talk about things like my parents did and raise our children the way that I was raised.  However, my husband had an opinion about some of that.

He comes from a loud and boisterous Itallian family.  They argue.  They yell.  They cook copious amounts of food.  And yet, they would vehemently deny those charges.  They aren't yelling - They are talking.  They don't cook too much food - They just want to make sure no one goes home hungry.  I would leave each get together stuffed and concerned that everyone was unhappy.  My husband would brush it off.  "What do you mean?  No one was upset," he would tell me.

My family, from my husband's perspective, is deep.  You can't get away with small talk.  If you mention you are tired, a glass of wine and a concerned family member will soon be in front of you as you are asked a series of questions to get to the bottom of your feelings.  Dinner conversations are about the latest article in Smithsonian Magazine or a bill pending in Congress.  And many of the parties consist of appetizers rather than full meals.  This was the most appalling of all to my husband when we first got together.  "Think we should run through Wendy's?" he would ask on our way to my mom's house.  "No, she will have food," I would assure him.  "Snacks or real food?" he would counter.

Now that we are eight years into our relationship, I am realizing that we are have merged our two cultures and made one all of our own.  He has gotten a bit deeper and can have a conversation about feelings or current events at the drop of a hat.  When we have a party, we cook double the amount of food I think we need.  I'm sure there are a million more intricacies that I couldn't even begin to identify.  While there will always be little differences we have to iron out, it makes it easier when I see how far we've come.  We are truly making a family life that reflects both of our values and both of our experiences.  And I'm hoping that I'll have an open mind when my children decide to do the same.

How is your original family culture different from your spouses?  How have you merged the two to create your own?

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