Balance of Traditional Roles in Intercultural Relationships

Intercultural RelationshipsYou know how at your kid’s school there’s always that one “uber” mom–the one who is always organizing things, bringing treats, she’s at all the assemblies and really seems to be on top of everything? 

There’s one of those at my son’s Hebrew School.  Only she isn’t Jewish.

I was reminded of her as I finished writing Christmas cards to my sisters-in-law…in Portuguese.

For Lisa, she has said she feels caught in between.  Both her Jewish In-laws and her Catholic family don’t understand why she’s “so Jewish” when she’s not Jewish.  She and her husband made a commitment to raising their children in a Jewish home, and for better or worse in US society, women still most often set up the home and manage the children’s education and activities.  If she’s going to raise her children Jewish, she felt she needed to know what it means to live Jewishly, even if her own religion is Catholic.

For me, it’s just funny.  Once when writing in Portuguese to my 17 year old niece, I said (in Portuguese) “Excuse my written Portuguese, it’s not so good.”   Expecting her to write back, “It’s not so bad, Tia,” I had to laugh when she said “Really, Tia, it’s horrible!”  So, I may have said “Merry Christmas,” or I may have said “there are chickens in your freezer,” but I wrote it with love and spelled our names right at the end…and I made sure our family’s holiday cards were mailed.

For a glimpse at a different take on traditional roles, take a look at Gori Girl’s story of her intercultural marriage to a man from India.  As she says on her blog, “his family had been planning the event all along—all we did was show up.”    Given movies such as Bride Wars and the reality show Bridezillas, I imagine this may be the “opposite” of tradition for the U.S.  But it worked for them.

All of this goes back to the fact that there are no hard and fast rules for an intercultural relationship and that adapting to the demands of the situation may be the best route.  Gender roles may trump cultural norms.  Geography may influence process.

Whether it’s adopting Friday night Shabbos candle lighting rituals to create a Jewish home, learning Portuguese to send holiday greetings to family, or dressing in a Sari, taking the time to learn your partner’s culture and flexibility in responding to the day to day demands of the relationship can only bring you closer.

How do you manage in your cross-cultural relationship?  Are you doing things you never imagined doing?

And with that I say Boas Festas.  Tudo de bom no ano novo.

Photo credit:  Confused by ohkulala on Photobucket