Getting Along With Family
May 21, 2008 10:49 AM Subscribe
How do I reconcile cultural differences with my in-laws?
posted by Juicylicious to human relations (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My fiance is Pacific Islander/Af Am. He was raised by his mother on the island. We now live in GA and as fate has it there are a lot of his relatives nearby. I want to be respectful to their culture, but I'm finding it difficult to merge our two cultures.
These are wonderful and kind people. They are welcoming and warm to everyone. BUT some things kind of weird me out and other things outright offend me.
Here we go . . .
Food - they have the worst diet I've seen. Everything is either fried, coated in soy sauce or from a can. They fry frozen meat to thaw it. They store food in the microwave (not packaged food, but cooked food). They eat with their fingers. One of the favorite meals is fried pork chops covered in Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup (undiluted). They leave rice cookers full of rice on the counter for a day or two (eating the rice a bit at a time). I am watching my weight and try to eat low fat, fresh veggies and fruit. My fiance does all of the cooking and I'm to the point that I can't eat the food he prepares because it's so unhealthy and frankly I don't like it. I've tried cooking for him, but he will not eat a meal w/out rice, doesn't like curry or pasta and doesn't care about fresh anything.
General Relations - They call each other throughout the day and see each other at least once per day. I may have fallen out of favor because I've been lacking on the calling. I don't really know what to talk about with his brother and sister in law as they are 19 and 18 and I'm 45. We don't have a lot in common. I'd like to be on good terms, but I don't like having to struggle to come up with general topics. They also habitually make and change plans without telling us, yet expect us to accomodate the change with no notice. Example, we drove to FL this weekend for my job and started getting calls en route demanding to know where we were as they had all gone to an uncle's house that happened to be on our way and were waiting to eat until we got there. We had no idea they were making these plans and we had not planned to make that stop. But we did and could tell they were a bit irratated by the time we got there. Last week they made reservations at popular restaurant and started calling us non-stop from two cell phones 40 mins before the reservation to know where we were. I think they believe that cell phones have magical qualities that manipulate the time/space continium. I turned my phone off.
Children - They are very indulgent, yet loving parents. Our niece is 2.5 y.o. and has no bedtime. She has just been taken off the bottle and is now given a giant blue candy sucker shaped like a bottle to replace it. It is not acceptable to correct or scold her. I found that out when she was jumping on my glass coffee table and I told her to get down. Yes, I said it gently and softly. You are supposed to give children whatever they want anytime they want it. I grew up with the standard: I'm the parent - you're the child and will do what I say parenting model.
Race Relations - My fiance looks Af Am. His relatives look like Pacific Islanders. They make constant cracks about his race, which he takes in stride as he grew up with it, but I find extremely offensive (I'm latin/caucasion). Example his mother (she's visiting) disclosed the other day that she had twins before him that were also "brownies." They're constantantly asking him if he was stationed in Africa (he went for work) to find his motherland, followed by ha ha'ing. His brother came over the other night and told us he went to Walmart but was scared by "all the black people" in the parking lot. When I asked why he was scared he said "because black people get in groups they're going to cause trouble." My fiance simply nodded his head and agreed that the sis-in-law should not be allowed to go to Walmart alone anymore. Oddly, anytime they perceive a slight aimed toward them, the person is a racist.
I really want to have good relationships with the family. I feel like I must be looking at the situation with the wrong perspective. I believe I need better coping skills/tactics so that I don't concede my own values or entirely retreat from relationships with the family.