Saturday, March 03, 2007

Foreign Relations(hips)

I think there are many of us out there married to people from other countries in my generation. I applaud that, but I think you have to know that you will have to address your differences (and they do exist no matter how much you are convinced you are perfectly compatible in spite of being from different places). IMHO, if you are going to marry a person from a country and culture other than your own I think there should be a few ground rules... Here are a few I have thought of, maybe you have more:

1. Both persons should be amicable to living in the other's country. You never know where you will end up. The only exception I can think of is if one spouses country is just plain unlivable due to war, poverty, whatever...

2. Take off the rose colored glasses. Both spouses have to be willing to see their culture/country for what it is... Faults foibles and all... So be ready to really examine they "why" to how you do things and be flexible if the why has no clear answers.

3. Try to learn your spouse’s native language and have your children learn it too (usually one spouse already speaks the other's language and this is the common tongue for the household). If you are person speaking the his/her native language all the time try to imagine how your spouse feels not being able to speak to his/her own children in their first language.

4. Remember and be considerate of the fact that one of you will always be the foreigner. Before you say no to helping the other person with something remember how you would feel if you were trying to accomplish such a task in his/her country.

5. Make Islam (or whatever your core values are) the tiebreaker in all your decisions. There will be no "cultural norm" sometimes and you will need it.

6. When in doubt, talk it out. You can never assume that you have the same picture of a situation as your spouse (this may go for any marriage) and you don't want to get caught up in this... So make sure you see things the same way (or at least know how the other sees it) before making any life altering decisions.

7. Enjoy the diversity in your family and respect it. Don't let yourself choose one culture and make it the norm, let both cultures thrive. You will find there is good in both.

I'm sure there are more... Post them if you can think of any!


Imaan On Ice said...

what a great great post!!! I should have needed it some years ago :-) Anyhow, you summed it up pretty well.

In my experience (not only from my own marriage but from the stories of other's as well) the biggest issues who should do what in the household (including everything from the car to the food), who should manage the economy, how to raise the children. So these issues should be dealt with carefully before marriage. And just as you said it, take of the rose couldered glasses and be honest with yourself and him.

A phrase like "Oh, I love children!" might mean to you that you want 2-3 (that's a lot where you're coming from), were as he goes "Wow, she will give me at least 5-6 children! What a great wife I found!".

It's hard work, but that also mean it's rewarding.


Anonymous said...


That is such an important post! You need to write more! Ya, I know...with all your "free time" LOL.

I would add: that you will honor your spouse's ways infront of your family. Too often, the couple is fine, until extended family starts belittling the "crazy ways" she does stuff or the "horrible attitude" he has about some issue. Protect each other above family.

Don't be homesick! That kills a marriage! Don't be living in the chosen country and crab about what you miss all the dang time! The country of your spouse has good and bad points. If you only remember the good points of your own country, then you miss seeing the good points of where you are NOW. And all we have is NOW.

Don't compare your spouse to the men/women of your own country out loud. For sure, you'll do it in your mind, but keep it to yourself. Don't say, "An American man would never ask his wife to..." or "All Middle-Eastern women are better than American women when they...."

Don't marry a person of another culture as a project. You loved them for who they were. Trying to erase their accent, to get them to eat the food you like, and dress the way you like, listen to the music you like and watch the movies you's dumb. Let them be. Show them your likes and dislikes, but let them choose their own. Don't be disgusted with them if they continue to be who they were when you met them. You should marry KNOWING that they may never change.

Allow yourself to change. Bend. See which things that you held onto no longer apply. Maybe you DO like their movies (sometimes). Or maybe you will try to cook gross food he likes, but still will not eat it.

Laugh! Laugh over the differences! Keep your sense of humor about the dumb stuff! And be able to laugh at yourself. Know that the kidding is easier to take when it's just the two of you. Consider that some things could be embarrasing infront of others.

Don't say that your kids,"look 100% Arab!" Or, "I don't want him growing up being American at all". Let the children be a beautiful blend. They have both inside them and to deny that, denies the truth and hurts their self-esteem.

When in doubt, go back to the simple truths of life: cleaner is better than dirty, good health is important, peace is better than discord, love is better than hate, and ice cream cures all.

Imaan On Ice said...

Love ypur ice-cream philosophy, ms Honorary Arab!


Imaan On Ice said...


umm yehiya said...

GREAT advice!!! masha'allah

UmmZaynab said...

Mmm, I am reminded that they have SUCH good ice cream in Damascus... ;)

These (post and comments) are great. There have been some posts on other blogs lately (I'm thinking of Umar Lee here especially) treating the subject of American women married to Arab men very negatively. Of course I have seen the horrible situations he talks about-- far too many of them in fact, but I also know and live a positive situation being married to a good, kind, religious, intelligent, and sensible (maa shaa Allah) Arab immigrant man. I find a lot of fun and comfort in being able to speak the language and know the culture and generally hold my own in a group of Syrians. And I feel it's important for the children to have an integrated, bi-cultural household where even Mommy participates in the idea of applying two cultures at home.

I have seen comments where sisters say that they refuse to cook Arab food and that if you can blend in somewhat and sort of adopt Arab culture that you're sacrificing yourself and your identity-- well, IMO that's going too far. In our home we eat some of both. I can cook my husband's (and my) favorite Syrian foods and we alternate that with an American melting pot variety of American, my Italian-American, and Southwest/Tex/Mex/ with Whatever I Find a Recipe For That Sounds Good.

That said, for the immigrant to be able to separate one's culture from what is "Islamic" is a big deal. Most people from Muslim countries still can't do that, and even the ones that do may still hang on to a few ideas that they may never fully give up. As much as we can put pressure on immigrants to "assmiliate" (not my favorite term) or "integrate" (better term IMO) they still, in a very deep part of them, will never feel at home here in the US and as Honorary Arab mentioned just as we're never going to feel totally at home there (though we may get to where we feel downright comfortable for the most part) it will still never feel like "home" and will never be the same. This necessitates some understanding on the part of the wife.

Cairogal said...

Great post...I met my husband in Egypt, like many women I knew. Many of them couldn't conceive why their new husband wouldn't want to live in US/UK/Australia/Ireland/France. I think we often forget that culture shock is a big issue for many foreign spouses, whether it's the shock we occur whilst living in his country, or he living in ours.

Baraka said...

Salaam 'alaykum,

Very interesting post - I'm a Pakistani-American married to a white American & he is masha-Allah very culturally sensitive every time we go to Pakistan to visit.

The only thing lacking is an effort to learn Urdu (the language spoken there & with my family). But all in all, alahamdolillah he does a great job in being open to Pakistani culture.


MissionPeace said...

assalam alaikum sister, subhanAllah, a nice informative post about cross cultural marriage in the islamic ummah. Personally, wen i see a intercultural\interracial marriage, i feel, they r an example of Islamic Ummah and Islamic unity. a practical example how islam erases national n racial borders to unite people under the flag of Allah's deen (swt). The points mentioned in your post, are really helpful for people thinking about it.

I landed on your blog, when i was searching for a "Muslim woman" graphic to put on my blog post (not to mention i stole the pic u used, cos dats what google showed to me sorryyyy :) )

What I missed here, was a message box or guestbook to leave a message. I wish you put up a small guestbox, so wandering visitors like me, can express their appreciation for your wonderful writing.

You are welcome to my humble blog too :) I provide hot tea and coffee to all visitors and a warmmmm welcome. ( although, my blog is just a baby learning to crawl )

MissionPeace said...

salam alaikum, am once again here :D, sorry i thought of quoting this whole article on my blog, and ofcourse, with credits to you :) and a link to your blog. My blog readers will surely learn so much from ur wonderful writing inshAllah. I take the liberty to quote this article without prior permission please excuse me, jazakAllah khair, and thanks in advance.

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