Saturday, January 17, 2009

Working on corrupting my Mexican

Or should that be 'converting'?

A multi-cultural relationship has many challenges: language, communication, manners, festivities, religion, tradition, family, name just a few.

Language is the first challenge. How can you understand each other if you can't understand the words? And then once you understand the words, do you understand the meaning? Words strung together to form a sentence do not necessarily end up with the meaning one intended. At times it can be a struggle to find 5 different ways to get your message across - rearrange the sequence of the words, replace with similar words, give examples, etc.

And then there's the manners. I can get offended by something that is not considered offensive to a Mexican; announcing one's presence at another's home is the first example that comes to mind. How many of you would be comfortable standing on the street in front of the home of your friends or family and simply whistling? Or repeating their name over and over until they open the door? My initial response: "Don't whistle at me, I'm not a dog!" Now...I understand, and it's ok.

Miguel grew up in the a tiny family village. No electricity, no hot water, no oven, no car. He had 'pets', but those pets were outdoor animals. One of his hardest conversions has been getting used to having animals in the house. Animals belong outdoors, not inside. And yet...he totally enjoys learning the behaviors and watching the antics of each animal here...they are more fun than watching tv. But at times having the animals in the house is a pain, and that's when Miguel starts his rant - 'animals belong outside', 'it's not my custom', etc.

I've pointed out to Miguel that he would miss a lot of animal interaction if the animals were outside all the time, and that he would not have the same relationship with them that he has now (and by the way, he loves all our pets). I think he understands and agrees with me, although I'm not sure he will ever admit it to me.

When faced with something that is different between our cultures, Miguel says "No es mi costumbre" (it's not my custom). But then he says 'For you, I've changed my ideas'. We sometimes joke about how one thing or another is not part of one of our customs - it's said with a grin because we both realize we've made adjustments and changes in order to live together in (mostly) harmony.

Last night we were out for our nightly drive. Miguel asked if I would like some flan, and I agreed. I was thinking he meant the 'flan' that is actually like a vanilla pudding in a cup - sold out of the front of a home near the airport.

We went into town to get some cash, and when Miguel turned left down Juarez instead of right to go back out of town, I wondered where he was going but didn't say anything. Finally he pulled up in front of Aluxes Coffee House, and it was then that I realized we were there to get cheesecake. When I first introduced Miguel to cheesecake, he said that it was not his custom to eat cheesecake.

But as we sat there on the golf cart and I said 'Oh, so you want cheesecake', the big grin on his face told me I had won that round of conversion. Eating cheesecake is now one of Miguel's customs.


Scottozoid said...

Hmmm I think the next time I want to eat too much cheesecake I will think "this is not my custom" and do it anyway and consider it open minded.

Thanks Miguel!

Ann said...

I'm sure there is lots of compromising in your household, but I think it that way in most relationships!

Anonymous said...

When we lived in Cancun, I had a lot of trouble accepting that my husband wanted the dogs to sleep outside on the patio. Then I brought the dog to the U.S. and later my husband. The dog sleeps in bed with us, has his own seatbelt for the car, is not allowed to eat chicken bones, and visits the doctor more regularly than we do.

Now my husband goes back to his village and argues with his mom that their dog is chained up all the time. Unfortunately, his mom finally heeded his complaints, let the dog free, and then the dog killed all of their chickens.

But it's been interesting to see his "costumbres" regarding animals change over the years. He and the dog are currently spooning together on the couch.

Sue said...

Scott - we'll work on your 'customs' the next time you're here!

Ann - you're right about compromise. It just makes it that much harder when you don't understand what each other is saying/meaning while negotiating. :-)

Melissa - that is funny (and sad for the chickens). Miguel doesn't like animals confined either. And yes, he pulls Loco up on the couch to snuggle with him (this is usually after a few cervezas). The cats join us in bed though, and he is happy with that. So...costumbers are Thanks for writing!