A tuna sandwich.
About two weeks into our marriage, I was playing the dutiful wife and packed Albin an excellent lunch for work. It was comprised of a huge tuna sandwich, salad, probably a piece of fruit, and a snack. When he came home that afternoon he was scavenging through the fridge almost immediately. I casually asked if he liked his lunch and received a meek “sí” in response. Confused, I asked if he didn’t like tuna. He said that he enjoyed his lunch, but that he still felt a little hungry after a lunch that small. I assured him that we would have a big dinner, but he didn’t seem nearly as enthused about that as I was. I began feeling slightly irritated that I even went to the trouble of making him a lunch if he wasn’t going to appreciate it. Sensing my frustration, he slipped out onto the thin ice of stating how one’s culture does things. He said, “In Costa Rica, we are used to eating large lunches and smaller dinners.”
In my mind that was absurd. But we tried the whole “big lunch, small dinner” thing because I was going to overcome this whole living in a different culture thing. It was honestly like I had a Sunday afternoon food coma every. single. day. After eating my heavy lunch packed with carbs and topped off with loads of beans I was either out cold at my desk by 2:00 p.m. or locked up in the faculty bathroom learning about the side effects that black beans had on my “only ate baked beans once a year on July 4th” guts.
And from there we hit a stalemate. It became a thing for us. A little crack in our united front. It was silly really; but while we laughed it off, it was a foreshadowing of our future of compromise and understanding that is inevitable for a bicultural marriage to succeed.
The issue with bringing two cultures together is that there are a lot of things. You’re bringing together two completely different outlooks on language, cuisine, relationships, government, etc. etc. etc., and it is a challenge. In a sense, all marriages are bicultural. No matter where each person comes from, the two bring very distinct opinions, stories, and beliefs about almost EVERYTHING. Maybe every marriage comes to a point where “living on love” crashes into the reality that you have to do life with someone that challenges what you thought was the “right” way of doing things. Despite the fact that my husband is a great man and I love him dearly, it is tough to swallow that my way isn’t always his way. When I first learned Spanish, I remember thinking that Hispanics said everything backwards. I mean why would you say “River Big” instead of “Big River?” When I finally opened my mind to accept that they weren’t speaking “backwards” and that their way of speaking made sense too, Spanish started to click and became a new normal. That’s what I want for our marriage. Realizing that no one has it backwards will help our relationship “click” and become our new normal.
As I said in my “About Me” page, I really feel a calling to talk about marriage between two people from distinct cultures. When we first got married, I started searching for information about bicultural marriages- stories, or self-help books or basically ANYTHING that could help me feel less alone; but there was an overwhelming lack of material. I want to get the conversation started. I want to hear from others in the same situation who are fighting for their bicultural marriages. I want to know other people have to alternate having gallo pinto (Costa Rican beans and rice) and Honey Bunches of Oats for breakfast to keep the peace. Basically, I want to know we’re not alone, and that despite the struggle, there is a special kind of victory when compromise is found between two cultures.
So here it goes. I hope that as I tell my story of triumphs and trials, I’ll find community, support and guidance from others who are living what I am living. This is my story, please feel free to share yours.