23 July 2013

A Cross-Cultural Life

Well, don't we just make the cutest little cross-cultural family?
Angel and I don't necessarily appear to be in an interracial relationship. He's Mexican, with tan skin and black hair, and I'm 100% mixed up brunette white girl. I've actually been told by a few people that we resemble each other.

But it's quite obvious, to us anyways, that our marriage is definitely cross-cultural. I believe that every marriage is the uniting of two different cultures to some extent, because every family has its own culture, but it adds a whole new level of complexity when your native language is different from your spouse's native language.

There are definitely challenging aspects of a cross-cultural marriage. I'm a white girl who speaks Chinese who grew up in Asia as a homeschooled kid in an English-speaking large family. Angel's a Mexican who grew up with two brothers in a Spanish-speaking household in California, went to public school and Mass.

The biggest obstacle to overcome is language. Angel and I speak English together, with random phrases and sentences in Spanish thrown in. You're guaranteed to hear Spanish spoken in our home every day, but never for long or deep conversations. Angel's family speaks Spanish together, so when we visit, I tend to be a little quiet. My Spanish is at the level where if I sit there quietly, I can understand the vast majority of the conversations going on around me, with occasional questions to ask Angel what a word means. But speaking is harder, so I'll either answer any questions asked to me in slow Spanish or in English--his family understands English, they just don't typically speak it when they're together.

I'm not a touchy person. I don't like to be touched and unless I'm really close to someone, I don't like touching them. Angel's family is completely different, they hug everybody, and they expect people like me to hug them back. (Angel himself hugs my own family way more than I do.) This is still something I'm learning--to be okay with and enthusiastic about hugging people, even people who I've never met before.

Those are two of my biggest challenges in this cross-cultural family: the language barrier and the hugging. Angel doesn't have a problem with either because he's been learning English since 1st grade and even though my family doesn't hug very much, he just hugs all of them anyways and they think that's a little eccentric of him, but they aren't offended by it.

There are definitely some questions that come up that you have to make a decision on together if you are in a cross-cultural family. For example, questions that apply to our situation are:

Will we give our kids Spanish or English names?
We've decided on English names that are easy to pronounce/sound good in Spanish.
What language will we speak at home/what language will we teach our children?
I think we'll always speak English for deep conversations, but we want our children to grow up bilingual, so we foresee gradually transitioning to speaking more Spanish at home in years to come.
What church will we go to?
Angel and I are Protestant Christians, but we will go to Mass with Angel's parents when visiting them, and Angel will try not to argue theology with his father.
What food will we eat at home?
We eat mainly Indian, Chinese, and Mexican food at home, with hamburgers, fried chicken, and spaghetti thrown in on random occasions.

I love my little cross-cultural marriage, and even with the really hard moments--I wouldn't trade it for anything. I like  that we get to take the good things from both of our cultures as we create our own little family culture that's different from either of the families we grew up in. It's us!
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Unknown said...

I really like this post, Rachel. It sounds like you both are committed to communicating about the differences and overcoming them together. All of the differences that come out of my personal cross-cultural relationships are always interesting but occasionally they are also challenging. It takes a lot of patience and I admire people that are able to put forth that effort. I can relate to both of these things that you are trying to adjust to! Following a conversation in another language takes a lot of concentration and often makes you seem like a much more introverted person than you might be. It's just that once you're able to respond the conversation has always moved on without you (at least for me). Also, Belgians always greet each other with kisses (I'm never sure how many - it always changes) and sometimes I forget to do this. It's probably considered very rude of me if I don't do it, but it's just one of those things I'm still trying to get into the habit of doing. It's hard when you spend your whole life adhering to certain social norms and then have to make adjustments. It doesn't always come naturally and sometimes takes a lot of effort. Well done!

Unknown said...

Oops, relationships should read *relationship. I'm only in one! :) hehe.

Moonofsilver said...

Wow! This was totally interesting! I would love to spend a day watching your life lol! I used to be clost to fluent understanding of Spanish 6 years ago. Not so much anymore. There are a ton of Mexicans where I live and quite a few totally Spanish speaking churches! I think you and Angel are awesome. What's Angels Spanish name?

Tayler Morrell said...

I love this! I've always been interested in cross-cultural marriages...I'm a white American Mormon who married a white American Mormon...not much difference there. But, the way our families raised us and traditions in our families, as well as just plain personality is very different, and in the first year of our marriage, we are still working on compromising between the two and creating our own family traditions.
Our Fairy Tale

Unknown said...

My husband is Mexican (well half, is mom is Mexican and his dad is white)His mom's side of the family also mostly speaks Spanish with each other. I speak pretty much no Spanish (except for bad words which I probably shouldn't be saying to his grandparents.)I would really like our future littles to speak Spanish as well, so I better get to learning!

Susannah said...

Nate and I are both white American kiddos but we still have such different cultures. It definitely shows that I grew up in Asia! I love that marriages merge two completely different people into one unit!

Unknown said...

I grew up multinational, too. My mom is Polish, my stepdad Croatian, I grew up in Germany and lived some time in the US. It is awesome to see different cultures and to learn from each other.

My better half is German, although this is the country I grew up in, I still see a lot of differences how we grew up.

One thing I discovered, that I don't know some of the basic sayings in Germany and sometimes mix it up with sayings from the other languages and places. It makes my boyfriend laugh sometimes because there are pretty silly mixtures coming out of my mouth.

Food is definetly another point where I discovered differencies, especially between my stepfather and the rest of the family. In the Balkans, people just love meat and eat a lot of it, I rarely eat meat and am really not a friend of the Balkan diet. :)

Unknown said...

You could use this picture to announce that you're preggers, since angel is holding a baby bear. It's amazing what you learn about each other's families and how things are when you get married. I hope that our children grow up bilingual too. My spanish is almost non existant since learning Khmer, but Hal is fluent and I would love for them to learn from him.

Olivia Lovejoy said...

So interesting! Yeah, I assumed you were Mexican. I'm in a mixed race relationship, but I think it's kind of mixed culture too because my boyfriend and I grew up very differently: I'm from the ghetto in the city, he's from the 'burbs, my parents are divorced, his aren't, etc.
The thing about Angel's eccentric hugging made me LOL. I'm a total hug monster. I guess my whole family is kind of huggy. I hug my boyfriend's mom all the time, but I'm not sure I've ever seen him hug her now that I think of it.

Sarah Pete said...

Love this :] Marriage is definitely a union of two very different cultures, and I love how you guys have embraced yours! Very cool! I really wish Chris and I spoke a second language because I think it would be the coolest for kids to grow up bilingual.
Love the bit about the hugging! It takes a while to get used to, for sure! :]

Being Reese 2 said...

I love this post! As you know, I'm all about mixing it up. Different languages presents a different dynamic that I had never considered before though. It's great that you're learning Spanish. I know quite a few people who refused to speak the language that their spouse speaks because they don't think it's important. It is. Plus it's also a HUGE bonus to be able to pass on to your littles. (You keep mentioning kids a lot lately. What's up with that? Just sayin' ;)

I think every family, regardless of their nationality or heritage, should make an attempt to try something new. I was shocked to discover how much I love Indian cuisine, and don't even get me started on Pico De Gallo. A-MA-ZING.

Jessi said...

I agree! It's fun that you get to take what you like and make it your own! Me and my Hubby do that anyway even though we both grew up in all white families living in the states. We still have tons of differences in our backgrounds. It's funny you mention the touchy thing because I'm the touchy one and Ethan has a huge bubble and doesn't like to be touched by just about anyone but me :) Haha.

Janna Renee said...

Will and I are both essentially "white", but we definitely come from different families! It's funny how that works.

Charlotte said...

I'd love to hear more about your childhood in Asia! What you thought of it then, how it affects you now, etc.

Even if you & Angel came from the same "culture", there would still be obstacles to overcome! Like you said, marriage involves bringing two very different people together; there's always going to be friction. It takes love and dedication to iron things out, but that's what we're called to do!

Unknown said...

Found you through link up. The title got me right away. I have always been interested in cross culture since I travel a lot. I love to see couples from different cultures. Your baby could easily speak 3 languages. You can speak Chinese to him/her, Angel Spanish, and he/she will learn English in school. I have always thought the more languages you know, the richer you are. Your background is very interesting too.. You can check my blog out at

Jane said...

This is such an interesting post! You always have such great posts. I'm totally with you, hugging is strictly for people I am really close with and anyone else it feels a little awkward. Thanks for linking up with us! <3

WeeMasonMan's Mom said...

I found this super interesting - thanks for sharing!!!

My husband and I grew up in the same town, same school, same backgrounds for 90% of standards and I've still found big differences to our "culture" - his family is WAY more huggy, touchy, I love you than mine and you're right, it DOES take a bit to get use to!

Mei said...

I found you from the link up.
Lt is white, I am Chinese. The culture differences are immense. Our son, Charley/Chao lei (depending on who you are speaking, Lt or I) is learning "Chinglish." This is because his father is underway often and I lapse to Chinese unless an English speaker is about. I try to remember but Lt should not be surprised that our son constantly asks "Shéme?" (什么 What is that?) lol

Unknown said...

I think it's great that your kiddo will be multilingual! I wish DH or I spoke another language so we could teach our Munchkin.

Thanks for linking up at Flashback Friday!

Alissa said...

This was really interesting, thanks for sharing a little insight into your life!