Risks and Rewards in Cross Cultural Marriages

It is a fact of life that inter-racial marriages are increasing rapidly in the United States. Why is this? Following reasons have been put forth by sociologists and demographers.

  • Immigration of young men and women into the US past 25 years
  • Increasing student population at colleges and universities from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds
  • More professional and social association of individuals with diverse backgrounds–through online sites, professional groups, activist groups etc.
  • Increased social acceptance of cross racial marriages
  • Globalization, which has increased awareness of other cultures and appreciation for people of other cultures

So do cross-cultural or inter-racial marriages make for long lasting unions?

Unfortunately, no. In fact, evidence is that such marriages fall apart before the customary measure of 10 years, even more than same-race marriages.

As you can imagine, there are special challenges in cross-racial unions. Each race is an amalgam of culture, practices, faiths, rituals and racial behaviors, whether we like it or not. When you try to fuse cultures, conflicts can arise.

Here are some tips on how to sustain a inter-racial marriage.

1. Have low expectations of acceptability. This is not a “downer” statement but a fact of life. You may be lucky and be accepted with open arms into the other family, you may not be. It is prudent to start out with an expectation that you have to “prove” yourself, at least within reasonable bounds, to be loved and accepted. The more “normal” and “mainstream” you appear, the higher the chances that if not all, you will find love in some corners of the other side.

2. Be yourself–within bounds of reason. Do not flaunt your religion, faith, cultural eccentricities etc. A friend of mine married a Middle-Eastern girl. He loved bacon and ham, taboo in the girl’s family circles. He wisely chose to avoid pork products when eating out. This is just a small token of respect for the other family’s traditions.

3. Take a stand on important things, leave trivial things alone. Again, you do not need to assert yourself at every step.

4. Understand other cultures, even if you do not agree with all of its aspects. Indian men and women talk loudly and do not use formal expressions of thanks nearly as much as westerners do. This is just their cultural upbringing. You may not agree with it, but resist “changing” their behavior. Instead, if you have to flaunt anything, flaunt the grace of western culture and reciprocity. Will it be a teachable moment for them? Maybe. You at least will have the satisfaction of taking the high road, and can proudly look your fiance or spouse in the eye.

5. Work it out with your partner about certain protocols involving children, visits, stays etc. In some cultures, it is considered “normal” to sudden descend upon your relatives’ homes and stay for days. Do not allow it. Gently, but firmly you must establish, with the help of your spouse, the bounds of what is tolerable behavior, even from your close relatives.

Cultural Challenges In Dating ( Cultural Setbacks Of Modern Dating. )

When two people from different races begin a relationship there are some instances where they run into some racial prejudices. This can cause some real strains in relationships.

When a couple is confronted by prejudices how they handle the situation must be done very delicately. In order to handle prejudice you must understand were it is coming from. When someone is judging you based on the color of your relationship it rarely is a personal choice. Some cultures believe that it is an atrocity to date other races. Sometimes they think ones culture should be preserved. Other times it can be religiously based.

Understanding where someone is coming from is the first step to dealing with the problem. The next thing is to decide if it can be faced or avoided. These situations can be very dangerous if not monitored and judged accordingly. There are two kinds of prejudice, that fueled by hate, and that brought on by cultural differences. knowing what you are experiencing will be the deciding factor in how you deal with the situation.

When you are confronted by cultural differences you have to keep aware of body language and avoid escalation at all costs. If you are insulted on a personal level or made the object of a crude humor these are tactics made to anger or belittle you and cause conflict, If you respond in anger or irritation they get the response they want and it gives way to escalation.

You must be respectful of different cultures beliefs but you can not allow those beliefs to effect your relationship with your partner. When prejudice starts effecting your relationship you have to make a decision based on what will benefit your relationship. If the problem is causing an issue between you and the one you love you need to have a conversation with your partner as to what needs to be done to resolve the problem.

Sometimes resolution is hard to decide when the issue lies with family or close friends, and avoiding an issue can not always be done. When you find that you have to face this problem head on you must face it with a clear head and honest intentions. If you can’t respond in a responsible way you need to wait to confront problem once you can or find a un-bias 3rd party to mediate on your behalf.

However you decide to handle the situation it is important that your choices don’t negatively impact your relationship and that you and your partner work through the persecution together as a team.

Top 3 Cultural Problems for Interracial Relationships

Cultural issues are a big deal when it comes to interracial relationships and, honestly, they are probably the single biggest hurdle to get over. Interracial couples tend to either become numb to the public disapproval they receive or they develop permanent blinders that prevent them from seeing or paying attention to it at all. And, honestly, dealing with the constant scrutiny can actually tend to create an even stronger bond between an interracial couple and bring them closer together. However, the majority of a relationship is spent building and spending a life with your mate. So, when the two of you are all alone, that’s when the real issues tend to present themselves. And how you get through those is what will make or break it for the both of you.

Cultural issues are the hardest to work out because our social norms are ingrained into us as children and, as adults, they are often difficult or impossible to change. We thought about what the typical cultural issues are for people in interracial relationships and developed the following top list of problems for interracial couples to consider.

1. You didn’t have the same life experiences. When one of you grew up in the south and the other in the north you are bound to have different contexts. Maybe one person grew up appreciating a big Sunday dinner with family and the other is more accustomed to informal dinner chats surrounding the TV or maybe even no interaction at all. Different life experiences can affect the way you interact with your mate and what you both value in life. When you don’t see life through the same lens, it can pose significant problems. Sure, this affects same-race couples as well but the issue can be even more pronounced for interracial couples. Consider, for example, that one person may see law enforcement in a positive light while the other views policing with a critical eye because of those different life experiences. One of you may have seen nothing wrong with the Zimmerman verdict while the other may clearly feel like it’s business as usual and think the verdict is incredibly racist. Imagine the drama around the topic of conversation!

2. You don’t have the same core values. Core values are those fundamental beliefs a person has and the guiding principles that dictate their behavior and actions. They allow people to distinguish between right and wrong and set one’s internal compass. A lot of people in relationships claim to have the same core values and take pride in that being one of the things that brought them together. But what happens when you don’t share the same philosophy about how life should be lived? Religion, financial management, the importance of family, the value of honesty, and a belief in work/life balance are all examples of core values that, if not shared, could pose challenges for an interracial couple. And, they are likely to vary dramatically in some cases because of cultural differences.

3. You don’t have the same interests. It can be hard to relate to each other when one of you grew up listening to Neo Soul and the other grew up listening to Grunge rock. Culture plays a huge part in a person’s interests and, as we all know, having shared interests is vital to a relationship. Culture impacts our tastes in everything from music, art and literature to physical activities. When you don’t share the same interests as your mate you can be doomed from the start because they help you grow together as a couple.

So, how can interracial couples get beyond having different life experiences, different core values and different interests in order to make it work? Well, they may not be able to change what’s already set in stone but they can concentrate on establishing new cultural norms that they can share together. Creating new life experiences, finding out what core values matter most to you as a couple rather than as individuals and finding new shared interests are all things that can help interracial couples navigate around the common cultural problems that can sometimes divide them.

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Can Two Different Culturally Challenged Individuals Stay Together?

It was not so long ago that getting into a relationship with someone from a different culture or race is unheard of in our family. In fact, getting into a relationship with someone not from your own race is considered as taboo and can get you disinherited from your family and/or considered as a social outcast or a pariah. With globalization however, many, especially from the modern family, this social restriction has somewhat lessened. It is still there, but the social stigma is lessened as many modern Filipino parents are now more accepting. This practice is not limited to the Filipino as its scope is far-reaching.

Can two people from different cultures stay together and be happy?

Language Barrier

The first problem is usually communication. How do you say what you want to say without hurting or offending the person you are interested in or in love with? Western people are more direct with their feelings; Asian people are more subtle and tend to beat around the bushes. Google translation is handy, but it doesn’t convey the right word or term of endearment that people want to convey and using the wrong word can lead to the guy sleeping in the couch for the night and still he is clueless as to what he did wrong.

Cultures and Traditions

Many women that I’ve seen entering into an inter-marriage find themselves having to sacrifice some of their cultural practices and traditions. Some say that it is no longer practical and they are busy to even contemplate doing the old traditions. Some say that it is to prevent from embarrassing themselves especially in the public. Do we really have to sacrifice what we love doing in order to make our relationships work? Are sacrifices to the extent that we leave everything behind for the future success of our relationship ideal?

Many say that our lives are composed of chapters. When one chapter closes, another one opens and it is up to you to write what that chapter is all about.

Why Stay?

I’ve heard a lot of women and men sacrifice things to make relationships work. Some work and others don’t. But what I’ve learned is that relationships and two individuals from different social backgrounds or cultures can stay together. Yes, there are some sacrifices to make, some tears to shed and even some pain. But in the end, a smile, a loving companion and a future together makes these sacrifices pale in comparison.

Etiquette and Local Customs of Kenya

“Hakuna matata”, or, “no problem”, is a popular phrase and perhaps the biggest indication that Kenya is a liberal country where you are unlikely to rub locals the wrong way. In addition to the usual please, sorry and thank you, there are various things that are customary to Kenyans that you will be expected to know.

Greetings

Greetings among Kenyans are not only used as a polite gesture but also set the ground for subsequent communication. When greeting a Kenyan, give them a handshake. Handshaking is customary and often prolonged when you already share a personal relationship. In any case, however, failure to shake hands is not taken kindly.

  • Avoid hugging women, especially if you are a man and you don’t share a close relationship because this will be met with disapproval.
  • To show respect to an elder or a person with higher status: using your left hand, clasp your right wrist when shaking hands and give a short nod.
  • Shaking of hands is accompanied by words of greetings, the most common being “Jambo?” meaning, “How are you?” The response is, “Si Jambo” for, “Am well”
  • Common practice is to carry on a casual conversation after the greetings that include questions about family and work. Avoiding this part of greeting process is considered rude and evasive.
  • When addressing someone, use their honorific status before their surname e.g., Mr. X, Dr. Y and Miss Z, etc. For married women, refer to them as “Mama’. For older men, address them as “Mzee”.
  • Despite having no familial relations, children will always address you as Aunt or Uncle if you are an adult. It’s a sign of respect.

Often, a person with soiled hands will politely offer you their wrists or clasp your hand at the elbow for courteousness, so don’t be offended.

Style of communication

Even in formal settings, conversations begin with a casual tone where involved parties ask personal questions about how you and your family are doing.

  • Kenyans are non-confrontational when communicating and as a result they are not direct in their communication approach. However, they do use direct eye contact.
  • To avoid confrontation and to save face, they often use metaphors and stories to express their true opinions and feelings.
  • Public displays of affection are often frowned upon although modern social influences have made it more acceptable.
  • Patting the shoulder, touching the arm and laughing loudly is acceptable among close acquaintances although this should be avoided in business/formal settings.
  • Having been raised in crowded households, a majority of Kenyans have little concern for other people’s space. As a result, they will easily squeeze themselves in a full bus or train, and even push and shove to get into already crowded places without minding personal spaces of other people!
  • Offer gifts and receive them using the right hand or both hands.

Element of time

There is a saying that there is no hurry in Africa and Kenyans seems diligent in living up to this expectation. Kenyans are among the worst timekeepers; so if you have a meeting with them, especially casual ones, don’t hold your breath! You might actually die waiting.

Table etiquette

You are expected to remove your shoes before you enter the house unless told otherwise and accept tea if invited in even when full!

  • Allow the host to begin eating before you do.
  • Kenyans are hospitable in nature and therefore be sure to serve your plate knowing that you will be given second helping.
  • It is polite to eat everything on the plate.

When interacting with Kenyans, you do not need to check your every move. They easily accommodate other people so long as they are not being disrespected.

Who’s the Third World Country Now?

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

~Pope Francis~

We as Americans like to think of ourselves as a world leader among nations. We are leaders in the areas of power and technology. We had a large part in winning critical wars in the past century. We also put the first man on the moon. But are power and technology enough to make us a great nation? Perhaps not. We have a few things to fix about our society before we can brag about it.

Let’s start with our federal government. A Gallup poll in mid-June of 2015 shows a 30 % confidence level in the supreme court, a 29% confidence in the presidency and 7% confidence level in congress. We elected most of the people in whom we now have so little confidence. The others were appointed by those we elected. What does that say about us as voters? We have given up control of our elections and placed people in power who have the money to support their campaigns and cajole us into electing them.

Another issue is our lack of reverence for life. Of the 195 countries affiliated with the United Nations, only 36 retain the death penalty. Of these countries, we have the fifth highest rate of execution. We may feel better taking revenge on individuals guilty of the most serious crimes, yet states with no death penalty have no higher crime rates that states which do. What does a national policy of executing its citizens say about our reverence for life? What example do we set for those among us intent on violence?

With all our talk about sacredness of the family, we are the only country in the western hemisphere with no national maternity leave policy. A few countries have started offering paternity leave for new fathers. We are among the many nations with no such policy. Early studies show that fathers do a better job fathering when they have time after childbirth to bond with their children.

After our start as a country accepting slavery, we fought a civil war largely over this issue and passed a series of laws over the years outlawing slavery and its effects. Yet racism is still at the core of the beliefs many of us still hold and operate by. We banished the Native Americans to reservations and denigrated each new wave of immigrants whether they came here willingly or as slaves.

These are a few examples. It seems we are not as civilized as we thought we were and still have some work to do. We need to find ways of working together rather than against each other. It’s not an easy task or we might have done it by now. Start asking questions of yourself and of your fellow citizens.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Look into your heart.
  • Is there room for anyone else besides you?
  • What are you willing to do to make this “our” rather than “your” country?
  • Find out how you can take responsibility.
  • See yourself as a shepherd rather than a sheep.

Culture Shock From Thailand to the United States

Introduction

At the age of fifty-seven, I was a divorced man not particularly keen on spending the rest of my life alone. I decided to try online dating. I had always been a world traveler and my two children were grown, so I could go wherever the wind took me.

After some false starts, I found a wonderful woman in Thailand. She was a Public Relations Manager and Psychologist working at a government hospital. We exchanged emails and talked on Skype for six months. I made two trips to Thailand, and a year later, we married in a traditional Thai ceremony. I had to return to the United States, but my wife could not travel until she received her visa. So I flew back to Arkansas, where I worked as a database administrator, and patiently waited for ten months.

Finally, her paperwork was approved, she passed the medical exam and interview, and she joined me in America. Although she had traveled to other parts of the world, she had never been to the United States. She experienced quite a bit of culture shock, but I helped her through the difficult times, such as when she failed her driver license exam twice.

Time Zone Shock

The first shock my wife experienced was the change in climate and jet lag. After a long flight across the Pacific Ocean, delayed baggage, hours spent waiting in line at immigration, then another connecting flight to Arkansas, she was tired, and the cold November air in Los Angeles made her shiver. The time zone difference between Thailand and the U.S. is twelve hours, so she spent the nights wide awake and felt sleepy in the afternoon.

Language Shock

In her forty years, she had spoken only the Thai language. Her alphabet has 44 letters, with 21 vowels and 5 tones. Every Thai child starts learning the Thai language in elementary school. In high school, four years of English is required. But her English studies were limited to one hour a week, so she spoke only a few phrases and did not know correct pronunciation. Also, in her community she spoke Isarn, the dialect of northeastern Thailand. She had little chance to speak or practice English in early life. She was fortunate to be employed at an international hotel for a few years, so she managed to practice some English with her manager, who was from France. She also listened to English pop music, and repeated the lyrics.

When she arrived in the U.S., all the natives spoke too quickly, and they used slang words she had never heard before. Any time she spoke with an American at the grocery store, restaurant, or a social setting with my family, she felt shy and embarrassed. In Thailand she was a leader, a famous public speaker. Here, she was a baby. Her senses had to absorb all these new sounds. For a long time, she experienced a loss of self confidence, and felt homesick.

Imagine her sensitive ears on hearing something like this the first time:

Are you comfy over there? You want to go out and get a few things at the store? We gotta do this an’ that. Hey, how yawl doin’? You guys find everythin’ all right? Okey-doky?

Comfy? What is he talking about? You guys? I am a lady, not a guy. I’m okay, I’m not a donkey.

Every day she encountered more slang words and had to learn vocabulary words. What should she say when she was introduced to someone else? She did not know American culture. In America, people liked eye contact. In Thailand, people don’t maintain eye contact for long. Americans like to touch. In her culture, she did not like anyone to touch her body. Every day she had to concentrate to try and carry on a conversation. Simple things that people take for granted, she found new. Thailand uses the metric system. In the U.S., people use the British system of measurement.
She frequently had to repeat what she said, because people did not understand her.

Automobile Shock

That was a big shock for her. In Thailand people drive a car on the left hand side. She arrived in the U.S. and everybody was driving on the wrong side. Imagine her confusion. I bought her a car one day after her arrival and told her to drive the car home. She did not understand the rules about stop signs and what the middle lane was for. There are no speed limit signs in Thailand. So she had to learn many kinds of signs. She felt nervous and confused every time she drove. Some times she made a wrong turn. She wanted to make a right turn, but turned left once. Everyone needed a car in America. She wondered how she would survive.

She failed the state driver’s license exam two times. The first time she skipped too many questions and the computer did not let her return. She studied for a whole month. The second time she did better, but the questions were different. The third time she finally passed. She was nervous sitting with the officer in the road test.

He said, “Not bad. Be careful about blind spots.”

One week after she received her license she was happily driving home, when she was stopped by police for speeding. Luckily the officer gave her only a warning.

She felt so relieved! She gave thanks to Buddha. After that she followed the signs. American law seemed very strict. In Thailand, people negotiate a settlement with the officer.

Some examples of confusing street signs:

PEDXING – what is that? Is that some Indian name?

YIELD – what does that mean? Does it mean go? If you stop somebody’s going to yell at you.

STOP – In Thailand it is for pedestrians. Cars don’t stop.

SCHOOL ZONE – We have to be quiet?

HANDICAPPED PARKING – We don’t have that in Thailand. VIP or guest speaker?

MERGE – A meeting point? A rest area?

4-WAY STOP – Main street gets first priority!

Food Shock

My wife had problems when she ordered food at most restaurants. Ordering food was a real challenge.

1. Ordering at the counter of a fast food restaurant. She thought she had to tip the server. Also, she did not know one has to pay before the meal is served.

At Kentucky Fried Chicken, she wanted to order fried chicken. So the trick is if you want legs and thighs you order “Dark Meat” and if you want breasts and wings you order “White Meat”. She wanted legs but ordered thighs. She thought the leg was the thigh. To her, the leg is chicken feet.

The server asked, “What side do you want?”

“What size? Small size, because I don’t eat too much.”

“What?”

“I order 4 pieces. Small size.”

“No, I mean side. What side you want?”

“What size you have?”

“Beans, corn, coleslaw, mashed potatoes.”

“Yes, corn.”

“Corn on the cob or regular?”

What was she talking about now? Corn on the cup?

“Yes, I want corn on the cup. A small cup.” Oh, man. This is getting confusing.

The food came and it included biscuits. My wife said, “I didn’t order that. I didn’t like that.”

“That comes with the meal.”

“OK.” She ate the thigh and corn on the cob.

At a fast food store, she wanted to order French Fries. The server said they don’t have that. French Fries were on the menu photo.

They said “we have Potato Fries”.

Is that the same thing? She had to learn another term. She was learning something every day.

2. Ordering “Drive Thru”, She had trouble with the drive through. One time the store employee didn’t understand her English pronunciation very well, so her daughter went hungry. She repeated herself five times with no luck.

3. Ordering “at the Restaurant”. The server would offer some drink first and then offer the complicated menu. She did not understand all the menu items, but luckily she liked to try new foods. One time she ordered salmon with white wine. She expected a glass of white wine, but the wine was used in cooking the salmon. One time she could not order alcohol because the server did not believe she was forty years old. All customers who like to order alcohol have to show ID. In Thailand they never ask for an ID.

The U.S. custom is to include 10% tips in the bill. In Thailand, if you are not satisfied with the food you don’t tip. In America, people usually talk about who will pay the bill. In Thailand, the rich member is expected to pay. If a group wants to negotiate who will pay, this has to be done before eating.

Weather and Snow Shock

My wife came from a land with a tropical climate. She had never experienced snow. What a surprise to move to Arkansas and wake up one morning and see a white blanket of snow covering everything. At least Arkansas had mild winters, unlike the frigid North, where snow might cover the ground for months.

Our first winter we had fun building a snowman and having snowball fights. But driving on icy roads was scary. Our home was situated among steep hills, and sometimes I could not drive to work for two or three days until trucks came with dirt to melt the ice.

She bought extra warm clothes, a space heater, thick blankets, gloves, and boots to survive the winter.

Shopping

Shopping for clothes was a challenge. Most Americans were larger than my wife. She had to look in the teenager section to find a comparable size that fit. Sometimes she tried to order online, but the clothes that arrived were too large. She had to sew her outfits. So she didn’t buy that much from online anymore.

She saw the sign named “Flea Market” in town. She knew what flea meant. But she wondered, why people need fleas? For the garden? In Thailand people just kill them. She went inside one, and saw old stuff, used clothes, and trinkets. I explained that a flea market just sold little things.

Debit or Credit and Checking Accounts

Most Americans spent their money by credit card or debit card or check. In Thailand most people paid by cash and wired money into bank accounts. My wife asked me why I did not give her cash. I gave her a debit card, and explained that it was easier and safer to pay everything by a card. So everywhere she went, she paid by debit card. She felt excited to be able to buy almost anything with just the swipe of a card. At the supermarket, the cashier asked her if she wanted cash back. She said sure I want cash back to my account.

No! It meant people can get cash from their account at the counter. In Thailand people get cash at the ATM only.

One time she went to the Drive Thru at the Bank. She was amazed and confused. She expected to meet a bank teller and ask for help. Unfortunately she drove to the outside lane. In Thailand they don’t have Drive Through services and she did not know how to operate the machine. She saw the round cylinder in a tube. How do I open this thing? She thought it may be the same as ordering food at a drive through. She communicated with the officer behind the window via speaker. She felt like a turtle. But the officer patiently explained how to operate the machine, and she made her first drive-through transaction. I laughed when I heard the story.

Vending machines were another mystery during her first few months. The machine said, insert 4 quarters. What was a quarter? She had to learn the value of coins. And machines were complicated too. She had to learn how to use a washing machine, dryer, stove, fireplace, air conditioning, TV remote, oven, dishwasher, and disposal.

Shop at the Grocery

Shopping was fun, but it was so complicated to buy groceries. She had to learn about many kinds of new foods. When she lived alone in Thailand, she usually bought meals from the street vendors or ate at restaurants. Food was less expensive in Thailand. Now she had to learn how to cook.

She liked to eat healthy food. She don’t like junk food, sandwiches, burgers, or pizza. She collected recipes and watched some cooking shows. I liked Thai food, so anything she cooked, I ate and enjoyed.
She found Oriental markets and learned how to cook from her mother and sister by Skype and learned from the internet food channel.

Food cost in the U.S. was so expensive. The prices shocked her. For example, in Thailand a bunch of bananas cost a quarter. Besides, she had a banana tree in her garden. In the Oriental store it was almost four dollars. She didn’t want to pay for that but wanted to eat them. The Oriental store didn’t carry all the meat, sauce, and other items she needed. So she created her own recipes for some kind of Thai dishes. She had to be creative and learn how to use an oven, dishwasher, and strange western kitchen gadgets. At least she could buy a rice cooker and steamer. Rice was an essential part of every meal. She could not find a hot pot in the stores, so she found one online.

Medical Shock

The healthcare and dental cost in America was so expensive. She wanted to order birth control pills. She couldn’t without a prescription. In Thailand, people can buy the pills at the pharmacy without any prescription. She went to the dentist for a yearly cleaning, and he charged twenty dollars. In Thailand, the cost would have been two hundred Baht, or six dollars.

She went to the clinic for a checkup because of a bad cough. The nurse asked her where do you want to pick up your medicine?

She said, “Here at the hospital.”

The nurse said they don’t have medicine here.

What? This is a big hospital in the U.S. Why don’t you have medicine? In Thailand people can take the medicine in the hospital pharmacy like a one stop service.

Then the woman told her she had to choose the pharmacy location.

“Can I choose Walmart?”

The woman asked, “Which Walmart?”

She said the one that was close to Walmart Home Office. She went to pick up her medicine at the Walmart Superstore, the one near Walmart Home Office.

Shocked again! At the pharmacy, people stood in line to meet a pharmacist at the window and there were many ways to pick up medicine. What lane did she need to stand in? Pick up lane, Drop Off, or Over the counter? What kind of medicine would she get? She really needed her medicine now.

She stood in line and talked with a pharmacy employee and gave them her prescription paper. The person behind the counter said her medicine wasn’t here.

How could that happen? She took a deep breath.

The clerk told her she had to go to Walmart Home Office Pharmacy Shop.

Oh brother! She needed medicine right now please. She didn’t know there was a pharmacy at the superstore and a pharmacy in the Walmart Home Office. So she drove the car and used the GPS navigator. She arrived at Walmart Home Office and finally got the medicine! Whoopee!

How to get a Job

My wife wanted to bring some food home and pay for the bills and make her kid proud of her as well. She had 15 years experience in marketing and public relations, but in America she had to start at the beginning. Her English skills were not perfect, so many employers declined her application. What kind of job could she do in America? She took a course in Physical Therapy, but we lived in a small town and there were few openings. She thought about getting an advanced degree, but the cost was too high. She already had a masters degree in Psychology, but it was not recognized in the U.S.

She eventually found a job supervising disabled people. And she started a home business.

Keep Calm

So to other people who face culture shock, her advice is, keep calm. You will prevail. She prayed to Buddha and meditated, listened to relaxing music, went to work out at the gym, started to play tennis, and made new friends. She searched for Thai people in the community, cared for her garden, and soon felt at home in America. She rearranged the house, and talked with her family in Thailand every week using Skype. I was a good listener and explained many things to her. I liked her Thai dishes.

So keep a positive attitude, don’t be afraid of culture shock. You will live through it and emerge a stronger and happier person.

Culture Shock, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse

Mr. K. beat up his wife and caused her serious physical injuries.
Mr. L. beat his teen-age daughter and caused her serious physical injuries.
Mr. M. murdered his wife.
Mr. N raped a young woman he was dating.

None of these gentlemen was psychotic, a psychopath or of a particularly violent nature. So why did they commit such atrocious crimes?

There can be many causes for violence against women. In the cases of K., L., M, and N. The crimes were related to culture shock.

Culture shock is mental distress a person experiences in an unfamiliar cultural environment. Typically, culture shock occurs after immigration from a traditional rural society to a modern urban society, but it can appear also after processes such as urbanization, industrialization and other changes in which a person does no longer recognize the social and ecological environment he or she grew up in. In my research on cultural shock I use the term “loss of simplicity”. The world a person had known used to be experienced as simple, but after the change it became unbearably complex.

The notion of simplicity in this context includes the following sub-notions:

Completeness – My culture enables me to process all the information needed for smoothly functioning in my social and ecological environment.

Parsimony – My culture does not allow me to process information irrelevant to functioning in my environment

Consistency – My culture does not let me process information needed for proper functioning in ways that include self-contradictions.

Plausibility – My culture enables me to interpret and understand what is going on in my environment in what my culture considers plausible ways, in ways that are considered correct and make sense.

In situations of cultural shock at least some of these characteristics of simplicity get lost. This causes considerable mental stress. What people in a state of cultural shock tend to do is simplify the new cultural information they are exposed to, in order to make it more tolerable. Simplifying often involves forgoing one or more of the above listed aspects of simplicity for the sake of another aspect, e.g. forgoing completeness and plausibility for the sake of consistency. For example, if an immigrant does not get a job because he is not qualified according to the standards of the new country and because there is a high level of unemployment in the hosting country and because many candidates compete for the same job, he ignores all these facts (forgoes completeness) and consistently interprets the rejection as a manifestation of prejudice against people of his community (forgoing plausibility). It is easier for him, emotionally, to convince himself consistently that the reason is prejudice than to process all the complex information that would constitute a more valid explanation. Simplifying often includes interpreting the new cultural information through the lenses of one’s original cultural world view, for instance interpret talking with an older man in a friendly, informal tone as a shocking manifestation of disrespect.

Let us see how these concepts are related to the cases of K., L., M. and N. Each of these men had immigrated, with his family, from a traditional society in a rural, pre-industrialized area to a big modern city. Their original, pre-immigration culture was optimally simple with respect to the status of men vs. women. In the original cultures women were dominated by men. They had to obey their fathers and older brothers, and if married, their husbands and their husbands’ mother. They should be dressed modestly, covering their body and head when in public. Unmarried women were not allowed to go out of home unaccompanied by a chaperon. Married women were forbidden to go out of home unaccompanied by their husbands. Physical contacts between unmarried women and men were strictly forbidden. Marriages were arranged by parents. Young men or women were not allowed to choose their partners for marriage. Schools were gender segregated.. Married women were not allowed to work out of home or drive a car. Married women were expected to satisfy their husbands’ sexual needs. Refusing was a cause for divorce and a divorcee was sent back to her parents’ home. A divorced woman had a bad reputation. Being forced to have an intercourse by the husband was not considered an offence.

None of these rules was applicable in the dominant culture in the city to which these men and their families immigrated. The encounter with the new cultural environment involved loss of simplicity, loss of completeness and parsimony and therefore got these men into a state of cultural shock.

In the big city Mr. K, who had been a potter in the village he grew up in, had to work in a factory. His wife had to work out of home too, because his salary was not sufficient to provide for the family. She found a job in a store for women clothes, but had to wear modern attire. In Mr. K.’s mind this situation involved loss of completeness and parsimony because a wife working out of home and wearing modern clothes was unheard of in his native culture. Only prostitutes violated these rules. Although his rational mind understood why his wife had to behave in this way, emotionally he could not tolerate it. He lost consistency and plausibility, because on the one hand he accepted the need for his wife to work out of home, but on the other hand he could not accept it. And then his emotional state lead him to prefer implausibility for the sake of consistency. One evening, when his wife came back from work dressed in modern clothes he felt, implausibly, that she became a loose woman. Looking at her through the lenses of his native culture, he called her “prostitute” and beat her up.

Mr. L.’s teen-age daughter was influenced by her new cultural environment. She began rebelling against her father, refused to obey him, went out in the evenings with her friends, a mixed company of girls and boys, and dressed in modern clothes. Again, for L. this was loss of comprehensiveness and parsimony. He had to face facts concerning his daughter’s new values and behavior that were out of the question and irrelevant in his native culture. When he tried to force her to play by the rules of his native culture she called him “primitive” and refused to obey him. But at home she behaved like a dutiful traditional daughter.

She herself lost the consistency of her traditional culture. But her father lost consistency too. On the one hand he did not want to be considered “primitive” and attempted to be liberal and tolerant with his daughter. On the other hand he could not, emotionally, tolerate her “transgression”. So he too gave up his inconsistency and opted for behaving according to the parental rules of his native culture. One night, when she came back late from her evening out, he beat her up.

Mr. M.’s wife saw that married women in her new environment were not required to obey their husbands and their mothers. They were dressed in fashionable clothes, went to courses, developed a career, went out without their husbands and had male friends. She wanted to be like these women and began behaving like them. For M. This was a complete loss of simplicity. All these new values and behaviors did not exist in his native culture. He tried unsuccessfully to force his wife to behave according to the rules of his native culture. He lost plausibility because he misinterpreted the changes his wife went through as deliberate attempts to humiliate him and emasculate him. They had violent rows. In one of them he lost control and killed her. Killing a transgressing wife was tolerated in his native culture.

N. was a young unmarried man. He was dazzled by the sexual freedom of young women in his new environment. This was again loss of simplicity, because such sexual freedom was unheard of in his native culture. He took full advantage of the sexual freedom of the girls he met, but also lost plausibility and interpreted their behavior as immoral. He also lost consistency because on one hand he understood the concept of mutual consent, but on the other hand he still held the traditional tenet that women should obey men and that forcing a woman to have sex is not considered an offence. When the girl he was dating refused to have sex with him his traditional mind overcame his modern mind and he raped her. He restored his lost consistency.

How can such terrible symptoms of cultural shock be prevented? By culturally competent family therapy, in which specially trained therapists help the family, especially the men, learn how to restore emotional balance in a state of culture shock, and how to build bridges between the traditional culture and the modern culture. A model of such therapy can be found in my book Culturally Competent Family Therapy.

Dr. Shlomo Ariel is an international supervisor of clinical psychology and family therapy, an international trainer of therapists in integrative psychotherapy, culturally competent psychotherapy and play therapy. Director of the Integrative Psychotherapy Center and The Israeli Play Therapy Institute.

Globalization – How It Impacts Cross Cultural Relationships

It used to be that ‘Cross-Culture” meant reaching across ethnicities. The bar for developing a successful relationship with individuals or groups of other cultures was low. You needed to communicate a common language, or used an interpreter, understood the basic do’s and don’t of the culture and conducted your relationship without much thought to anything else. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not.

Globalization has directly impacted the importance of achieving successful outcomes in interacting with other cultures, ethnicities and races. Why? For the following reasons.

  1. Countries and ethnic groups are much more dependent upon each other. Companies and their managers need to communicate precisely and efficiently. The companies’ success may depend upon a successful relationship.
  2. International trade and commerce is substantially higher today than even ten years ago. Failed relationships can be fatal, not just detrimental to the large trade and commerce activity
  3. In social circles, when your cross cultural relationship fails, it just does not affect the two individuals. Chances are, with the global traffic today, there are families from the other culture that reside in the US. They, too, will be affected.
  4. With all of the tools of communication, everyone or almost everyone is aware of what is going on in a relationship. That includes cross cultural relationships.
  5. Globalization has robbed cultures of their purity, their nativity. Think of people in Asia who are today much more aware of lifestyle in the US and vice versa. You really need to pay attention to what the special attributes are of any culture. It requires much more deep dive than before.
  6. People are today much more sensitive to insults to their culture and heredity, unintended as they may be

So with all of this confusion in the cross cultural landscape, how do you achieve success? Here are a few tips.

  • Be your natural self in dealing with people who represent the other culture. Be genuine, sincere and respectful.
  • Take pride in your culture, but discard ego; it only hurts, does not heal or sustain a relationship. My favorite example is of a man from a culture that dominated the world 3,000 years ago–however is poor and dying today. He is condescending towards the American culture. And wonders why he scores so poorly with Americans.
  • Learn to communicate in a manner that the individual from the other culture feels comfortable with. Avoid slang, Americanisms and bartalk. It shows that you are shallow.
  • Be aware that globalization causes convergence of cultures. Even something so simple as two different cultures communicating in a common language–e.g. English—means walls are coming down on cultural differences.
  • Highlight fundamental goodness and common virtues in the cultures, not differences. You will achieve terrific following when you do that, it is a true win-win strategy.

Cross Cultural Questions After Australian Election

The extraordinary results of the July 2nd, 2016, election in Australia has divided the nation in more ways than one. Not only have the people produced what may be a hung parliament, that is neither of the major parties can rule in their own right without the help of minor parties or independents, but it has also brought back a debate on multi-culturalism. That is something most are forced to accept even though it is not their preferred state.

Many years ago when a student at the University of New South Wales in Sydney it was my argument for the end of the White Australia Policy (WAP)that the then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, acted upon. He sent three ministers to see how my proposition would work. He then largely implemented it.

The facts are Australia is a young and prosperous nation and it has high status in the eyes of many, especially those who are looking for a safe place to settle. Since the end of the WAP we have been open to people from all countries, religions, and backgrounds. Successive governments have watered down the original proposition put forward by me so that now we have a lot of undesirable types stirring up trouble.

Another thing worrying many are the religions that are so vastly different and ‘strange’ in their performance and buildings. Chief among these are the mosques that are now targeted by those who see them as places that breed hate. They certainly have some controversial and often hate-mongering speakers and one was expelled in recent weeks for his rant against homosexuals.

The problem is how does a basically Christian country deal with people who are largely immigrants fleeing conflicts and who openly condemn it for the value it holds? We have also seen people shot by Muslims as part of their service to Isil and this is putting the country more on edge. After the attacks in Paris, Belgium, the USA, and elsewhere, this nation is possibly next in line. It has already had a taste of it with the Lindt Café siege of some 18 months ago with two hostages killed.

Now the election has given voice to those who want to deal directly with the Muslim religion and hold a tribunal (a legal examination) into the religion. There is growing unrest around the world as things like the Brexit and the rise of people like Donald Trump demonstrate that similar sentiment is widely held by others worldwide. We can’t escape the Islamic forces in our midst so something else has to found to provide a solution to the unrest it generates.

Norma Holt writes on topics of interest that are relevant to the times.