Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cultural Changes


Many friends have asked me what is it like to live in a multi-cultural home? This is more than a catholic living with a protestant. It's more than a mexican-american living with a white or black american.

This is learning to live with someone who literally set foot on American soil one year ago this Friday.

Needless to say, we come from two completely different backgrounds, belief systems, cultural and social norms and ethnicities.

If you have not figured it out from my previous blog posts - I am married to a man by the name of Yasser. I tend to call him "the egyptian." Why? He's Egyptian.

Yasser was born in April of 1981 in Alexandria, Egypt.
Alexandria is a major populated city. It is the second largest city in Egypt with about 11.9 million people living there. Needless to say, he grew up in a major metropolitan area. Not only did he grow up in the "big city", he also grew up on the Mediterranean Sea. Sooo.. he is a coastal guy. He told me he grew up eating fresh seafood at least 5 times a week.

Yasser went to university in Beirut, Lebanon. Later he worked in both Syria and Jordan. Now, he is in America.

He speaks three languages: Arabic (his native), English and French. He speaks most dialects of Arabic.

Then let's talk about where Egypt is - it's North Africa, and it is considered a part of the middle east. He is an Arab (but an African) and he is a Sunni Muslim.

He grew up in a very religious household. His mother actually wears a full burqa. He prays 5 times a day, and when he reads - 9 times out of 10 he will pick up the Qu'ran.

Then let's get to me. I was born in Macon, Georgia. That's right smack dab in the middle of Georgia. The South. The epitome of the south.

Macon might have about 100,000 people. We consider our little town to be the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World. LOL. Seriously. Macon also has another claim to fame- it has more churches per square mile than any other city. Oh yeah.
Protestant churches, might I add.

I am Catholic. My mom is orginally from Macon. My dad is from Indiana. A very non-traditional family. Artistic, if you will. I was born in 1973.

Note the age difference between my egyptian and I.

Needless to say - there are some differences.

Yasser joined me in Birmingham, Alabama for many reasons. 1. He speaks Arabic, and I do not. 2. There are more opportunities here (America) and 3. I already had a home and car and the other things we need to live alone!

Sooo.. what changes have taken place for me?? There are several. Some are funny, some are not.

Here is my little list of cultural changes:

1. There are verses from the Qu'ran on my wall. Framed pics. Not something I ever imagined having. They are hanging right across from my picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. ;-)

2. The egyptian (in the beginning) kept taking my crosses down, and putting them in different places. I would find them, and put them back.

3. No alcohol in the house. Muslims do not drink. Catholics do. Hmm.. I think God provided a little divine intervention (literally) - I started taking meds for my Blood Pressure that warn to not consume any alcoholic beverages... sooo.. I have not had a drink since Oct. Our home is completely alcohol free. That's odd for some of my friends, because I used to be quite the party girl.

4. No pork in the house. This one was the hardest. Not that I ate pork everyday, but I DO live in the south, and we are the best at soul food/southern cooking - which pork is usually a staple. No more pork bacon, I have learned to eat turkey bacon. No more sausage gravy with biscuits. No more ribs, chops, and pork hot dogs for the grill. All beef. I just buy halal or kosher meats.

5. Clothing. Not that I EVER wore crazy revealing clothes, but my neckline is a lot higher now. My arms are covered. I don't wear skirts that come above mid-calf. I was able to get out the door in shorts ONCE. He was not pleased. When we go to the pool, I have to wear a cover up, and can take it off once in the water.

6. Knowing that at least 5 times a day I must turn all sound off - he will stop to pray.

7. No pets. Cleanliness is essential in Islam. Not that I am dirty - but animals in the home are consider disgusting. Sooo.. no more kitties.. no more puppies.. Also dogs are not allowed in the house - period. They believe that when you pray, that angels will not recieve the prayer to carry to Allah (God.)

8. Driving to the Mosque on Friday. That's their day of worship.

9. Privacy. Yikes. I am an open book. Privacy is SUPER important in relationships. No discussing any intimate details with others. Women are to be humble, modest and quiet. I am NONE of those things. ;-)

10. The man is consider the head of the house. Umm.. er...

Now the list of items that are different for the egyptian would require hole other ram of memory. LOL

I wanted to add one more graphic. (Click on it for a larger view.)

Here is a look at what he and I agree on when it comes to our religions. (Which clearly are a HUGE role in both of our lives.)

Check it out. Tell me what you think!

What differences do you have to learn to live with??

5 comments:

Leanne said...

Nicole - this post was so interesting to me and I really thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. You answered so many things I kind of wondered about your life with your Egyptian. (Ooo - except, how did you meet? I may have missed that from a previous post, but I can't remember.) I feel so strongly about embracing our differences and learning to live (in peace) together. I constantly think, "We all put our pants on one leg at a time - so we are pretty much more similar than we think." Thanks, again, for sharing this with us.

Nicole said...

Leanne - check out this blog post -
http://nicoleabdou-destinationunknown.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-is-story-with-you-and-yasser.html

That will explain it all! :-) Shocking! Sooo not my personality at all. LOL

Cassandra said...

I took a class on Islam a couple years ago. It was so interesting. I, personally, don't think I could marry someone with such strong beliefs though, in any religion. I definitely wouldn't able to deal with the kind of changes he would want me to make. I commend you for it.

Miel Abeille said...

How inspiring! Personally, it's refreshing to see how the differences can draw you together, instead of pushing you apart. Lovely post.

Nicole said...

Let me just add - it can be absolute hell some days. If he wasn't so damned cute (to me) I would have kicked him to the curb looong ago. LOL (PS - that's my dark humor.. sorry. ;-) )

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