I recently read an article over at BuzzFeed that gave me a good laugh. Mainly because it's true and totally resonates with me (as, I'm sure, it will resonate with many here). It's a list of "27 Experiences That Define Your Inter-Cultural Relationship," and several of the points on the list do indeed define my relationship with my Vietnamese boyfriend.
When we first started dating, I never stopped to consider the many new experiences--some awesome, some awkward--that were going to be opened up to me. I guess because, despite what I just called him above, I never really thought of him as "my Vietnamese boyfriend." We clicked and fell in love, and we never considered our different cultures as beneficial or impedimentary. Aside from the occasional moment that he gets annoyed with something I do or say, and he rolls his eyes and says, "White people..." But reading the BuzzFeed list and looking back on the past (almost) two years really drives home how much our different cultures have mattered, and more specifically how much I have gained in the way of culture from this relationship.
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The first item on BuzzFeed's list perhaps hits home the most:
1. You get to try foods that you definitely wouldn’t have otherwise.
And it's true. When I moved to Houston, the very first fellow grad student I met up with asked me where I wanted to meet him and gave me a choice between Vietnamese and a poboy shop. I enthusiastically went for the poboys, because god knows I wasn't going to take a risk on Vietnamese food. And then something happened.
That is photographic evidence of my very first pho experience, at the BF's grandmother's house. Oh, look at how happy I was. I think most everybody here knows what a pho addict I've turned into since this picture was taken. Now, I'm the one who always wants to go out for Vietnamese, and I consider myself lucky if I can drag the BF out for some pho or banh mi, which he is usually less than enthusiastic about.
It's not just pho or banh mi. I'm always trying something new when I'm with him. Not too long ago, I went to his family's house for dinner, and I ate fermented rice for dessert. The thought of it was so bizarre to me and made me want to throw up, but it was actually pretty delicious once I gave it a chance. Story of this relationship, it seems...me giving something a chance and loving it.
2. You also get double the holidays now. Some of which don’t even make sense to you.
Maybe not double the holidays, but can anybody say LUNAR NEW YEAR HELL YEAH!! Last Lunar New Year, the celebration consisted of the younger people (a category into which the BF and I fell) walking around to all of the older people and getting red packets filled with cash. Apparently it is considered "lucky" money for the upcoming year. Where has this holiday been all of my life?
8. Your taste in music is blown wide open.
Well...yeah. I don't like to admit it, but my iPhone may or may not now have music like this on it:
Of course, it's not all fun and games, though...
13. The language barrier between you and your potential mother-in-law can be cut with a knife.
For me, it's not his mom. But there is definitely a language barrier between his dad and me. And his grandparents? Forget about it. I found myself at his grandparents' house recently, and his sweet grandfather--who spoke no English--obviously wanted to be a good host, so he offered me some off-brand cherry soda. I said no thanks, my stomach turning at the idea. Undoubtedly mistaking my head shake for mere politeness, he poured me a glass. Not only was it generic cherry soda, but it was flat as all hell. I wanted to be polite, so I smiled and drank the soda as fast as I could (in the same way that you want to down straight tequila as fast as you can). He pulled out the bottle of cherry soda again. I said no thanks. He poured me another glass. I whispered to my BF, who was having way
too much fun laughing at my predicament, "TELL HIM I SERIOUSLY DON'T WANT ANY MORE CHERRY SODA!!!" He didn't, because he likes to see me suffer, apparently.
21. Upside? Slowly but surely, you’re learning a new language.
Not fast enough to turn down flat cherry soda, but it's happening. Kind of. Well...
22. Which basically means you only know how to curse and say “I love you.”
This is a bit more accurate. I can say "troi oi" (and do often), which is the equivalent of "Oh my God!" in Vietnamese. I am also able to say "anh yeu anh" at night, which means "I love you." And even then...I speak Vietnamese in the same way that Peggy Hill speaks Spanish.
But, kidding aside, this:
23. You’re learning A LOT, actually. Getting cultured, and worldly, and all cosmopolitan.
That might be overstating it. But compared to almost two years ago, yes, I have
learned a great deal. Culturally speaking, I think I've gotten the most out of this relationship. But I've assured him (above his protesting) that, when I take him back to rural Pennsylvania with me, he's going to eat venison, the food of my people. It's only fair to share our cultures, right?
October 9, 2013
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October 8, 2013
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