Wednesday, June 11, 2008

2nd time today...

I wrote this for a class I'm taking and thought it would make a decent (maybe a little boring) blog post. Its supposed to be an informal discussion on my family's culture, compared with a family of a different culture. Don't be too harsh - I'm not a great writer. And it is a little long, sorry.

My husband and I have been married for almost 2 years. We are still working to adapt different parts from our own culture into our new family. We grew up in two culturally different homes on different sides of the United States. Our marriage has allowed me to look at both of our families’ cultures and see the similarities and differences.

Before I went to college I spent my entire life in Killeen, TX, which is near Ft. Hood. My grandma was from Japan and moved to the United States in the late 1960’s after she met my mom’s dad. My mom was born into a military family in Germany. They eventually settled in Killeen, in the same house where my parents still live. My dad was born and raised in Northern Kentucky. He joined the Army after high school and was stationed in Ft. Hood, where he met my mom. My parents continued to live in Killeen in my grandma’s house. She had recently gotten divorced and had a large house to herself. Growing up my mom did not work; she stayed at home at took care of my brother and I. My grandma was also always there after work and on the weekends, so it was a like having a second mom at times. She would tell me to clean my room, or to put my toys away and take a bath, just like my mom did. She taught us a lot about the Japanese culture.

I did not realize it until later, but many aspects of her Japanese culture were instilled in our every day lives. We were not allowed to wear shoes inside the house. We had a choice of rice or potatoes with almost every meal. She used Japanese words with us to express feelings such as here (when something was handed to someone, as in here you go – hai) be quiet (Urusai), let’s go and many others. When my grandma passed away about a year ago I learned about more Japanese traditions that deal with death and mourning. The day after her funeral we had a Japanese dinner at her friend’s house. We ate nori maki and sukiyaki, and as we ate a small plate of food was left on the table, for my grandma’s spirit. My grandma’s friend, who is also Japanese) visited the grave twice a day for a certain period of time as a ritual of mourning. I was expected to be studious and make good grades. Part of my dad’s culture that was enforced in my upbringing was that children were to be seen, not heard. I was taught not to interrupt an adult for any reason, and to be quiet in public.

I have lived my entire life in Texas so when I was younger I spoke what is sometimes referred to as “Texan.” I stopped saying “fixin’ to” once I realized it was not correct English, but I still often say “y’all”. This is in great contrast to my husband’s family. My husband, Heath, grew up in Kalispell, Montana. He grew up in a small town in a valley with natural lakes and mountains all around. One of the biggest differences in our families’ cultures is pronunciation of words. The cost of living was much higher in Montana, so when he was younger both of his parents worked. His dad is very involved in his kids, and took part in raising them. My dad views that task as a woman’s job, and left most of it to my mom. Until recently he did not cook or clean much either, while Heath’s dad routinely helps out around the house. I say yes or no sir or ma’am to just about anyone who I should show respect to. The first time I did this around his family they were surprised. I later learned that it was because where they are from saying sir or ma’am was generally seen as a sign of mockery, and was considered rude not respectful. Another big difference is that my family celebrates all holidays and occasions with a big get together or party. He grew up without any family near, and now lives on the opposite side of the country from his family, so holidays were normally small with only immediate family members present.

Although my husband and I grew up on opposite sides of the country we are still working to bring together two cultures into our family. I still say y’all, and our daughter is repeating it. She is being taught to say yes ma’am and no sir, and one day when she is old enough we will travel to Montana so she can see where her daddy grew up.

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