The Arab/American Marriage; many years later

My initial ‘Arab/American Marriage‘ post was in August 2012 and I’ve tried to provide an update each year since.

While reading over my original post I realize not a lot has changed other than our geographical location. We move to America in 2013 and haven’t looked back. For the first several months I’m sure I experienced far more culture shock and missed Kuwait much more than my husband did. I looked forward to the visits back and had even continued to remind him we should probably consider moving back one day. Well, that’s no longer the case.

After overcoming my missing of Kuwait (which didn’t take too very long) I genuinely started to embrace life here in America. Probably as much as my husband embraced it from the beginning. We’re both fully committed to being here for the rest of our lives and enjoying our Kuwait visits with family when possible.

At this point I don’t think we have any cultural differences to overcome — we’ve already done that on so many levels. I do still get a giggle when he occasionally mistakes the B for a P and ‘barks the car’. Otherwise, I sometimes forget he wasn’t born and raised here.

Some people have asked if my husband has changed since moving to America. I suppose we both have to some degree. I can say his love for animals, while it always existed, has really intensified. We started a nonprofit together to assist rescue animals abroad and he’s just as dedicated as I am to making a difference. He loves our pets (4 dogs and 2 cats) as if they’re our children and treats them as such. Anytime we’re out shopping together he’ll grab little toys or treats he thinks the pets might enjoy. On the other hand shopping, while one of my favorite things, is not on his list of pleasures.

In many ways I guess we’re simply the boring couple now. We spend weekends doing home improvement projects and weekdays working on business projects. We travel only if it’s convenient for our pets. He hates grocery shopping yet gladly carries all the bags into the house. We have mutual ‘couple’ friends as well as a handful of friends we hang out with independent of one another. I enjoy waking early and going out for coffee, he likes to sleep in and grab a quality brunch later in the day. We watch the same television programs, like the same movies, and have similar taste in music. Yeah, we’re just the typical married couple at this point. Best friends, one another’s biggest fan, and always displaying a mutual respect.

For those who continue to ask for advice regarding their Arab boyfriend/fiance, I would have to say the most important thing is to like one another. Forget about culture, background, religion, etc. Look at that person and ask yourself if you really like them enough to spend the rest of your life with them. If the answer is yes, then everything else is simple stuff. But if you’re with someone and think, “Oh I can change him/her down the road” get out of that relationship. Don’t disrespect yourself or someone else with such immature thoughts. Find someone you share a true common bond with and embrace them for who they are.

My husband and I were very fortunate that we both had a deep understanding of one another’s culture from the beginning. I respected his and he respected mine. There were no games or nonsense which resulted in hurt feelings. We were both honest, up front, dependable, loyal, and real. That’s what makes any marriage a strong one.

The old and the new; self definition within cultural norms

Though we no longer reside full time in Kuwait we certainly make an effort to keep up with the daily happenings there considering we do still have family and other interests there. Let me rephrase that, I keep up with the daily happenings. My husband has almost zero interest in what’s taking place in Kuwait. He’s never really ‘meshed’ with the culture so to speak, he’s often had to pretend certain behaviors and put on the fake smile, and always knew he just didn’t belong in some odd way. In my humble opinion, and in no way trying to offend anyone; I think, over time, he just consciously educated himself beyond what was/is accepted in his culture. He not only thought outside of the box, but he left the box all together.

Perhaps it’s because I’m away from Kuwait more than I’m there I see it through different eyes. But over the past few years it feels as though Kuwait has become divided within itself. There’s the older generation who want to lean more in the direction of big brother Saudi Arabia, and the younger generation who want to follow the lead of the UAE. And if you’re familiar with Saudi and the UAE you’ll understand the stark differences between the two though their foundation of beliefs are the same. Just like the population of Kuwait.

The elders in Kuwait are also divided on some level — the open minded and those with a beard. OK, not nice, but you get the idea.

The open minded older generation are all for change in Kuwait. The type of change that resembles their childhood when Kuwait was ‘pre-invasion’ and there was a sense of freedom and equality in the country. Women didn’t always cover their heads, married couples attended mixed gender events, and people even danced without finger pointing or the fear of being arrested.

The other half of the older generation, those sporting a beard, well, they want change too. However, while their idea of change is also a glimpse into the past, it’s so far in the past few would even recognize it. In their minds Kuwait should revert to a primitive lifestyle where every action is dictated by religious beliefs.

You can see how this could lead to conflict both personally and politically. Now throw into the mix the Kuwaiti youth. Those who truly want to see a change which resembles something from the future. They’re proactive, progressive, intelligent, and educated. But sadly, all of this forward movement makes them appear to be running from the past. Obviously upsetting the elders who cling to the past like a lifebuoy preventing them from taking their last breath.

All of this internal conflict isn’t good for the country. It leaves them discombobulated, confused, and lacking any real direction. And from the outside, they appear to just be a mess. Imagine what other local governments must think of them. Saudi has managed to hold onto their ancient past… and even enforce it for the most part. And the UAE has managed to seamlessly bring modern day freedoms into their Islamic country while maintaining their values and culture. Bravo!

Kuwait? Well, Kuwait is just struggling from within to find its identity. Quite similar to many of those Kuwaiti (and non-Kuwaiti/expat) youth who are dying to be trend setters yet are only following things the modern world accomplished decades ago. And while I watch them face a number of interior challenges, I’m always rooting for their win. Kuwait holds a piece of my heart and will always be a part of my life. I love Kuwait and beam with pride while sharing stories with friends here at home. I long for the day the country finds itself and unites — because I do believe that can happen. Until that day comes change will never happen, whether it be forward or backwards.

Below are a couple of videos entitled ‘Kuwait Then & Now” (parts 1 & 2). I’ve only watched the first few minutes but found it to be quite interesting.

 

Different cultures = new traditions

My grave lack of interest in Christmas this year recently prompted a very serious conversation between me and myself. Not out loud, though I have been known to talk to myself.

“Wanna go shopping?”

“Nah. It’s too hot.”

“Wanna decorate and start a fire in the fireplace?”

“Nah. It’s too hot.”

I think I was trying to convince myself the two days of unseasonably warm weather we were having was stripping away any sign of Christmas spirit I could have possibly felt — the way I did in previous years. But, the more I contemplated and talked myself out of doing anything holiday related, the more I realized it was because it lacked the same emotional relevance it did as I was growing up. Or even as I was living overseas for so very long.

AB

My husband, on the other hand, goes out of his way every holiday season to make it as special as he possibly can for me which was very appreciated before moving home to the U.S. However, it recently dawned on me that his idea of a ‘special Christmas’ is doing what he’s seen in movies and on television. He never grew up celebrating the holiday and really has no clue the significance of certain things… like the ‘build up’ of excitement as the holiday season approaches. Or why things such as ‘Black Friday’ make many of us insane with joy. Cookie exchanges, gift wrapping parties, or matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. Of course when I suggest these things he’s totally on board, but it made me realize he’s just going through the motions for my benefit. 

That being said, during my intimate conversation with myself about this overall detachment from the holidays I was experiencing, I had an epiphany — new traditions!

AB2

My husband and I genuinely love one another dearly and would go out of our way to make each other happy. He pretends his way through the holiday season while I detach from it as a way to prevent him from experiencing any inconvenience. So, as a way to bring us closer together and connect on a more significant level this year, we opted to create some new traditions of our own. Such as a romantic dinner at a very exclusive (and decked out for Christmas in terms of decor) restaurant the first week of December. Black Friday shopping on Saturday at local businesses only. Christmas Eve breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and Christmas Eve night at the local Jazz club with great friends and family. Just a few small modifications that allow us to enjoy the holiday season in a way that defines ‘us’ a bit better than any Christmas movie we’ve ever seen.

So yeah, after almost 4 years of marriage we still occasionally face cultural differences. But chances of us defining them as such is pretty rare. I suppose we often just overcome challenges like any other married couple; compromise, love, and respect.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with happiness and perhaps even some new traditions of your own.

British Airways Kuwait Documentary

This is the first of a four part documentary about Kuwait that British Airways will show on board their flights. Etihad does the same thing for the country to which you’re traveling. It’s a nice way to give a brief introduction to the country you’re preparing to visit as the plane lands, and it certainly highlights some of the more interesting aspects of the country. The video below is absolutely gorgeous and presents Kuwait in such a positive light.

I found this video on 2:48AM blog. You can check it out for other posts about the British Airways short films on Kuwait.

 

Updated video emailed to bloggers. Enjoy!

Respect; the glue which holds a marriage together

I get a number of emails every day asking questions about what makes the Arab/American marriage really work. Some share their own experiences, both good and bad. And others are hoping for just a little insight into a very confusing situation. And though I’m certain I’ve blogged about this before I figured I would cover it again since my own marriage has grown and changed.

Of course there’s no magic answer to any of their questions though I wish there were. I like to think that every now and then I do spout something that provides a little comfort to at least one person needing some peace.

In most cases I find myself looking at my own marriage and trying to identify what really makes it work. Is it perfect? Nah. Are we always running around chipper and happy? Of course not. But are we deeply in love and share a genuine concern for one another’s well being? Absolutely. And then it hit me — respect.

*Google images

*Google images

I know I’ve said this before, but in the few years we’ve been married my husband has never once raised his voice at me in anger or called me a derogatory name. He’s still very protective of my feelings and gets bothered if something upsets me. Not as much as he was when we were first together — he’s learned I’m a bit melodramatic. He knows when I’m really upset as opposed to just being a spoiled drama queen and he reacts accordingly. Yet I always know when I really need him he’s there without hesitation. He doesn’t allow me to worry about anything and he’s always making sure I’m well taken care of.

On the same note I hold him in the highest regard. I have the greatest respect for him as a man and my husband. And though we trust one another implicitly, I could never imagine doing something (especially publicly) that would be shameful to him or put him in a negative light. Not that we care what other people think, but it simply comes down to respect. Especially in his culture. Not that culture should really matter when it comes to respecting another another in a marriage.

Since meeting we’ve faced a number of challenges that neither of us had any control over, yet we somehow seemed to not only overcome, but to come out on the positive end. Our biggest challenge has probably been adapting to life here in America. Something we were both really excited about but hadn’t completely thought through. Yes, we knew it was going to be different but I’m not sure either of us knew exactly how different. Fortunately, and after several months, we created habits and a comfort zone all while growing closer together. We were open and honest about any feelings we had and we were compassionate towards what the other was going through.

And while loyalty, compassion, honesty, and humor are all very important traits, I don’t believe they can exist without respect.

‘Muslim boyfriend’ is an oxymoron [re-post]

It’s fairly common for me to write about living overseas and marrying an Arab man since that’s my experience. But what I haven’t discussed is the far more common scenario of the couple meeting while in her home country. He’s generally overseas studying at some fabulous Western university and the lifestyle is new and exciting. Chances are this is his first time away from home.

I came across this really interesting post on Maritime Muslimah‘s blog this morning and thought I would share. She points out a few ways for a woman to know he’s just never going to marry her. I’ve only added her list of 5 things a woman should look out for, but her entire post is definitely worth reading.

1. The Parents

First things first – if he is hiding you from mommy and daddy then get out while you can. He will make excuses and tell you again and again that it’s not the right time. He will keep delaying it until he leaves. You will never meet them on skype or hear him mention you to them.

 

2. Justifies all the Haram

If you convert to Islam and he keeps convincing you to party, drink and have sex then he’s a dud. Often times he’ll be aggressive about it and call you ‘extreme’ . When you come to Islam he should support you and you both should grow and become better together.

 

3. My ‘friend’

If he calls you just a friend in front of his friends and other people and later makes excuses for it then call him out on it and if he doesn’t change – you’ll end in heart break.

 

4. False Nikah

Beware of him convincing to marry him ‘Islamically’ with the local Mosque without informing his parents or having any of his friends as witnesses. He is trying to make your relationship ‘halal’ while still committing haram (If you’re still partying and having sex).

 

5. Convinces you Not to become Muslim

He’s scared that if you become Muslim that you will ruin his experience and fun in the West. He came to escape  the laws of his country not have another mother telling him what to do.

My love/hate relationship with Kuwait

For many years I’ve struggled with my love/hate relationship. This isn’t something new since making America our primary home while leaving our Kuwait home as ‘secondary’. This has been going on for well over a decade.

Let me explain;

Kuwait is a place you either love or hate, rarely is there an in-between. In my case it’s a love but a love of what exactly? Surely not the traffic or the painful processes and procedures attached to everything. Nor could it be the weather, which I often compare to standing in an oven with a hot blow dryer aimed at your face. I’m also not a fan of the numerous malls where shopping is secondary to stalking. Or even the overcrowded coffee shops on every single corner of the country. Maybe the abundance of designer items sans taxes? Nope. I’ve always found it easier and far less expensive to purchase certain items while vacationing in Italy, France, or the US. And, as much as I love great food, the wide extensive vast number of restaurants isn’t even desirable to me. Parking and crowds make a meal out a daunting task.

So where’s all that love I have for Kuwait?

When I think back on the years in Kuwait and the life I lived, my greatest memories always go back to people and experiences. Not places and things.

CamelFarm

I noticed over the years many American contractors would go to Kuwait for a tax free job making what they considered ‘a lot’ of money. They were instantly hypnotized by the glitz and glamour of the local lifestyle because ‘things’ impressed them.  It’s easy to become impressed by material items and brand names when you’ve only ever seen them on television. I suspect they eventually leave Kuwait with a bunch of ‘stuff’, a minimal bank account, and a lot of resentments.

For me ‘stuff’ came my entire childhood. Only child, spoiled… you get the idea. I was never impressed with the readily available material items of Kuwait. I sought something deeper, something more ‘real’. I didn’t want a group of friends who felt an evening at the mall was an ‘outing’ in Kuwait. I wanted to know the history, the true culture, the core of Kuwait’s being. I was in love and wanted to explore all there was about the object of my desire… Kuwait.

Within a few short months I had numerous local business associates who eventually became great friends. A few years later, with much encouragement, I started the blog which resulted in meeting even more fabulous locals, expats, other bloggers, and newbies to Kuwait. Before I knew it my schedule was full and I was creating what would become priceless memories. Weekends visiting places such as Mutla’a Ridge, Winters in the desert with great people, a sunset by the sea, an afternoon at the camel farm, a day trip to the ‘old’ Mubarakiya, or just chai al-daha with some quality friends. Many years later I would meet and marry my husband; together we would manage to make even more memories while allowing me to explore Kuwait on another level.

SharqSunset

So, when I’m asked why I love Kuwait so much by those who find it to be mundane or boring, my words are never enough to express my passion. Even now, while comfortably nestled in our country home in the good ol’ USA, surrounded by greenery on all sides, I find myself reminiscing every now and then. Yet my fondest memories always take me back to the people who make Kuwait the amazing country it really is. I guess you could compare Kuwait to the fairly unattractive person with the greatest personality ever. If you don’t take a moment to get to know it, you’ll never see all the beauty it possesses.

Will we ever move back there? It’s always an option, just not one we’re discussing today.

 

The Arab/American Marriage — Al-Juz’a Al-Thaani

A little over a year ago I wrote about my experience as an American married to an Arab man. The post has gotten a lot of attention from women in similar situations and men looking to marry American women. But, I’ve also received over 100 emails asking for an update; changes we might have experienced as a couple since moving to the US.

So here goes…

Christmas of 2011 my husband had agreed to move to America. It was one of many gifts he had given me that year but definitely the best. I didn’t ask for it though he could certainly see how depressed I was over the holidays. I’m not Christian, have never been Christian, but have always celebrated Christmas… it’s a commercial thing. Of course I was excited and ready to start packing; it had been a very long time since I had actually lived in my home country. But his agreement to move came with stipulations (good ones, not bad), a requirement to be prepared, and took us about a year to meet the goals we had set.

It’s almost unheard of for a man from my husband’s culture to move away from his family unless it’s to study. But, from the time my husband was a teenager he was very independent. He worked when he didn’t have to, he maintained a place of his own outside of the family home (to take women? eh, don’t know, don’t care), and made clear he wasn’t interested in a traditional marriage. Yet he managed to do this without disrespecting his family. Not sure how he did it, but he did. The fact that he’s a middle son probably helps a lot as well.

Long story short, in January 2013 we were on the plane headed to our new life in the United States. We were both beyond excited and it almost felt surreal. My husband, his brothers, and his dad handled all of our bags and I managed the cats. Every single man in the family took us to the airport in 4 cars. As nervous as I was they made it feel so simple.

Upon arriving at our destination in North Carolina my husband handled everything. I believe at that point he was not only carrying the cat bags but also my handbag. I was utterly exhausted and surely not a lot of fun to be around. He slept on the flight, I didn’t. Enough said.

For the first several weeks we organized, unpacked, and made our new house a true home. It was interesting to see my husband learn new ‘American tasks’ such as hanging curtains. Yet he was more than willing and I believe it was even fun for him. Soon after we arrived he went on a power tool buying frenzy. Spring came and we planted a garden. Another first for him but he was truly enthusiastic.

Another thing I believe we both enjoyed without even realizing it was the lack of people staring. No odd questions, no funny looks. We just do our thing while everyone around us does theirs. My husband has been mistaken for Mexican more than once and our Waiter in a Mexican restaurant even spoke to him in Spanish while seating us. He replied with, “Hi Amigo” (the only Spanish word he knows) and we laughed.

Since moving to America my husband has experienced a lot of things he hadn’t before. Different people, a new lifestyle, food, weather, and even pumping our gas. Yet he’s adapted without hesitation. He’s remained the same kind soul I married. He remains patient when I’m not. And he has a way of being a calming force in my life. He’s still attentive, caring, and thoughtful. He never leaves the house without coming home with some ‘surprise’ for me. To this day he makes sure I have everything I need without asking. He really is the reason I sleep so well and wake up so happy.

If I had to list any complaint about him it would be his addiction to thrift stores. No, not antique stores — those are acceptable. I’m talking Goodwill. If we pass one while driving I cringe, knowing he’s making a u-turn. “Whyyyyyy” I ask. What is the attraction to buying used books (his primary purchase)? I think he’s just amazed people would discard so many items and he can purchase them at a 99% discount. I’m not nearly as amused. Fortunately most of our Goodwill stores are near a coffee shop or a mall… where I disappear to.

I suppose our life in America resembles anyone else’s. But I believe we’ve both grown as people. We’re more grounded emotionally and probably deeper in love than ever before. We appreciate life in a way we didn’t while living in Kuwait. We can sit outside, watch the sunset, admire the puffy clouds and green trees, and be perfectly satisfied. Nothing here is showy, shallow, or superficial and I think we embrace that. I guess we’ve become what some would call ‘boring’ but we’re definitely not bored.

While relaxing at home my husband will sometimes still wear dishdasha (I think that’s for my benefit) but he has a closet full of Eddie Bauer. I gladly cook machboos though it’s only once a week. We burn bukhoor and have Arabesque decor all throughout the house, but we also have 2 cats and a dog living in here with us — a Persian, an Arabian Mau, and a Yellow Lab (the all American dog).

Overall our lives have changed dramatically yet almost not at all. In Kuwait we lived the Kuwaiti life every day while throwing in hints of America. And in America we live the American life every day with little hints of Kuwait. It’s a nice balance and we’re happy.

How Americans Feel About the States

The lovely @stinni brought this to my attention today and I found it fascinating. It’s a poll which asked Americans a variety of questions about our States and the results.

I’m proud to say us North Carolinians are sober, sane, nice, and intelligent with gorgeous scenery and a great place to vacation.

The entire poll can be found here.

On a similar topic, Joshua Katz an NC State PhD student did a poll regarding accents and pronunciation. It breaks down the entire United States and how we pronounce our words. Based on this poll I definitely have the true Southern accent. You can check it out here, it’s quite interesting.

Sex and Beyond: Saudi Arabia [Blog]

There are a few blogs I read while having my morning coffee as if they’re the daily newspaper. Most of them are even more interesting than the daily newspaper. And many of them I wish would blog more often.

Recently I stumbled across Sex and Beyond: Saudi Arabia and find myself addicted. I love that such taboo topics are discussed openly and without judgement. It’s refreshing and long overdue.

Hoping you all enjoy it as much as I do.