Q&A about Arab and American culture

Someone sent me a long list of questions about Arab culture. It is difficult to answer all of them in one post. So, I will try to answer a few in different posts.

How has the US changed since you first came here?

  • It became more expensive.
  • I used to see more people reading books everywhere now people at coffee shops are mostly on their electronic devices.
  • American TV started depicting Muslim characters on TV shows as normal people. The stereotype is still there but at least they are not terrorists.
  • I became more adapted to living in the US since I came here 10 years ago.

Knowing both US and Arab culture, would you recommend a cross-cultural marriage to a sister or brother, cousin or friend? Or would you strongly caution against it? Why?  Would you recommend this couple’s children be raised in the US or be taken back to Arabia or somewhere else? What other advice would you give?

I am no longer against cross-cultural marriage, as I used to be, because I have seen successful ones. I know Arab-American, Arab-European and Arab-Asian couples who live happily. Cross-cultural marriage can work if both belong to the same religion.

Where the couple lives is not a determined issue for a successful cross-cultural marriage. And also it doesn’t matter where the kids are raised as long as they live with their parents either in Arabia or in the USA.

As in any arrangement both must be clear about certain issues. They should know marriage is not about physical attraction only. One issue I have seen repeated many times and American women can never learn a lesson no matter how many times they read about it. A Muslim Arab man in his mid-twenties or early thirties falls in love with an American woman. Although he is a Muslim but he is not practicing so he is okay with his American wife wearing what she used to wear before marriage. At some point in his life the Arab man decides to be a devoted Muslim. So, he asks his wife to become a Muslim if she is not or to wear hijab if she is a Muslim. Maybe he will ask her not to go the yoga class wearing these tight pants. Or maybe when the couple has their first baby, naming the baby becomes an issue.

My recommendation in case of inter-cultural marriage is to ask questions before marriage.

What did you find different about American Christians compared to Middle Eastern Christians?  In what ways is Christianity different here than you expected?  Do you believe there is an element of American culture within American Christianity?

Middle Eastern Christians are more conservative than American Christians. In the Middle East, many Christians identify themselves to be Christians. In the US, it is not easy to know if someone is a Christian or not. People here don’t like to talk about religion. I don’t think I have seen a man or a woman wearing a necklace with a cross. In the Middle East, this is very common. One might say because they are a minority in the Middle East so they like to be identified. I feel in the US, some people feel shy to identify themselves as Christians especially among college age students.

In the Middle East, religion is the identity of people. In America, it is not. I think the more dominant factor here is race.


7 thoughts on “Q&A about Arab and American culture

  1. I think this is a very interesting post. My boyfriend is an Egyptian Muslim and I’m a (non practicing) Catholic American. We’ve had some discussions about marriage and children, such as where we’ll live (here), what religion we’ll raise our children in (Islam, although they would learn about Catholicism from my mother), and other things like that. Your post really helped in the other things we’ll have to talk about. Ahmed is the sweetest, most easy going, most agreeable man I’ve ever known (can you tell I’m crazy about the guy?) but there are other things we need to discuss.

  2. Tina – I am glad you found someone who is easy going and very agreeable. Some Arab men are the best when it comes to knowing their responsibilities toward their wives, children and family. It is part cultural and part religion.
    Yes, I agree that you should discuss some important issues when you decide to go further in this relationship. All the best!

  3. Something that came up in a discussion Ahmed and I were having had to do with pork. I think I was eating it or something. He said that he didn’t want it in our house. I thought it was a little drastic, (not that he was rude or anything, just expressing his feelings), but I understood and respected what he was saying. Before, I had never given it any thought. I just figured that I’d still continue to buy bacon and things like that, but that he wouldn’t eat it. This started a discussion about if we went out to a restaurant, if I would be given the stink eye if I ordered something with pork in it. (He wouldn’t mind).

    I guess my rambling is meant to say that even if you discuss important things (such as where to live, how to raise the children, etc.), a lot of times, the little things that you never even gave a second thought to can turn out to be important (though certainly not a deal breaker).

    1. I think “compromise” would best fit here. It is not just in cross-cultural marriage but in any marriage. Without compromise no marriage will continue. And as my male friend once said regarding marriage “I hope there is a manual to follow.” 🙂 Fortunately, there isn’t. Because every couple is a unique case.

  4. Oooooh, love the post! Wow, great questions, and I really enjoyed your replies. So you are fine with cross-cultural marriages as long as the religions are the same? Are you not a huge fan of Muslim men marrying Christian or Jewish women although this is allowed in Islam? Perhaps you realize this could be problematic and is not worth the hassle, in your opinion? Of course it works for some, but it’s not your cup of tea?

    I agree that I’d hate to marry a guy only for him to change and force me to wear certain things that he had no problem with before. I’ve heard many time of Saudis in particular who are very liberal in the US, but when they go back home, they turn into religious freaks and make their wives wear things they never made them wear before. This is highly unfair and hypocritical unless you were upfront about this expectation in the first place. Also,I’m sorry, but I don’t like when men change to become mommas’ boys when they go home and seemingly lose their loyalty to their wives.

    I enjoyed reading how the US has changed in the ten years that you’ve been here. Now I’ll wait to see how Jordan has changed in the ten years you’ve been gone.

    I really, really loved this post! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions!

    Happy traveling tomorrow! I’ll be praying for your safety.

  5. Good point Susanne about the men becoming mama’s boys. A girl that I used to work with and I were talking last week. She and her in laws are Dominican, but I think the example applies here. Her mother in law was nice to her before she married the woman’s son, but after, the mother in law started being really nasty and critical of her, and bad mouthing her to her husband. We figured that women are so possessive of their sons, that when another woman comes along, she feels like she is being replaced.

    Ahmed and I were talking about this and he didn’t understand why the mother would behave like that. It makes me think that his parents really are as sweet as they seem. 😀

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