The Challenges and Surprises of Marrying Into a Portuguese Family
Blonde hair, blue eyes, a strong affinity for basic chicken and potatoes—I’m about as WASP as WASP can get. My husband, however, is a first-generation Canadian whose parents immigrated from Portugal, complete with olive skin, deep Catholicism, and Portu-English phrases.
Our cultures and backgrounds couldn’t be more different. I’m not going to lie, its hard sometimes. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Dating someone from a different culture is challenging, but it can also be incredibly inspiring and beautiful.
Hellllloo, Food Adventures
The diet I grew up on is worlds away from the food my husband loved (and loves) to eat. I’d never even heard of bacalhau à brás before I met him, and I never in a million years would have tried octopus before his parents put it down on the dinner table in front of me.
Yes, it’s tough to try new foods (especially when your father-in-law is watching you take the first bite as if his life depends on your reaction) but it’s also really fun. Plus, being exposed to the rich history and meaning behind each family-favorite dish is worth the occasional rusty-flavored burps and emergency bathroom visits. I will NOT eat blood sausage ever again.
Learning a New Language
Pretty much everyone had to push through French, Spanish and even a few German classes in school. But who actually remembers the language now? And really, no one even wanted to learn it in the first place. That’s completely different than when you’re dating someone from a different culture, and you want to learn their language.
My husband’s extended family doesn’t speak a word of English. Even my in-laws are much more comfortable conversing in Portuguese. Learning their language has quickly become one of my biggest priorities.
I want to be able to visit my husband’s home country and make friends with the little old ladies in the cafes. I need to be able to chat with my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents—in law. And, one day, I want our children to be able to do the same things.
I never would have imagined that I would be able to speak Portuguese, and it’s really freakin’ cool.
Embracing Patience and Understanding
We all understand conceptually that different cultures are, well, different. But it’s a whole other ball game when you’re suddenly immersed in one and your mother-in-law is air drying your lacy thongs in the front yard.
In my culture, we don’t usually wash other people’s underwear. At least not without asking first. But in Portugal, it’s no big deal!
That was a very interesting day. And there have been many other uncomfortable moments just like it that have forced me to embrace extreme patience and understanding.
There will always be differences between my culture and my husband’s, but we can’t expect one another (or our families) to completely change. We just have to expand our horizons and be shining examples of tolerance.
Creating a New Culture
The best part of being in a relationship with someone from a different culture is that you get to create your own mini, new culture.
My husband and I can’t wait to combine all the incredible parts of our backgrounds to make a unique WASP/Portuguese culture that’s all our own.