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Blackberry's avatar

Do you think it's ok to try to separate someone from their original culture/habits (see details)?

Asked by Blackberry (31923points) March 16th, 2012

We’re focusing on this specific situation.

I have a shipmate (a coworker, as I’m in the navy), who is from the U.S. He has been stationed in Japan for about 6 years. He fell in love with a Japanese woman, they dated for about a year, married, and now they live in the U.S.

I hang out with the couple occasionally. The woman is very obsequious and subservient. She makes all of the food, brings it to you etc. I tried to take my plate to the sink and rinse it off but she wouldn’t let me. Obviously this is a shock to people from the U.S.

Her husband said he’s trying to show her that it’s ok to not be like this. He’s trying to slowly break her out of this habit because he doesn’t want her to think it’s ok to see her role in life this way.

What do you think of the situation? Should he try to break her of her culture or not?

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17 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

You are talking about HER culture. Just because she married a US citizen doesn’t mean she should or will change from the way she brought up / culture.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

That’s tough question. I want my partner to be an equal, but is it ok to take away part of what makes her what she is that he fell in love with? Giving up your culture can be traumatic. Wow that’s a lousy nonanswer answer.

john65pennington's avatar

The Japanese culture for women is, I think, precious. A man should be honored to be married to one of them.

Change them? No way.

marinelife's avatar

This a matter of subjugation, which is not OK in our culture. He should be gentle with her in showing her other possibilities, but leave the pace of change up to her.

MilkyWay's avatar

She’s a fully grown and developed person. It’s up to her what she wants to do and what she thinks is right, her habits are very probably precious and routine to her. I get what her husband and other people are getting at, but I think you shouldn’t want to change a person like that.

Trillian's avatar

I once had a Chief whose third wife was from the PI. Many of us made remarks to him about her mannerisms. I once saw her massage his feet, and if you knew what his feet looked like you would join me in a heave.
I taught her to drive, or tried any way. He got really mad and told us that he didn’t want us “Americanizing” her. Well even though we were in the deep south, he was unable to keep her chained in the basement all the time, and eventually she got “Americanized” at her own pace.
I’ll bet you can guess who is the boss in that marriage now. She’s five foot nothin’ , and his five ten redheaded ass has to wipe his feet before he comes into her house, thank you very much. I laugh every time I think about them.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Oooo, no. We sure as hell wouldn’t like it if they came over here and tried to free us from our culture. If she comes over, sees other women acting in a way that she prefers, and decides that she’d rather have our American ways, then woot for her. But no, this is not cool.

Having said that, I also think you’re right not to take advantage of the situation.

wundayatta's avatar

@Aethelflaed That’s not the right analogy. Think about what if you married a Japanese man and went to Japan to live with him. Would you want the other Japanese wives trying to civilize you?

Civilization is different depending on what culture you are in. Is it proper to show people how we do things here? I think most people think so. Should we expect the foreigners to adopt our ways? Again, most people think that if you want to immigrate to this country, then you should start acting like an American.

However, some men don’t want their wives adapting, because they like to be treated like a king. It can be hard to find an American woman who will always serve you first. So, for guys who like that kind of thing, they don’t want anyone ruining their deal. And whose to say American women are right to change a Japanese woman’s ways?

Berserker's avatar

I think, in a case like that, it’s important to show her the culture she’s living in, and that she’s free to now partake in it. To let her know she can act otherwise if she wants to. I think teaching and letting the person know that different choices are available is important. No doubt your friend is doing this already.
I don’t really wanna be quoted, but Japan is really big on culture and tradition, and won’t yield easily at all from their ways. Not saying their ways are bad, btw. I wouldn’t live there, (what, six day work weeks? fuck that) but I do find it fascinating.
I don’t think it’s okay to rip someone from their culture though, unless it’s obviously hazardous to them. I suppose there could be cases. But it is important to teach them about the culture they’re living in currently, and let them know that it’s open to them.
I guess that’s probably easier said than done, depending on specific cultures, and how strongly people take to their own, the new one, or not for either.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@wundayatta Ok, fair enough, the analogy was lacking. But, it’s not the other America wives, it’s her husband. Why would you marry someone you thought should change in such a fundamental way? This isn’t her boss or her new “friends” or whatever thinking she should change, this is the person who should be the most accepting of her.

Bellatrix's avatar

She isn’t an idiot. She has free will. This is how she wants and believes she should be with her husband and with guests in her home. In time that might change but I don’t think it is anyone’s place to ‘break her of her culture’. The whole idea feels patronising.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think he should try to change her. He certainly can communicate to her that he would like to help around the house, maybe they can work out some things he can do, but if she is happy in her role, I think it is fine. He is not keeping her in the role, or trying to control her, she is not subservient in my view, because the reality is he would support her if she wanted help with the dishes, or to try something new.

She may eventually change as time passes. For now she may take great pride in her role of doing everything domestic. It might make her feel like a good wife, utilized, nurturing, a good person.

Lastly, her culture was the same before they got married as it is now. He expected it to change because they moved? There probably is a good chance it will change over time, she will get somewhat Americanized, but some things she will hang on to. When I am around South Americans the men sit while the women all do the dishes. This can be second generation Americans, but some things stick for a lot of people. If their son is dating a girl and she does not help clear the table and help with the dishes, his mom might not be too happy.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m not sure if this helps or not, but I lived with a Japanese family for a month during a summer when I was in high school. They wanted to treat me as a guest and honor me like a king, and it made me feel uncomfortable. I had the teacher at the school who was coordinating our exchange explain that I wanted to be treated more like a son, and to do chores etc. I’m not sure what he said to them, but they got the message and the next day I was helping with the cooking, laundry, etc. It was so much fun and I really got to bond with my host family. I got to learn about how do things the Japanese way.

Perhaps if your friend approached it as him wanting his wife to teach him about the Japanese way of doing these tasks, she could have the pleasure of teaching him, and see that it’s ok for him to do them too (and even more fun to do them together).

Blackberry's avatar

Good idea @gorillapaws. These are all good answers. It does make more sense to let her change over time if she wants to, than to actively try to change her.

PurpleClouds's avatar

First of all I don’t think one answer would fit all situations. In this one I would not make a suggestion unless he asked. I think that if a person moves into a new culture they should adapt. They can certainly keep their own customs within their own life and in their own home. But I don’t think people should come into a culture and expect accommodation for the culture they left.

Patton's avatar

The question for me is whether she’s really happy living the way she lives. I’m glad the husband doesn’t want her to feel beholden to servitude, but he shouldn’t try to take away what she might think of as a big part of her contribution to their family. He owes her opportunities, not instructions.

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