It’s been an interesting transition living in the United States and then immersing myself in a completely different culture. I come from a “two culture” home, mixing Vietnamese culture with United States culture. I was born and raised in the United States, but I also celebrate and take part in Vietnamese traditions. Transitioning into Spanish culture was a bit of a shock to me! The big things in the culture differences don’t bother me, but the small things are the hardest to get used to. Coming from two different cultures and trying to assimilate into one was not easy. Explaining my dual traditions to the boyfriend was equally as difficult! There are times where I don’t know if this is Vietnamese tradition, United States tradition, or something my family does.
As for the boyfriend, he has his own culture that he brings into our relationship. His Spanish culture is very unique and very different than my own. Combining three different cultures can get a bit confusing and frustrating. But, there are some plus sides to having three different sets of traditions to take part in!
I’m going to generalize and tell y’all that Spanish culture, at least where I lived, is loud and vibrant! Spaniards are energetic, assertive, and will tell you like it is (this is what I’ve experienced). The culture is very, Spanish. There are traditional foods, traditional activities, and a more relaxed feeling. Although there are many differences, that are so hard to list out, there are also similarities that I am surprised by. For example, Spaniards tend to be more family oriented. This is something that is very similar to my Vietnamese culture. My family is also very family oriented, with family being the center of everything that we do.
The one thing that is so different is the food. Spanish food cannot be mimicked. It is unique, fresh, and usually always accompanied with bread! Flavors are more subtle, with meat being a main portion of the meal. Most dishes don’t involve a lot of spices, and ingredients are only used during the season. During the summer, you’ll find different dishes than what you would find in the winter and vice versa.
Being raised by Vietnamese parents in the United States, the line between Vietnamese and United States culture sometimes blurs. But, teaching that and explaining that to the boyfriend is a bit difficult! While living in Spain, I explained about different traditional Vietnamese food. It’s hard to describe something and show someone when Spain doesn’t offer a wide variety of ingredients that cater to Asian cuisine. I think Vietnamese culture is a bit more traditional and “old school” than progressive. My family is made up of immigrants, so their mindset can sometimes be more focused towards a “traditional Vietnamese household”. If you think the stereotype that Asian parents are strict, I am here to confirm that YES, Asian parents are strict. Whereas parents in Spain, I notice, are a bit more lenient. Some of these aspects are playing outside with friends, letting their kids stay up late, and not asking where their kids are all the time.
When it comes to food, Spain and Vietnam couldn’t have a bigger difference! In my family, I eat rice with every dinner that we have. It is one of the staples to Vietnamese food and the base for building your plate. If it isn’t rice, we have noodles. Transitioning from eating rice or noodles with every dinner to practically NO rice or noodles was a lot harder than I imagined! Rice is not usually a staple to meals in Spain, unless for a specific dish. And noodles? There are no noodles (ie: vermicelli noodles) in Spain, unless you find a Chinese food store.
United States Culture
United States pop culture is seen all over the world! Our movies, our music, our books, even our food! We’re also loud, rambunctious, and definitely create a name for ourselves. Washington D.C.’s culture is thrived on a hard work ethic, earning a lot of money, and always being on the go. I had a HUGE culture shock learning that maybe I move too fast for my own good! Since Mario has been here for about two months now, he’s getting a taste of Northern Virginia life. He does complain that we have to drive everywhere to go ANYWHERE, and just how we spend most of our lives in our cars.
I ask him all the time what he will miss the most when going back home, and his answer is always the food. No, y’all, not the hamburgers, french fries, or hot dogs! He told me he’d miss the variety of food that we offer here. Mario hasn’t eaten the same thing twice in the same week! Although the United States has a lot of differences with Spain and Vietnamese culture, what we can offer is a diverse array of food to try from almost every country in the world. That’s part of the United States culture, the diversity of our country and the openness to try different foods and experience different cultures to educate ourselves!
Spanimerican + Vietnamese
Combining three different cultures in our relationship presents itself with lots of miscommunication, tests of patience, and a lot of fun. We celebrate many different holidays from the United States, Vietnam, and Spain. His favorite holiday so far is Thanksgiving, due to the mass amount of food that we consume. We’ve celebrated Lunar New Year together. We cook Vietnamese food (from the ingredients that I can find in Spain). And with two years being together in his home country, we’ve adopted a lot of Spanish traditions and customs. The boyfriend even knows a few Vietnamese words, mostly food though, HAH!
The hardest thing about having three different cultures in one relationship are the little things. There are things about my personality that are tied into the US and other things that are tied into my Vietnamese culture. The boyfriend’s Spanish culture is also so different than the both of those! We run into some miscommunication, a lot of moment’s that call for patience, and bickering about the tone of our voices or our body language. What we’ve learned from embracing three different cultures is the ability to adapt to situations, break down cultural barriers, and be patient with one another! The best part is we have more holidays to celebrate together and so many interesting customs, traditions, recipes, and habits to pick up that it makes it fun, despite the frustrations!
Have you dealt with multiple cultures in your personal or social life? What were some of the frustrations or exciting things you learned along the way?
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