New member- need help!!

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by ldivoky, Dec 1, 2006.

  1. ldivoky

    ldivoky New Member

    I just joined this group, and I'm hoping someone can help me understand my Czech in-laws. My husband and I have been married for 16 years and I've clashed with his parents since the beginning. They fled Czech. in 1968 and moved to Canada where my husband was born and raised. I'm an American who has never traveled off the continent, and my in-laws never incorporated into western society, so we don't understand each other at all.

    Is anyone willing to educate this ignorant daughter-in-law?

  2. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    Could you specify more details?
    How exactly they din't incorporate into western society?
  3. ldivoky

    ldivoky New Member

    After 38 years, they still seem like Europeans who are just visiting this country. They don't take part in the culture enough to understand the people here. And when they don't understand someone, they criticize and are condescending to them. They are very proud people who think that the way they grew up is the only "right way" to be, and they are quick to tell everyone. I wish they were open to seeing that this country is made up of people from all different cultures, and if everyone tried to impose their culture of origin on everyone else, we'd be fighting with each other all the time. And California is particularly diverse, so I grew up in a place where people are pretty much free to be themselves as long as they are law-abiding citizens and don't harm others.

    It's obvious that their hearts are still in the Czech Republic. They became Canadian citizens, but they are very critical of the west. They're entitled to their opinions, but they are offensive. They come to the US for a visit with us and spend way too much time complaining about our country and comparing it to Europe. It's not just politics. They criticize our way of life and try to impose Czech culture on us. I can't imagine going to the Czech Republic and expecting them to act like Americans. That would be ignorant and rude. But when we ask them not to complain about the west, they get mad at us. It's often embarrasing when they do it around my side of the family. For example, my mother made them a nice meal, and instead of be gracious about it, my father-in-law proceeded to tell everyone that his wife never uses any canned products in her cooking. Everything is completely fresh. He does that when I cook for him too. He'll eat dinner with us and then say that he needs to go out to a restaurant to get a real meal.

    And my mother-in-law still doesn't know English very well, after 38 years. Often, she misunderstands something I say because she's not familiar with all the meanings of a particular word or because she's unfamiliar with popular phrases (slang) that are part of our culture. Instead of questioning me about what I mean, she gets mad. But she won't say anything to me then. She'll wait until she gets back to Canada and then calls my husband and yells at him because I offended her. I'm a very respectful person, and I wish she'd give me that benefit of the doubt and consider that maybe she misunderstood me since her English isn't very good. But she always assumes that her understanding is correct and I'm being disrespectful. I can't do anything right.

    The hardest part for me is that my mother-in-law has certain expectations about how I'm supposed to interact with her, but she doesn't communicate them to me. Yet she holds it against me when I do things wrong. She never asks me anything about my life, so when we're together, I inititiate conversation with her and ask her questions about her life. Later on, I find out that she's unhappy because I'm not communicating with her like she wants. She tells my husband that in Czech culture, the younger woman is responsible for the interactions with an older woman. I'm baffled because I feel like I'm trying to interact with her, but it's all one-sided. Then I wonder why I even have to deal with this issue since I'm not Czech, and we're on this continent, not in Europe. How can she hold me accountable to behave like a Czech when I'm not one? In a lot of ways, I feel like I would be justified in expecting her to act like a westerner since she's a Canadian citizen and has lived here for more than half her life. But when my husband has suggested this to her, she gets offended. I truly don't understand. I just try to imagine what would be appropriate for me if I moved to a different country, and I always conclude that the right thing would be to learn that culture and not impose my own culture on them. So why is this such a foreign concept to my in-laws?

    There are more issues, but I think that's plenty for now. I'd love to get some advice on this.

  4. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    So, if I understand correctly, you suppose, then Europeans (from any country) aren't westerners?

    Well, such Americans exist, too.

    I of course know nothing about your situation, but isn't possible, that your mather-in-law is partially unhappy and insecure? Because they left Czech republic in 1968, it seems, that they was forced to leave their home country involuntary because of Soviet invasion.

    And of course, she can be simply mean person :)

    Are you sure, that in USA are all mothers-in-law kind and nice to daughters-in-law?

    What about these sites? ;)
  5. laylah

    laylah Well-Known Member

    Hi Idivoky. sorry you find your relationship with your in-laws so frustrating. It is normal though, for your heart to be in your homeland, and to remember it fondly when you are away from it - sometimes forgetting the things about your country that got up your nose when you were actually living there! The way you write about USA actually indicates you are just as fond of your own country and culture as your in-laws are of theirs, and perhaps this leads you to be too ready to see comparisons by your in-laws as criticisms of American culture and be too ready to take offence? (or they could be as rude as you suggest!)

    I don't think it's because they are from a different culture necessarily that your in-laws appear to complain, particularly about "youth culture" and slang. I hear older people here in the UK complaining and comparing things to when they were young - heavens, I've even caught myself once or twice :oops:

    What I think is positive is that you have joined the site to find out more about the Czech culture and people. I hope it will help you to understand more about your in-laws and perhaps help you to build bridges. Maybe one day you will get to visit the Czech Republic - and I'm pretty sure that in spite of good intentions, you will take your own cultural expectations over there with you - but if you're lucky, you'll find out as much about yourself as about the Czech people :wink:

    Welcome to the site :)
  6. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Hi, welcome to the site. I just want to add that it may not be a cultural issue. Some women just have trouble letting go of their sons and the daughter-in-law can never do the right thing, even when they are from the same culture.

    The language barrier can be a problem and I've had the same misconceptions between myself and my mother-in-law as well. However, try to stay solution focused. Instead of wondering why they are like they are, simply acknowledge that you can't change them so what are better ways to deal with the way they are.

    For instance, you said:
    Although a valid question, it doesn't solve the problem. You have to deal with it so instead of allowing your time and energy to be consumed with wondering why, simply try to figure out solutions. One solution to your father-in-law's complaining about dinner maybe; when they are in town, ask him to cook or ask mother-in-law to cook. Also, you could join him in cutting down Americans such as "Yeah well we American's cook from the can, but hey, at least we have canned food and it is better than standing in line for 5 hours to buy toilet paper!" (I don't know, something I heard about communism, don't know if it was true or not. :wink: )

    Anyway, that's just my two sense. I am also married to a Czech man, although his parents live in CR. So I could share some cultural differences in dealing with the inlaws with you. :wink:

    Best wishes and enjoy the site!
  7. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    You might even go so far as to ask her to teach you how to cook some Czech meal. Then, not only does dad-in-law get a meal he won't complain about (or if he does, mom-in-law will be angry at dad-in-law and vice versa, and you're off the hook), but also it might get in a little mom-in-law bonding.
  8. ldivoky

    ldivoky New Member

    Thanks everyone for your advice. One of the things I'm hoping to learn is whether my in-laws are just insensitive and mean, regardless of which country they'd be in, or whether the way they are is cultural.

    In response to the first reply. Yes, I realize that Americans are often very ignorant and egotistical, especially when traveling to other countries. I also realize that I would automatically act American (but not rude) in the Czech Repubic if I went there. But the difference I would hope to see in myself, versus what I've seen in my in-laws, is an awareness of cultural differences and a willingness to understand the other culture. By nature, I'm a sensitive person who doesn't want to offend people and be disrespectful. I feel like it would be really rude to point out all the bad things about someone else's country and compare it to my country (yes, I know a lot of American's do that, but I don't agree with that behavior). But that's what my in-laws do. So maybe they are just rude people.

    Maybe I'll ask my mother-in-law to cook next time they visit. Hopefully, she'd feel comfortable doing that. Usually, when I'm cooking dinner, she goes somewhere else and reads. That's very different than what I'm used to. I usually help out in the kitchen when I'm at someone else's house, or at least offer to help. But when I'm visiting my in-laws, my mother-in-law won't let anyone help her in the kitchen.

    I've been reading about the Soviet invasion in '68 and trying to understand what my in-laws experienced. My father-in-law fled the country because of the invasion. But when I asked my mother-in-law why she left, she said that it was because of an old boyfriend who wouldn't stop bothering her. She must be omitting some of the story because it seems awefully extreme to leave the country without even saying good-bye to her family (including her twin sister) over a guy. Does someone have a perspective on this that would make sense?

    Thanks to all. I'm looking forward to learning a lot about the Czech Republic. I would love to visit someday. It's a beautiful country, rich with history.

  9. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    Well, I agree with you, it's really strange story.

    How old she was then?
  10. ldivoky

    ldivoky New Member

    So, if I understand correctly, you suppose, then Europeans (from any country) aren't westerners?

    No. Although I can see how it must sound that way. See how easy it is to generalize? I sound like I'm placing all Europeans into one category, don't I? Perhaps a better way to word my statement would be, "After 38 years, they still seem like foreigners who are just visiting this country for the first time." I don't know if that's any clearer.

    Truly, I would never want anyone to forget their origins. That would be abandoning who they are. But it's also unhealthy to be so attached to your origins that you forget to live in the present. And that's how they come across. I know that they will probably never change after all this time. But I keep hoping that somehow, they will see all of the conflict that results from their lack of understanding of their surroundings. It's hurts my husband and keeps all of us from having a close relationship with them.


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