The embarrassment...(13 Posts)
My DH is Algerian and we have been married for a year. We're planning on visiting his family in April. Sounds great doesn't it?
Only I don't speak Arabic and the tiniest bit of French, not enough to have a conversation! I feel like I'm just going to be sat there for two weeks in a house with people I don't understand!
I've talked about this with my DH and my anxiety about going and to be fair to him, he has been really understanding however he keeps putting me on Skype to them, so I get to know their faces etc. But it's so awkward and embarrassing!
Anyone been in a similar position? They all seem so lovely and are excited for our visit, I just can't shake this anxiety! I love him and want to go but I feel I should be excited not sh**ting myself iyswim?
Just go and don't take any preconceptions with you! I've spent time in countries where I don't speak a word and had loads of lovely interactions with people who don't speak English. I was on my own too but you'll be with your very own interpreter! I'm sure you'll have a fab time
I have this with Russian DH and his family (no English), though I've since started learning.
Advice: Learn a few key words/phrases - hello, how are you, I'm fine, good morning, bye, thank you.
Ask your DH what his family is like - are meals drawn-out affairs where everyone chats for hours? How do they greet each other? What will they expect of you/what would they expect of you if you were local (in terms of helping around the home, how you're treated etc)? What will a typical day look like?
I'd plan (if possible) some time out around the area just the two of you, so you can decompress and feel more at ease. I'd also bring along a good book/Kindle and device with internet, because you may find that DH chats for hours with his family and you can be nearby reading to yourself.
Speak to DH about translating between you - i.e. he'll need to.
Finally, I felt a bit more confident for buying my ILs little gifts and things to give them, from me rather than DH (who's less organised, anyway). So posh teas or cookies, a book with photos of your wedding if they didn't attend, a nice scarf, whatever. DH will know if they have a particular love of shortbread/marzipan/earl grey/whatever else.
. I agree, it's daunting.
Yes, I didn't speak a word of my DH's language when I first went to visit his family, and they spoke next to no English. It's fine - as long as there is good will on both sides, it's possible to manage quite easily. It is difficult and isolating at times, though - I think you need to be prepared for that. There will be times when you get left out of conversations, times when everyone laughs and you don't know what's funny. The thing to remember is that none of it's personal, so don't get offended. And take a good book!
Can you spend a bit of time over the next few weeks trying to learn a bit of Arabic our French before you go? You can do a lot in a few weeks if you put your mind to it, and they would probably be very appreciative of the effort.
It's nearly 20 years since I first visited DH's family, and I can now speak his language pretty well. It is worth investing the time if you can, as you never know when you might need it - like the time when my DH was rushed to hospital while we were over there, and I was left with my in-laws and my toddler dd! Being able to speak the language has also made a huge difference to the quality of my relationships with the family, and to my overall experience of spending time in DH's country.
X post with Essential. I see we agree tee taking a good book!
My xh is Moroccan and his mum and one sister barely speak French. We hang out and get on really well through pidgin French/Arabic/sign language and laughter!
I would say that if his family is anything like typical Moroccan families, your dh won't do much 'hanging out' at home. Home tends to be where the women hang out. Men will come home for meals and a catch up but then go out to meet friends. It's unusual to us but normal to them. I used to insist on going out with the xh rather than being left at home with the women if I had enough of hanging out at home. You will find that they are probably super nice and welcoming and will want you to be happy! Keep an open mind and you will have a great time.
You mentioned that you are worried about being in the house for 2 weeks. Do you know what you will be doing during the trip? Will you spend most of your time with his family or do you have activities planned to do together? Will he go out and leave you with them? I was in a similar position, married to someone from a similar culture and found that the men often went out to see friends while the women usually stayed at home and yes, I spent a lot of time in the house without being able to communicate. The Algerian people that I have met have always been very hospitable and friendly, so I am sure your in-laws will be lovely but It might be a good idea to have an idea of your day-to-day plans so that you can prepare yourself and have something to do if you think that you will be in the house for long periods! I would take some books, download some films/TV series etc in case you need some time to yourself.
broken my MIL commented to DH how much I liked reading serious novels - I assumed a kind of worst-case scenario so arrived with Middlemarch, The Goldfinch and the New Yorker Complete Short Stories .
My poor MIL was completely illiterate, so she probably thought I was a total loon when I arrived with all my books!
Thanks for the advice! I'm going to take an hour each day and do an Arabic language tape and I've told him in no uncertain terms that I won't be left with his family while he's out all of the time! I think the first week will be filled with visiting his family as he hasn't seen anyone for 10 years and then he says we will book into a hotel for a week, just us two! He's staying on when I leave so he's got plenty of time to hangout with his friends when I go! I will also take my Kindle to be safe...
Moroccan society is very segregated. I assume Algeria is similar. We would go out together to cafes and it would always be only men so be prepared for that. I'm always happy to chill with a book and a coffee so would sometimes ensconce myself in a lovely cafe for an hour while he would go and blah with people, nobody batted an eyelid.
It sounds like you have made a really good plan already that can keep everyone happy! I started visiting my in-laws before kindles, IPads etc and am sure that I would find my visits much easier these days!
Honestly thanks now I've written it down I don't feel so anxious and actually getting a bit excited 😊
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