Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Change Two

It’s a continuing theme – the Locard Exchange Principal in every day life. We live in foreign cultures, we pick up foreign ideas. Change 1 was one of the earliest entries in the blog – investment. Investment is not alien to my culture; investing to protect yourself against an uncertain future, as insurance and as protection for your children – that got through to us and accelerated the investment process. Starting early in our married life paid off big dividends.

Change Two came in Jordan. We had finished an amazing dinner at a private home, mezze’s, a mensef (huge platter of rice flavored with leban, spices and sultanas, with meat – in this case, lamb, but we have also had goat or chicken served as mensef). The host was peeling an orange and had that look in his eye that tells you he is thinking about something and isn’t sure whether he should voice it or not. He struggles, and then he goes ahead . ..

“I don’t understand one thing about your culture” he says. I am surprised; this is a very sophisticated man, well educated, holding a high position. He has travelled. . . it will be interesting to see what comes next.

“Why is it you kick your children out of the house at such an early age? You love your children – I just don’t understand.”

We had observed the opposite – that in Jordan, young people lived with their parents, even after graduation from university, sometimes even after being married. . . and it seemed very alien to us, very uncomfortable.

We are raised knowing that the goal is to be independent, to live on our own. It is very very scary, but a rite of passage. You leave school, you find a place to live, you pay rent, you pay your own bills, you look for a mate – all on your own. You are supposed to be educated and wise, but you still feel very young and not at all sure of your own judgement. You can ask your parents for advice, but you are expected to make your own decisions. Eventually, you get the hang of it.

But . . . through the years, that question nagged at us. It opened us up to a new way of thinking. It would come up from time to time. Just that one little question, popping into our minds. Having friends from other cultures who helped their kids out well beyond college gave us some different ideas, a different model.

It’s a fine line. We don’t want to intrude on our son’s privacy; we want to be close without being interfering. And at the same time, he will inheirit everything from us – why should we not be helpful now, during the years of struggle, when he and his wife could use the help?

At the same time, we don’t want to be so generous as to preclude them from developing their own financial strategies, from learning thrift, and the thrill of finding a good buy. We want them to know the thrill of discovering for themselves how to balance spending and savings, investment in major purchases and investment in family.

We are so thankful for that thoughtful friend, a friend with the courage to risk asking a question that might be perceived as impolite.His question caused us to do things a little differently. It wasn’t immediate, but a long term effect; it caused us to question our own way of doing things and moderate it into a more supportive approach.

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October 12, 2006 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Locard Exchange Principal, Middle East, Relationships | Leave a comment