2nd Igorot European Consultation
29 May-1 June 2003
WORKSHOP: BICULTURAL MARRIAGE
Presented by Juerg Hafner
Israel: Marjorie Lev
David Mang- usan
Ireland: Geraldine Ayban
Due to limited time, there were only four problems/challenges discussed during the workshop:
The language problem is often experienced at the beginning of a marriage just as before the marriage. That is the time when many things have to be discussed and agreed upon by the partners.
- If the in-laws don’t speak a common language (e.g., English), it makes the start in the new place more difficult.
- Limited knowledge of the language or vocabularies could easily lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in expressing clearly one’s feelings, emotions and needs.
Approaches to solve the problem are:
- The couple have to be aware, that both have the same responsibility to learn and speak a common language.
- As a start even just few knowledge of the local language can break the ice and open doors to the other culture.
- Concerning children: It’s best to talk to the children in two languages (local language and English, because usually the real mother tongue e.g., Kankana-ey or Ilocano will not be very useful to them).
Beside common topics like budgeting, which are not a specific problem of bicultural marriage, most discussion focused on the problems as a result of financial help to a partner’s relatives as well as extended family obligations.
Some of the reasons to send money home are:
- close family ties - feeling obligated to help family members or relatives in dire need
- differences concerning social benefits (e.g., retirement insurance in Europe, no or limited means in the Philippines).
- The foreign partner spends time in the Philippines with the in-laws to experience the daily life there and have an idea how much can be done just with a little amount and how necessary a certain support could be.
As well, violence is not a specific problem of bicultural marriage. But unlike among other couples the victim does not know well how to go against it.
Victims are often mail-order brides; some are even held like slaves or imprisoned in the house or apartment and not given any rights. They often don’t know the local language and have no social contacts to voice out their problems. Besides that, they are suppressed and suffer in silence due to shame and expectations of their relatives back home.
Ways to help them:
- encourage them to talk about their problems and not to be ashamed to expose their situation;
- to give them a shelter
- to advise them what to do and seek contacts from certain organizations or institutions who can give them legal advice and protection.
Ways to approach problems concerning religion within a couple or a family are:
- Clearing this topic before the wedding. Because religion can be a main issue among couple or in a family, such questions have to be discussed in an early stage of a relationship (love is blind!).
- For family convenience local conditions should be considered, e.g., if there is only a protestant school in the village, it makes it more complicated for a child to go far to school just because he belongs to another religion.
- The children should be able to decide for themselves at a certain age, if and in which religion they want to be baptised. Still the parent’s responsibility is to teach them the basic moral values.
If the couple is open and honest to each other, the marriage can be enriched by the different cultures and give a benefit to both of them.
Just as well trust and commitment to each other leads to harmonious relationship in the family. Bond between parents and children are strengthened when communication is free and there is mutual respect to each culture.