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Inter-culture marriage/dating


29 Apr 2002
A little history first of all:
・I've fallen in love with a japanese woman.
・I live in the US (Arizona) and She lives in Saitama.
・She's coming to visit me for several months.
・I've met her parents (informally) - stayed at their house for a few days during my last trip (as a guest of my friend, her brother)
・Her skill with english is equivalent to my skill with japanese - that is to say, not very, but between the two of us and with a little help from my kodansha dictionary, we can muddle out a fairly meaningful conversation given ~4 times the usual amount of time for it.
・Her parents also speak no english.

Now, I'm not a close enough friend with my friend for him to trust me with his sister, and I don't trust him enough to provide accurate translations for...
The big question I have is, without hesitation, if she wanted, I would marry her (I plan to ask one of these days, but we both ought to have a little more time to learn about each other...guess that throws "without hesitation" out the window.)
But honestly, when I met her there was an almost transcendental connection between us...very hard for me to put it into words, so I won't really try...anything I said couldn't accurately reflect what I feel anyway.
Judging from our conversations and the way we are around each other it seems she feels similarly.

So..the real question posed by the above statements is, considering she's a traditional japanese woman from a fairly traditional family, what are the protocols for asking her to wed? Tips about formal meetings with her in-laws, ways talking to her about the marriage, and the general order with which I should perform these steps would be most helpful.

And the questions and answers of any questions some of you who have been in similar situations wish that you would've asked someone. It would also be nice to hear a woman's point of view.

I'd ask my friend, but I know he isn't too keen on the idea of me and his sister being together...which presents something of another problem.

Any help will be appreciated.

Thank you.

(note to moderators: please move this to a more appropriate thread if you feel it might be beneficial.)
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Hmm... lots of food for thought, that's for sure. Sounds like your feelings towards this woman are genuine and for that I wish you the best.

Re: proper protocols, allow me to recount the story of my friend's courtship with his fiance'. He was an American (a fellow ALT like myself) and she was a Japanese college student studying to be a teacher. Both were in their early twenties and she was the oldest daughter and he the youngest son in their respective families. They met, fell in love, and after dating for several months decided to get engaged. Unfortunately, her family were very traditional in their views and while they did not look down on my friend, they certainly didn't encourage their daughter to pursue marriage with a foreigner.

As they were both in their early twenties they felt there was no rsuh for them to get married right away until they could both finish whatever schooling they had left as well as secure sound employment. It took the better part of five years for the two of them to be engaged (almost unheard of nowadays for young couples) before her family finally accepted him into their arms wholeheartedly. Eventually they did get married and have enjoyed each other's company ever since.

Moral of the story? Take things slow, learn as much as you can about each other, get to know one another's families, and try and pick up as much of the other's language as you possibly can. I guess that's the best and only advice I can give you.
Sounds advice, however...she's out of school, I'm established in my career (here in the US)...and I'm somewhat impatient. (I'm also annoyed at how the family issues have put their subtle wedge between us (not emotionallry per se, but she worries about her familial responsibilities in such a way that I don't really understand - to me, family is certainly the most important thing in my life...it's just that it's /my/ family I focuse on (my wife, my children, my future (wheras she seems to find priority in her parents and sibling ( I'd trade my entire existing family for a new one with her and call it more-than-fair))))

I know that sounds like I'm an attention-hog, but while that is probably very true, I like to think that I know how she feels, and I know she feels like that because it's how she's supposed to feel, rather than how she feels. But I dont' know how sympathetic I can be, honne and tatemae and that kind of thing are beyond the comprehension of this say-what's-on-his-mind-and-screw-the-consequences kind of fellow..I like to think that attitude is part of why she likes me...but then, I think her sense of responsiblity and her suppressed desire to throw it away is a large part of why I like her. If she wasn't the way she is, I probably would still love her, but while a similar love to what I have, I doubt it would be the same...but now I'm rambling, and slightly off-topic...so, if you've made it this far, just take the last bit as it was meant - an outlet for the frustration I feel when faced with this kind of situation.
Hi Stradini, I am unable to help you with formal wedding procedures as my wife's family (most of them teachers and proud of it) can't be described as very traditional or conservative. I was not supposed to formally ask for my wife's hand. Being the first foreigner in their family, I encountered cautious scepticism, but our wedding plans were never opposed. Guess I was lucky.

Allow me to share some personal thoughts, no wisdom, just personal experience: don't care too much about "protocols", in-laws, family or neighbours. Make sure that you both feel the same for each other and that you're willing and able to embark on a life together: agree on where you will live, what you will do there to make a living, how and where you will educate your prospective offspring etc. in order to avoid potential discrepancies (lol, I must sound like my grandmother). I agree with Iron Chef: take things slow and learn as much as possible. I wish I had been as smart before I married.

A few words that I could think of right now

Hi there,

I agree with both Iron chef and thomas in the sense that number one, "BE YOURSELF", and number two, take steps slowly and wisely. Bear in mind that when you get married, you are not only being marry to her, but also you are to interract with her family too. So, it is very important that you do understand her family and vice versa.

Hope this helps,

Good luck!

窶廬'd trade my entire existing family for a new one with her and call it more-than-fair.窶 If you are willing to make that kind of sacrifice, also extended to your job, your entire life in America, things should work out great for you two. Just be ready for the fact that she might not be ready to do the same.

First thing that pops to mind is, are either of you fully prepared for the prospect of living overseas for very long periods of time, in a culture that is not your own, in a language that is not native to you, where you will be prone to all sorts of emotions unique to your situation? I don窶冲 mean to be negative, but these are really issue and stresses a potential international marriage needs to be ready to deal with. Sure, we can hop on airplanes and be somewhere in a few hours, but it窶冱 not the same as living in country. Count on spending the cash to get 窶徂ome,窶 for whoever is the ex-pat, at least once a year.
Second, are both of you ready to spend the time it takes to get rid of that kodansha? You will understand so much about the other when you speak each others language. Patience and understanding will be key in an international relationship (my fiancテゥ and I can attest to that last bit). Language is central to this understanding. Your attempts to learn Japanese will not be lost on your future in-laws either, especially if you can get a little keigo under your belt.
Third, as much as you would like to elope, you need to go slow like Iron Chef pointed out. You need to both spent time thinking really hard about the future, and you need to give her family time to get used to the idea. You need to get to know her parents not in the sense of a guest, but as a suitor. Your possible wife will need to broach the topic of her being involved with you well before you make official overtures. I knew my fiancテゥ窶冱 family for about two and a half years as 窶徼he boyfriend.窶 Win over the mother, especially since you will be taking her daughter, and more than half the battle of charming the in-laws has been won. As unromantic as it sounds, I would recommend really talking the whole marriage thing over in really close detail before getting engaged.
Aryobarzan made the very good point that a marriage does not involve just two people. You are joining two families together as well. It is critical that all parties reach an understanding.

As to your specific question as to the order of formal courtship, it varies from place to place and family to family. The actual proposal is not ever really a surprise. I was broken in to the family by being presented (just going to) the clan New Years celebrations. As this is so rare an event, even without saying something like 窶徂ey, this is probably my future husband窶 everyone knew I was more that just a boyfriend. There are some formal ceremonies for those who want to do them, and I imagine you can find the info on the web. Also, I imagine your girlfriend will know much more about them and how appropriate they would be for her situation.

Sorry if this sounded a little preachy and longwinded. I wish you both the best of luck!
I think Mandylion gives excellent advice. Just as he said, I think her family should be given plenty of time to get used to the idea. It will be much easier for them to accept if they slowly come to accept you as a permanent fixture.

It will also give you the time you need to be able to understand each other better as far as speaking goes. I know some people would argue this, but I think it's very important. I've been married to my Japanese husband for almost 6 years, and believe me, it's pretty essential that you be able to understand each other verbally in either her language or yours. I'm sure you probably know that the Japanese are different in a lot of ways as far as speaking and gestures are concerned. One word or one wrong look can lead to a huge misunderstanding.

Is her family very traditional/conservative? I think you should be okay if they're not overly old-fashioned. I know a lot of Japanese women personally that are married to Americans--all have been married for 20 years or more--and out of about 10 or so of them, only one had a problem with her family accepting her American husband, and her family was very old fashioned. Her father was an officer in the military and worked at the emperor's palace doing something and when she eloped with her husband, her father wound up not speaking to her for 8 years. Of course, now everything is fine between them, but she did tell me once that she thought it might have been better if they didn't act so hastily when they got married.

I was very, very fortunate that my in-laws accepted me with very open minds. I think for the Japanese, a son marrying--especially chonan, as my husband is--might be more difficult than a daughter marrying. For all of you that know what chonan is, you might understand just how hard it can be for traditional Japanese parents to accept any daughter-in-law, much less an American one! Thankfully, my husband's parents were only concerned with his happiness rather than what he was supposed to do traditionally.

Anyway, I do wish you the best of luck! As all of the others have said, as long as you take it slow, it should be fine!
Some thing is missing, or I missed something in this topic.

No one posted about what really counts when two people, man and woman folling in love. The essential feelings, heart involvement, and the santithy of love. This is missing here.

I don`t thing tha when two, man and woman falling deep in love whit each other, should think anyone around them.
there`s to say: both side of their parents and relatives, should not be involved with the two lovers.

When my husband and i met, it was an instant actraction of two heart. I din`t have a chance to involve anyone in my heart, but the man stand in front of me. I sure din`t see his parents and his culture when i looked in his eyes. I din`t know were he come from nor who he was.

Well, he must felt same way, or close to it., course, after 38 years, we still very much in love., and the romance still here. And this time, my "Romeo" was From USA. Wich i neve thought, befor in my life, i would fell in love and marry an American.

wishing you all the happyness to all of your lovers out there.


😄 :) 🙂
Yeah, I have to agree with cathy in a way. If that isn't the important part of it, then what is?
One thing I know for sure is that I wouldn't think there are any traditional protocols involving a foreigner, so in a way, anything you do can be right. If she feels the same for you it shouldn't matter anyway. Oh, and one more thing... if I had a sister, and if I didn't like the idea of her having a friend of mine as a boyfriend, I would feel much better if I knew that you intended to marry her, and loved her, and you weren't just having fun.
I have been with a Japanese woman for almost 3 years until we broke up, but we fell in love and engaged after only 3 months.
I just asked her and she said yes.. Her parants were ok with it because they wanted her to be happy and it was what she wanted too.
One other thought , You did say that you would throw your family away for her, but as you said she seems very closely tied to her family. Why don't you consider moving there? The whole time I was with my ex, I thought I would never want to move there, I think it wasnt' fair to her that I expected her to move here, without even considering moving away myself. now that I have been there, I like it so much, even after we broke up I plan on moving there!!
Well, I hope it helped you in some way... good luck
It`s really helpful to have support from your family. Not only for yourself, your spouse but also your kids. Your kids need grandparents. If this relationship is right, you should know. Take it easy, learn to compromise and accept what you can not change. All you gaijin living in Japan already know that you have to GAMAN lots, complain to yourself, ignore lots, enjoy the good things, there is so much to enjoy and that`s why we are still here.
I was once in a situation similar to yours. When I proposed to my Japanese girlfriend I still hadn't met her father, who is quite a traditional guy. I was terrified of meeting him, for fear that he would simply forbid her from marrying me. But we love each other and she told me that no matter what happened with her father she would still spend the rest of her life with me. This gave me confidence enough to face her father and when that day finally came things turned out much better than I had expected. I wore my best suit and we actually hit it off pretty well. He had been very worried about his daughter marrying a foreigner, mainly because he didn't know what kind of person I was and what kind of life we would have together. But after we met and he could see that I was willing to devote myself to making his daughter happy he accepted me on the spot. The rest, as they say is ancient history and we are quite happy together.

As mentioned above its worth remembering that her parents probably have a lot of concerns with the language barrier, living in a foreign country and the other complications of an international relationship. You sound like a fairly upright kind of guy, so don't worry about protocol and just concentrate on putting their mind at ease that you are going to take care of their daughter and things will be all right.

I want to start dating and I know my parents aren't against interracial dating, but they are probably uneasy about it, considering they didn't group up in north american culture. I have spent most of my life growing up in european caucasian and american/canadian caucasian culture, occasionally being submersed in my "roots" or dominant parental culture during the summer and christmas when we visit relatives, and "home" so I've always felt more at home in caucasian culture than "with my own culture" if you know what I mean. I am also forbidden (ok, it's a strong word) to date until I'm eighteen, and I think that the cultural differences are part of the reson that this rule was set.

I think it is not a fair age to set, as I think I am mature enough, can make decisions for myself, and am not stupid enough to drink, or do alcohol, or get in a car with someone I don't know(etc). I would like to argue about this with my parents, but that isn't something we take lightly in my household. This also seems unfair to me because I would have finished my first year of univesity by that age, and I think it should be judged more by the character and maturity of the person, than age (because this would mean a mature seventeen year old 2 days before her eighteenth birthday can't date but an immature twenty-one year old can)-(though what legal adults do with their lives is up to them) :eek: .

Maybe my parents are trying to protect me, but I want to know what other people's opinions are on the age a person should be allowed to start dating; and whether or not anyone thinks I should discuss my views with my parents, and possibly suffer their wrath.:sorry:
Re: Advice

Do what you think is right. But keep in mind that your parents have done everything you've done already (and thus, they probably know better than you)
Dating in secrecy from your parents is probably a bad idea, but outright defiance is also probably a bad idea. If it were me, I'd have a discussion with them (not an argument). An argument will prove your immaturity to them, but a discussion will show that you may in fact be able to handle the pressures of the dating scene.

As for it being a fair age, maybe it isn't - Where I grew up (highly LDS town in Utah/USA) the standard age for dating was 16+ - but 15/14 year-olds often dated. It's hard to tell someone that at a certain age, they'll suddenly be all grown up and ready to handle a real life. Heck, I'll be 22 this month and I still don't think I'm ready for the real world (but I'm coping)

Your parents are definately trying to protect you...that's what parents are for. But ultimately, the decision rests with you. Not only the decision about how mature you think you are or what you can and cannot handle, but whether or not you'll place the value of your own independence above the value of your parent's wishes/expectations.

If you can reason with your parents, you'll be better of. Group or chaperoned dates might be a reasonable alternative to them...at least to start.

I don't think you'll suffer their wrath if you express your feelings in a rational and adult manner. (That is to say, Starting/ending a conversation with "You're just like the Nazis" "Why can't you be like <insert friend's name>'s parents?" or anything along those lines is guaranteed to get you in trouble)
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