Currently, I am living in New York City with my significant other. I am German, he was born in Guyana, but lived most of his life in the Big Apple.
Living abroad and/or with a significant other from a different cultural background, you sometimes see yourself and your upbringing through a different set of eyes. Things that you might not otherwise question and usually take for granted can very suddenly be open for interpretation and reflection.
One of these just hit me over the head moments ago. I have the habit of scooping through the apartment and doing a basic level of tidying up before I relax. It’s one of my first things on a Saturday morning and happens randomly throughout the day when I am about to settle into a new phase of leisure activity.
Just to be clear, I am by no means a neat freak or want everything clean to the point where you could eat off the floor. But admittedly, I prefer things orderly and stacked away. It helps me to allow myself to fully enjoy myself without any level of guilt or having to think of a To-Do-list and things that I still have to or should do.
My love and I have had instances in the past where this has made him very uncomfortable. Did he have to drop everything and join in? On other occasions it might confuse or even annoy him. Didn’t we just say that we were going to start the movie (now)? Why am I running around the room and tidying up now? The mess will still be there later.
Luckily, by now we have both more or less gotten used to our habits and little quirks. But while I was loading the dishwasher before turning to my video game, it finally hit me. I grew up with the very German saying: “Erst die Pflicht, dann das Vergnügen.” (Duty first, then the enjoyment.) My mom would usually ask me about my homework or chores before I was allowed to run off and play or turn in the children’s program on TV. And I some point, you grow smarter. You know the inquiry will come no matter what. So instead of wasting any of your precious time, you make sure to cross everything your mental to-do list before asking permission to head out.
This mentality is still pretty much ingrained in me. I hate the nagging feeling of an unfinished to-do list in the back of my head and the subconscious anxiety involved. So before I properly allow myself to enjoy my time off, I take care of the basic things at hand when they catch my eye or come into mind.
That it might strike other’s as random and maybe even odd. But sometimes, we have to take each others’ differences as just that. No better, no worse. Just different.
How about you?
What sayings have been ingrained in your mentality growing up?
Cover picture was taken in Berlin (Germany) in Mar 2018
“Erst die Pflicht, dann das Vergnügen” is a very similar mindset I grew up with, living in a Chinese household; I believe German and Chinese cultures are alike in that way. It’s interesting to be in a relationship with someone outside of your race and culture, as you get to learn about the individual even more than just their personality and mannerisms. It’s another side to them, and despite the discrepancies at times, learning about each other’s customs and languages makes the bond all the more rich!
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Interesting, I did not realize that overlap between Chinese and German culture, but it does make sense 😇
Bringing two different backgrounds together in our relationship has been most intriguing and enriching. I actually keep learning new facets of his (and my) culture on a regular basis up to today. It does not get boring and we have the luxurious situation of being able to pick and choose which way suits both of us better 🥰
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