It’s not always easy, living as an expat in a different culture. And in my case in many circumstances, the cultural behaviors are completely the opposite that I was initially used to.
I came on this idea, to write about the cultural expectations, from a Dutch TV show called ‘ Hoe heurt het eigenlijk?’ where a Dutch host visits the jet set of Holland. Since we don’t really live in a jet set environment (Jordan is still a third world country) I figured that I wanted to make my own blog- series: How we supposed to be. In this I’ll write about what is actually expected from me.
I’ll start with the beginning of live (at least here in Jordan): Weddings. My biggest surprise about the local culture.
Would you be my fiancé?
In advance of a wedding there’s a time of engagement. In this time the marriage contract is signed at the Sheiks office, which is actually the official contract. The period from signing this contract until the big celebration is a kind of trial period, where the bride and groom to be can get to know each other better. (Nowadays, with social media they sometimes even know each other better already in advance of this period, via WhatsApp or Skype.) If it’s not working out they still can get separated and look for someone else.
How to select a partner involves multiple steps. It basically comes to this: A girl and boy/ men and women make contact with each other. (Preferably in the same family) or he/she tell a family member/ friend that they fancy each other. Another option would be the parents figuring out a good potential partner.
The next step is having dinner, where the future family in law spoils the other family to show that the ‘potential’ comes from a good household. The groom-to-be needs to pass the first commission of selection: the father and brothers of the bride. If he passes, the question is asked to the bride-to-be, which always can say no. At least as far as I have seen here in Jordan!
By the way: marrying within the family is a whole different thing here than it would be in Western countries. Here families are much bigger. 500 people would be considered a small family. People don’t marry direct cousins but those further away in the family, while they are aware of the possible complications for future babies.
Men and women celebrate their wedding separately, where the men try to show their power by loud music and by singing Bedouin songs. One likes it, the other thinks it sounds like there are hooligans running through the street. But I’m sure that these guys are just really happy.
Another thing the men do is shooting with any device that makes a lot of noise. Think about machine guns, hand guns and alarm pistols, those that fire the red lights. If you are up for a long and early sleep while your neighbors open the fire with a machine gun under your bedroom window, I can assure that you’ll be up to the sealing!
Please note that they don’t shoot at each other, but up in the air. The only thing they seem to forget is that everything that goes up, also comes down again. My mother in law already looks for somewhere to hide when she hears the shooting…. Once a big bullet dropped just next to her… Apparently no one seems to believe the theory of gravity until they experience it themselves.
Not only the men, also the ladies celebrate their wedding big time. To start with, a wedding takes around 3 days up to a full week. Every day of the week family and friends come over to celebrate and the bride wears dresses in the most extravagant and bright colors. Same thing goes for the make-up, where the strangest combinations of colors are put on eye lids. Skin is powdered white since their beautiful bronze skin color doesn’t match the beauty ideals. The sisters and sisters in law sometimes dress up in the shortest dresses, since there are no men around. (The read my lips versions) It always reminds me of that TV show called ‘The travelers’. Surprisingly, I’m the one with the most clothes on, while it’s normally the other way around.
The wedding is likely to be planned before the weekend, so every family member and friend can participate on the final day. After huge dinners to feed all the guests the groom hangs golden jewelry around his bride as a kind of guarantee or investments that he’s prosperous enough to take care of her.
Beep beep, we’re married!
After these rituals the bride and groom are driven around in a car while all the other guests follow them beeping loudly through the streets to show their happiness to the rest of the village. Some newly- weds go on a honeymoon, some don’t. If not, the bride is delivered in her new house or even in the same house of the parents in law.
So shortly, we supposed to be:
- Marry as a virgin
- Within the family
- Wear the most (I wouldn’t call it sexy) short dresses, the brightest colors and highest heels
- Of course you need to wear an abaya (to cover, big dress) when you go over the street to reach the party.
- Demand a good amount of gold
- Live in with your parents in law
- Immediately bring some babies to this world
Luckily, my family in law accepts most of the time that I come from a different culture and don’t do all those, in my eyes strange, things. And for Mohammad it was even easier, since I was unaware of the fact that I could demand gold!
Could you be like you’re supposed to be?
Love from Jordan,