cross-cultural marriage: I can't hear you!

I've heard people say that kids who grow up out in the countryside in Africa can hear cars coming miles away. There's not a lot of noise out there. They haven't had stereos and TVs and headphones ruining their hearing. So Rodgers almost definitely has better hearing than me.

If you leave America, you will find that we Americans have quite a reputation for being loud and obnoxious in public. We aren't the only nationality that's loud in public, but we are the most stereotyped one. (We're stereotyped for other things, too, by the way.) Kenyans are not loud in public.

If you know Rodgers, you know he can be loud. He has a big voice. When he's talking to me in public, though, he talks very quietly.

I discovered this early in our romantic relationship. When we started "dating" (which wasn't technically dating because we didn't go on dates, but what else do you call it? courting? sounds lame), it started with a phone call. Rodgers had to repeat everything he said to me at least once. Phone calls remained a big part of our relationship until we got engaged because it was a long distance relationship for 2 years and 8 months, then short distance for the 4 months we were engaged. Eventually I got used to him enough that he didn't have to repeat everything, but he still had to repeat himself sometimes.

In the US, until we got married, he was always living with someone else. If this person (or these people) weren't home, I could usually hear everything he said to me. But, if they were home, I would have the volume on my phone turned up to max and be pressing it into my ear as far as I could, holding my breath so I could hear Rodgers the third time he repeated himself. He would say that he didn't want everyone in the house to hear him. I would respond that if the person he's talking to can't hear him, what's the point in saying anything at all? He would say that I just need to listen. THEN, we would finally be together for a day, and he'd get a phone call from someone else. He would talk to whoever it was in a very loud voice. I would tell him, "That's how you need to talk to me on the phone!" But he never did.

It happens in restaurants, too. Sometimes the waiter can't hear him ordering. Usually, he asks me to say both of our orders, and I don't know if this is because he feels like I'm taking care of him if I order for him or if it's because waiters understand me. Whatever it is, I don't mind ordering for him, or even choosing what he's going to eat. (Besides the volume, he doesn't have the accent people expect, so sometimes they hear but can't understand him.)

Even though I know his voice well, I still have a hard time tuning in to it over a noisy restaurant. I have often found myself standing up in my chair, leaning over the table to hear him. We've gotten so that we only go to restaurants we know are quiet because I get so frustrated in noisy ones because he won't speak up! It doesn't seem to bother him very much to have to repeat himself. I guess that's good because he's determined to speak quietly in public.

The one perk that it has is that we look very romantic when we're talking in public because we have to be so close together. Maybe it's not a culture thing at all. Maybe Rodgers just couldn't figure out how to get me to snuggle up with him in the beginning of our relationship so he started talking quietly, and now it's a habit...


  1. I doubt he had to talk softly to get you to snuggle up. You're too much like your mother. While you lived with us, we heard the repeated phone calls and wondered how a relationship could manage like that. I'm glad you figured it out. Part of what I have witnessed is talking softly out of respect for others, which Americans don't understand. By the way, the accent has not been a problem for me, but it is a shock if you have only seen him and not heard him speak. I've always wondered, does he have an accent when he speaks Swahili?


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