cross-cultural marriage: in-laws

This is how things go when I visit my mother-in-law:

We greet my mother-in-law with "Shika moo," the appropriate way to greet your elder. She shakes our hands saying, "Marahaba," which is the proper response. They find me a chair and sit me down with one of the men who speaks English - either a cousin or brother. Then, Rodgers goes off somewhere (he doesn't always tell me where). My mother-in-law goes to her kitchen or wherever she is making meal preparations. Even if it's not mealtime, she has to offer me a meal because she regards me as a special guest.

All the relatives live nearby, and news that there is a mzungu (white person) around travels fast in the Kenyan countryside. Everyone has to come see me. The women and children greet me when they arrive, then they go off to their respective places. The kids are usually running around; the women help cook. I have tried to help cook before. Rodgers told them that I needed to see the way things are done in Kenya, but they will not let me. So I sit and tell Rodgers' brothers and cousins about what crops we grow in Texas and what our homes look like. They are sorry that Rodgers and I don't have any land where we can plant corn (we live in an apartment).

When men arrive, they greet me. If the know English, they will say, "How are you?" If they don't speak English, they will say, "Habari." Then, they send a child to get them a chair. Once Rodgers' uncles arrive, no one speaks English anymore.

So I sit, greet newcomers who arrive, and keep a ear out for English. Usually, they're talking about me and will ask me about something every now and then. It's quite lonely.

Eventually, Rodgers will return, and then I feel a little more comfortable, but I'm still on display for all of his relatives. He doesn't translate everything for me, but will at least tell me what they're talking about, and ask a niece to bring me chai or something.

I don't have in-laws telling me how to raise Nate or meddling in my marriage. I have in-laws who find me something of a spectacle, fascinating, but can't or won't talk to me. And we barely know each other. I think this will be different if/when we live in Kenya.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with the cultural difference. I would have a hard time with that being that I am a "parent-pleaser". Is it weird for you to not really having a relationship with his parents?

  2. It is weird. We will live there eventually, and I am interested to see how relationships will develop once I see them more often than every 2 years.


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