Writing Desert Magnolia brought up a lot of interesting ideas that had been spinning in my head for a long time. We have so many family stories that only serve to demonstrate how alike we really are.
It’s incredibly strange that each and every time I mention this to a person from either culture, they look at me like I’m nuts! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again though. The deep South has a LOT in common with an Arab family. There’s a reason that I feel so at home here. 🙂
First of all, hospitality is critical here. Hospitality and generosity. When someone comes to see you, you MUST take care of them in every way. They must have comfortable accommodations, someone to guide them around, and a generous supply of the best cuisine you can offer. It’s your duty as a lady or a gentleman. A stingy or selfish person is shunned and avoided. Now, I ask you…am I referring to an Arab family or a Southern family? Impossible to tell? I rest my case. 🙂
Let’s try another one, shall we? The family is everything, and if someone from your own family is threatened in any way, as a lady or a gentleman, you must defend their honor. Ok, am I referring to a Southern family or an Arab family?
I love many things about the families here, and again, they remind me so much of how families in my home state operate. People are just plain kind to each other, and they have the best manners ever in most cases. Respect for one’s elders is the most remarkable of these characteristics. Both Southern folks and Arabs feel that it’s almost unforgivably rude to curse or even raise your voice at your parents, your Aunts/Uncles, etc.
However, there’s always a down side, but interestingly enough, the downside is also similar in both cultures….Gossip, yes that’s what I’m referring to. Gossip and comparing oneself to the “Jones” home next door. If your neighbor has a Mercedes, often times, many families feel completely empty until they get one as well. Of course, I’m certainly not referring to everyone. Generally speaking, fake folks like that are not considered part of the “real” culture, but they do exist. The general consensus is that if you’re fake and shallow, you’re not liked very much.
So, if they have so much in common, why all the tension? On my next blog post, I will share some of the funniest tales of the dinner table from both regions for you. In the meantime, why not try Desert Magnolia, my crime drama, on http://www.bluejinnimedia.com? It’s available as both an Ebook and a Paperback.
Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The internet made the world become smaller in many ways, but lately, it seems that the world has separated again. Rather than becoming one human species, we seem to be holding even tighter to the “US vs. THEM” mentality. Does that mean that we are in fact “devolving” rather than “evolving”?
I moved to the Middle East more than 25 years ago. You may find this hard to believe, but I hadn’t even traveled internationally before. Americans may not be surprised to read that, as it’s not uncommon for many in the USA to never even apply for a passport. In many cases, people feel that they just don’t need one.
I got one, however, and I used it. I came to the United Arab Emirates when I was 24 years old, and I did it solely for love.
I knew my husband could never be away from his family for years at a time, as he was much closer to his family than I was to mine, so I agreed to come and live here. I really felt that it was such an adventure I was going on…a new land…a new language….new customs. I had butterflies, as somehow I always knew that I’d never live my entire life in Alabama.
The trip went well, especially considering that my husband and I were coming over with our 7 month old son. I had been “briefed” by the Saudi Arabian women that I knew in Alabama on Arabic customs, and felt completely ready to meet his family.
When I actually reached the home of my mother-in-law, however, something happened that set the fear in motion. I heard that big Arabic gate slam behind us. At that moment, my heart fell into my stomach. My immediate thought at that point was, “Oh God, I’ve ruined my life! How could I have done that?”
Thankfully, once I got past the initial shock, and I got a job, my own car, and a few friends, I felt much better! It didn’t take long to figure out that people are basically the same wherever you go, and Arabs and Southern people have more in common than either group would ever imagine. We sit in the kitchen drinking our iced tea, and they sit in the kitchen drinking their hot tea. They want to be known for being the most generous people to all their friends and neighbors, and so do we. They like big homes, big cars, and luxurious surroundings, and so do we.
Once I eased into seeing our similarities more than our differences, life got a whole lot sweeter!!! Just like a big glass of sweet tea? 🙂
If you’d like to read more on this, why not give Desert Magnolia a try? Find it and all of my works on http://www.bluejinnimedia.com