A few days ago I asked my husband to drop me off with his bicycle at Nakatsu subway station from where he commutes to work because I was going to meet a friend nearby.
At the station it was time to say goodbye to him and because we are always a bit too aware of our surrounding our goodbye kisses are rather uncoordinated and probably funny to witness.
Therefore, as there were lots of salary men at the station, I told my husband that it was okay if he wanted to skip the kissing part today. The truth was that I would have welcomed a skip myself.
You see, we seem to care so much about what people around us are going to think that we are clumsy to a degree where in the past we almost broke our noses because we couldn’t decide whether to kiss on the cheek or on the lips or give each other a hug like two buddies.
the Scot in my husband
To my surprise though my husband might have watched enough Outlander with me the last few nights that in that moment he must have felt the urge to act like a Scottish Highlander in his Kilt who gives his lass a manly kiss.
In the end - BECAUSE he did it in such an exaggerated confident way and because THAT took me by surprise – we probably looked funny as usual.
Still, I appreciated his Scottish act.
why oh why?
You might wonder why it is such a big deal for us to be intimate in front of others without minding what people around us think.
I’ve been thinking a lot about it myself. Especially after I said goodbye to my husband on that day I knew I wanted to write this thought down.
Though my parents are from Turkey they were not brought up as Muslims. Neither was I.
My husband, is not religious either. I’m not even sure if he is a Shiniest or Buddhist in his heart?
Therefore this whole behavior is not really based on religious grounds.
I suspect it has to do with the oriental / Asian way of life and thinking. Ultimately, I think that it has to do with our cultural background.
You might be shocked to hear that I never saw my parents kiss each other on the mouth. On rare occasions I saw them hug in a loving way but I can’t recall more.
Although my father was often loving, funny and being goofy with me, I also remember how different he cold he could be when his sisters were around. Even though I was just a child I could feel how he switched to a noninvolved person, like fatherhood was a uniform and he took it off at those times.
Looking back at it now I have to say that I’m amazed at how sensitive I was back then; even though I was just a child on some level I understood that he didn’t want to show his love for me in front of his much younger sisters after they all had lost their father in a car accident. I guess he didn’t want them to feel sad by witnessing a father-daughter-love, which they couldn’t have anymore.
It’s not an aspect of the Turkish culture you would expect to read in a travel guidebook. Not showing your affection publicly is something you grow up with without knowing that it is part of a way of thinking. It’s like an invisible blanket that covers the whole country and all its people everywhere.
Not everyone is affected by it the same way though and luckily the new generation has managed to cut big holes into that blanket.
Sadly, though in milder portions, I adopted that way of thinking. I believe that one of the main reasons my first boyfriend broke up with me was due to the fact that I couldn’t show my affection in public.
I was quite taken back when I noticed for the first time that my husband fell into the same cultural background. Despite the fact that I’ve traveled thousands and thousands of miles and have chosen a new home in far Japan, my heart chose a man who is pretty much like my father when it comes to switching personalities as soon as people are around us.
It might be hard to grasp this way of thinking but it is not easy for Japanese people to show their love in public.
On the one hand, it’s as if it’s not fair to show your happiness and love in front of others as others might not be as fortunate as you and you would be rubbing into their faces what they don’t have, which would be highly inconsiderate.
On the other hand, since Japanese are a modest nation, your modesty is reflected in your behavior, especially towards the closest people around you.
If you compliment a Japanese on his skills, you’ll probably hear him/her say: “No, no. I’m still a beginner!”
You hear that because they were taught to be modest.
And if someone compliments you on your wife’s beauty (although the husband has nothing to do with her beauty), you might hear the husband say: “Oh! No, no! You should see her in the mornings!”
(Hehe! I’m being horrible here. I’ve never actually heard any Japanese man say that about his wife, but you get what I mean.)
I was … what?! … 9,000 km away from home and yet I was close to reliving the life my mother had with my father!! I was not going to have that!
a new life for us
The good thing about my husband is that he is open to new or different ways of thinking. When I catch us both falling back on what we were taught, I let him know that I’d appreciate it if he didn’t change his way with me when friends are visiting us, or that it would be great if we both learned how to speak nicely about each other when we are amongst friends and family.
I’m not saying that I want to be able to kiss my partner in public as if he was ice cream in the summer.
But I strongly believe that our cultures have to go a long way when it comes to showing our love and affection. I think that being modest and considerate are both good things but not to the degree it affects you in showing your love to your daughter because you think that others might feel offended, or rather than speaking nicely about your husband saying things to degrade him instead so that others don’t think you are selfish in showing how well your marriage goes.
The fact that my husband and I can laugh about ourselves when we stand on the street and can’t make up our minds about how to kiss each other goodbye might be sad to some but I am quite grateful to have a husband, who walks the same path with me.
We understand each other’s cultural struggle in that moment and we are both trying to leave this way of thinking behind us as good as we can. In slow steps.