Thursday, January 10, 2013

Culture Clash Causes Relationship Misunderstanding

Dear Tazi:

My boyfriend “Elton” is from England, so he has that wonderful British accent that makes women (including me) melt. He also has a habit of calling people by terms of endearment instead of their first names. All men are “chap” or “mate” or something equally innocuous, but the women are all “honey” or “sweetie”, which gets on my nerves.

Elton is a very good looking man with a charming personality. Combine that with his accent, and you can see how women might take his personal attention the wrong way. Elton does not believe that there is a problem, saying that women never actually come on to him, but I argue that that is because women generally flirt and wait for the man to ask them on a date – which I know Elton would never do; he is very faithful to me.

I asked Elton to make a New Year’s resolution to be more aware of what he calls people, and to stop using terms of endearment and to start calling people by their first names. Elton balked at this, saying that his “vernacular” is a minor issue, and that I am making a big deal out of nothing. When I pressed him, he argued that there are a lot of things I do that annoy him, but he ignores them. When I asked him to name ONE annoying habit of mine, he couldn’t; he just said that there are several and that there is no need to make a big deal out of them, that they are a part of who I am and that he loves me as I am. I think Elton is merely trying to charm his way out of changing; he is saying that I am looking for trouble where there isn’t any. He has agreed to try, but refused to make a resolution of it, which I feel is disrespectful to my feelings. Am I making a bigger deal out of this than I should, Tazi? Or is Elton wrong, even as he insists he is not “marginalizing my concerns”?


Dear “Marginalized”:

If I had to take a guess, I would say that your annoying habits include making a big deal out of nothing; always needing to be right; and just maybe thinking that you are perfect.

Different cultures have different protocols; not every culture is like our American one, where a term of endearment constitutes flirting. The fact that Elton calls men “mate” or “chap”, and does not reserve endearments exclusively for women, speaks to the fact that such speech patterns are a part of his culture; to demand that he change this would be like him demanding that you stop using the word “dude” or other American slang so ingrained in your vocabulary that you probably do not even realize that you are using it.

I rule that you should cut Elton some slack here. I do not believe that he is “marginalizing your concerns”; I believe that he has given careful consideration to your concerns and finds them to be overblown and even insulting. Seen from Elton’s point of view, you are accusing him of hitting on every woman with whom he comes in contact, from the teenage cashier at the grocery store to the elderly librarian. Not every woman is comfortable being called such names by just anyone; while you may think they are swooning over Elton, many are not. Women who come in regular contact with Elton will soon realize that he is not coming on to them, that the terms of endearment he uses are a cultural thing.

I do not suggest that you swallow your concerns; talking about them to Elton was the healthy thing to do in order to keep your relationship running smoothly. However, you do not appear to have listened to Elton’s answers, especially the part where he said that he loves you, faults and all. Rather than force a resolution on him, why not make one for yourself to love your boyfriend as he is, annoying habits and all. Nobody is perfect...not even us cats!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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