07 November 2019

Assumptions people make about our marriage

Thursday, November 07, 2019 1 Comments
Wow, never expected such a great response to our marriage story! My husband said I could've added more detail, but then I thought it would be nice to leave a little bit to ourselves ;)

A lot of you said you'd be interested in reading more on the subject, so here we go!

Today we'll be talking about the most common prejudices that people have about mixed relationships, particularly when it comes to the man being a Muslim. I'm sure most of you in my position would have heard at least some, if not all of these, at the early stages of the relationship. Or might still be hearing some!

Here we go, with my list of most common assumptions, judgements and misconceptions about the multicultural marriage:

1) He'll beat you up.

I think we've all heard that with regards to Muslim men, probably more often than we'd like to. Ultimately, it all comes down to this one verse from the Quran, that allegedly promotes hitting the wife if she's disobedient: Surah An-Nisa, verse 34. It keeps getting taken out of context, with people posting this one sentence: "As for women of whom you fear rebellion (...), beat them". 

See, the problem here is that majority of people reposting this verse, only saw this one excerpt, while this bit of the verse, properly translated and including all relevant annotations, goes:

As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, 
admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat* them (lightly).
[Abdullah Yusuf Ali]

*some translations say "separate them from you"

See, here's the thing with the Quran: when we rely on the translation, all the little linguistic nuances can all get lost in the process. Just pop onto the Wikipedia page for "An-Nisa, 34", and you can see all the variables for yourself. Probably still not gonna convince some of you, but let's just put it out there: hitting, LIGHTLY, as in a little smack, is always the very last resort, and it shouldn't be taken as if Islam is actually allowing husbands to beat their wives up.

Simply put: if a husband is hitting his wife, he's just an arse, and if he tries to justify this with Islam, then he's just looking for an excuse and puts everyone else in bad light 🤷

2) He'll force you to stay at home/forbid you to work

Couldn't be further from the truth for us! I was working when we met, there was a point when I was the one with a stable income when Mr found himself in between jobs, I worked right through my pregnancy, went back as soon as my maternity leave finished... The only reason I reduced my working times, and why I'm currently a stay-st-home mum, is the small issue of childcare - we don't have family to fall back on, no grandparents to babysit while we both work. And the cost of childcare, before we qualify for any free hours, would take up anything I could potentially earn. Although I have my husband's full support when it comes to getting back into the workforce.

Yes, there will be men who are more into the "traditional" family model, in which the man is the breadwinner, and woman's role is to be the housewife. At the end of the day, it's all down to you, whether you're happy to go along with it. And if that works for you, then that's great! Remember, we're talking about men FORCING women to stay at home, sometimes to the extent of stopping them from socialising out of house altogether.

3) He'll kidnap your children

We've all seen these stories: Pakistani/Egyptian/Tunisian/insert any Muslim country/ man takes the kids abroad, and the European mother has to involve the police, private detectives, the lot. I'm not dismissing these stories, I can't even imagine what those families went through - but let's remember it's still a small minority. My husband can just about manage our two in the local park, there's no way he could take them abroad by himself ;) I'm not dismissing the tragic stories here, in which custody battles were quite dramatic, but the point is that you can't assume that your foreign partner is just waiting to take you and/or your children to his home country, just to take your passports away.

4) He's only with you for the visa

Right - this one is tricky. It actually deserves its own post, because it's such a big topic! To sum it up for now: be careful when it comes to men with "complicated" residence status, and make sure you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Let's be honest - unless your man is a citizen, or at least a permanent resident of the country you choose to live in, there's always that element of uncertainty whether he'll stick around after he gets those papers he needs.

This assumption doesn't just come from "my" people - I've heard the "is it love marriage or visa?" from people on Mr's side as well. When we first visited Pakistan, I once chatted with a lady from my in-laws' village, who seemed quite shocked at the fact we are a love marriage - for lots of people it's just a totally foreign concept, it's the arranged marriage that's the regular way. And it's actually saddening to hear that Asian people themselves assume that a mixed marriage is just for the visa, because that only enforces that opinion which people in the West have, that the papers are all they're after.

5) He'll take more wives / He already has a wife back home

Again, it comes down to what people think they know about Islam. We've all heard that a Muslim can have four wives, right? I've seen this kind of comments a few times: he wants you for visa, or just for fun, but will take another wife from his own culture too. I mean yes, I've heard about such cases - men married European women, and it later transpired that they'd already been married back in their home countries, or they married later because it was expected of them. But the thing is, that these cases are a minority, and polygamy really isn't as common as you'd think because there are certain conditions that have to be met: all wives have to be treated equally, receive same kind of provisions etc. I always laugh that I'm safe, because my husband couldn't afford more wives ;)

6) You're losing your identity for him

Oh, that's the one I've heard a lot: "You're leaving your own culture behind", "You're a traitor of your nation", blah blah. Particularly if the woman chooses to convert to Islam. Ugh! Honestly, it's not like I went and planned it, I didn't go "Oh, I hate Polish guys I'm gonna marry a Pakistani". I'd never, ever have thought that's who I'd end up with! And definitely disagree with the whole "losing my identity" - why, because I might choose to dress differently, don't drink vodka and don't eat pork? I still proudly admit I come from Poland, I use my language, I cook Polish food (minus the pork). I take my husband and kids to Poland, show them the most beautiful places, tell them about my country's history which I'm proud of. I'm not denying that marriage to someone from a different culture influenced me, but I'm still that very Polish me, with my own outlook on the world.

7) "Was he allowed to marry you?"

Yup, I had that one. Hubby heard questions along those lines too. This one came from an assumption, that Asian people are only ever allowed arranged marriages, and only within their own culture. Actually, it's not all that uncommon, you know? I'm in Facebook groups with hundreds of women in marriages like mine, and God knows how many out there are not active on social media. For some reason though, we're still perceived as this odd couple, and every time I meet someone new and I mention that my husband is Pakistani, I hear "Oh wow, that's so unusual! How on earth did you guys meet?".

Edit 8/11: 
8) You will have to convert to Islam, and he'll make you wear the headscarf

I can't believe I forgot this one! This should be at the top of my list really!

First of all, remember this: "There is no compulsion in religion", as mentioned in the Quran itself (surah Al-Baqara, 256). It means that no individual should be forced to accept a religion against their will, and while the Quran offers the guidance, it is up to each of us to choose whether to accept it or not.

You can read about my own story HERE, but to sum it up: my husband did explain things about Islam to me, but never tried to influence my decision. We were together for a while at that time, and I hadn't really mentioned anything to him until the day I said I wanted to say the shahada.

I remember when I told couple of friends that we'd had our nikah - one of them asked suspiciously whether my husband made me repeat any Arabic phrases after him, and she was convinced he might've tried to trick me into converting. Now, if that's the case for anyone - always ask what is it you're saying! Although, even if you do end up reciting the shahada, it wouldn't really mean you've converted if you did it unknowingly!

Remember that: Muslim men are permitted to marry women from the "people of the Book" meaning Christian or Jewish. Don't ever let a man convince you, that you can't get married because you're not Muslim! I've seen many successful couples in my online groups, where the women stayed with their own religion - as long as you reach a compromise regarding the everyday life, raising kids, celebrating religious holidays etc., there's absolutely no reason why it couldn't work! Frankly, changing your religion for any reason other than your own conviction, is just stupid. In Polish we have this saying: "Widziały gały, co brały", meaning that you've known from the start what you're getting into. Honestly, I always say that if a man wanted a nice Muslim woman for himself, he should've found one and not try to turn you into that.

Oh, and for the scarf - can you see me wearing one? My husband actually had this discussion with one of his work colleagues recently, when she claimed that all Muslim men force their women to cover up. Yet here I am, just like many more Muslim women. Married, unmarried. Yes, there are places where women are forced to cover their heads; yes, there are men who will expect their wives to wear headscarves; yes, there are fathers that make their daughters wear hijabs. For most of us though, it really IS a choice. Most of the women I know, who do cover their heads, started wearing hijabs without their husband even knowing that they considered it.

Have you heard any of these, as a result of marrying a Muslim, or anyone from a culture different to yours? What other things have people said to you? Or maybe you're the person having these assumptions - in that case I'd love to hear what other things come to mind when you see a mixed couple like us!

Before you message me or comment - please remember I'm not denying that the bad cases do happen, but I'm speaking from my own experience and observations I've made through other women talking about their mixed marriages, and would really like to show people that a relationship of European woman with a Muslim guy isn't always about the holiday romance with habibi from the hotel making empty promises ;)

10 October 2019

How I met your father - my multicultural marriage story

Thursday, October 10, 2019 2 Comments
I've asked on my Insta stories a while ago, what you guys wanted me to write about. The overwhelming majority said they wanted to see more about our multicultural family, and I've had quite a few questions about our marriage (just in the past couple of weeks I've had three separate women messaging me for advice).

I've been trying to write this post for a while now, but it just wasn't coming along like I wanted. Here we go though!

Let's start from the very beginning then - how we met. I've been asked that a lot on my Insta Q&A, by people probably expecting some interesting story... Well, we simply met at work. We both used to work at the airport, next door to each other - different food places, but managed by the same company and joined at the back by common dishwashing area.

We'd known each other for about 2.5 years before we began our relationship. There was a lot of stuff happening to both of us during that time, and I was adamant I'd NEVER be with him. We used to chat online a lot - it was the glorious time of MSN Messenger, and we'd sometimes chat up until 1-2 am, but I always put him firmly in the friendzone. Not sure what eventually changed, but here we are!

We moved in together pretty quickly because I was getting evicted by my landlord who decided to sell the house I lived in. 3 months into the relationship, I think. We knew each other for quite a while though, and most importantly we knew each other well. It just felt right.

Now, that's the bit you guys ask about the most: what is it like to live together as a couple from such different cultures.

I think I got lucky with my Pakistani guy. He was brought up in a large city, well educated (already held a Master's Degree from back home, and was at that time studying for another MA here in the UK), working in a multicultural environment, and most importantly rather open-minded. I'm actually trying to remember what it was like when we first moved in together - it might be because since having kids my memory is like a sieve, but I can't actually remember us massively clashing about anything.

I would definitely say that it was all about some kind of compromise, but at the end of the day aren't all relationships like that? We all have our little habits, likes, and dislikes, and we have to adjust our lives to accommodate someone else's needs too.

The main thing, I think, was the food. I knew that Muslims can't eat pork, but Mr also explained how as a Muslim he can only eat meat from the "halal" butcher. I didn't mind - I wasn't a big meat eater anyway, mostly stuck to boneless chicken and beef mince, occasional bacon sandwich at work. Apart from meat though, there were SO MANY products he couldn't have, like yogurts and desserts or sweets with gelatine. There was stuff I'd buy without ever thinking twice about the ingredients, and suddenly I had to remember to check if he could share something with me.

What else... The new thing for me was the fact that he prayed regularly, I used to sit on the bed and watch him go through the motions. He wasn't like hardcore practicing, but did pray and went to the mosque every Friday, if he wasn't working. And then there was the first Ramadan that we spent together - I felt really bad about eating while he wasn't, even though he always said it was fine.

Possibly the biggest thing for me was the nikah, the Islamic marriage. I'd never even heard about it, but one day he asked if I'd go through with it. Not gonna lie, that did freak me out a bit. I did think of our relationship as something long-term, quite possibly permanent. But that was unknown territory, it was *his* faith. At first, I refused, it just didn't sit right with me. He didn't push - as I said he wasn't very practicing, but a chat with someone made him realise that us living together was actually a sin and he wanted to put it right. I think it took me about a week of reading stuff over and over again before I finally agreed. It wasn't a big deal for me - it wasn't legally binding, the ceremony was basically agreeing to marry one another in front of some friends.

I could see though, that it mattered. From that moment, if we stumbled across any of his friends in town, he would proudly introduce me as his wife. And since the relationship was "halal", he decided it was only right to introduce me to the family. I remember him being really worried about what his parents, who live back in Pakistan, would say - on one hand, he wasn't comfortable telling them he started living with his gori girlfriend, but also felt guilty that he didn't inform them about his intention to get the nikah done. Their reaction was great though, especially mum - she was absolutely lovely and you could see she was genuinely happy for us.

Wow, so far it's looking like it's been just me making compromises to adjust! When I think about it, it's probably mostly true... The thing is, that most of the adjustments I made were due to his religion. You might wonder at this point why I adjusted to him, and not the other way round? Well, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't really practicing at that time, probably haven't been to church for a good few years by then. But while we only had halal food at home, nothing stopped me from eating as normal at work. When I didn't go home for Christmas, I decorated our bedsit and we had a little Christmas Eve dinner, Polish style, and another year we had a full-on traditional dinner with a group of our Polish friends. He never stopped me from going for a girls' night out, and we even attended quite a few parties together (him not drinking of course).

People seem to think that it's always the women in such relationships, that adjust their lives to the husband's culture, to the point that they lose their identity and cut off from their own culture, especially if they decide to convert to Islam. It's as if not eating pork schnitzels and not drinking vodka makes me less Polish ;) Maybe I do enjoy dressing up in shalwar kameez on special occasions, I love mehndi, and I definitely cook more curries than Polish dishes now, maybe I pray differently, but I don't forget where I come from and don't try to pretend to be Pakistani. Fair enough, it does happen - often some people can just get mesmerised by the all-new, "exotic" culture, but I do think there should be some balance and we should try to maintain our own identity - I always say that if the guy wanted a wife from his own culture, he should've married one and not try to make his wife into a white-skinned version of one.

My wedding henna, done by a friend. Our wedding was the ultimate mix of our cultures: I had the mehndi done but wore a white dress to the ceremony which was just a regular registry office wedding. I went full-on desi for the reception though (which was just a dinner in a small local restaurant).

Actually, they can think what they want. I noticed, that any attempt to explain ourselves, to defend our multicultural relationships, trying to show the world that it can work, that we are like any regular couple, and so on... It only seems to rub people the wrong way, and they accuse women like me of trying too hard to defend ourselves and not being fully truthful. We've been together 9 years (today, actually!), married for 7 - all these years (and two children) later, and we still work on compromises. We still clash over cultural differences and disagree about a variety of things.

I guess that at the end of the day it's about understanding, and willingness to actually get to know each other's cultures. If either of you goes into the relationship with an attitude of "my culture is superior and his/her stuff is all just stupid" - well, I wouldn't expect a bright future together.

I could probably go on and on here! If you got to this point, thanks for reading! I'll be expanding on the topic of multicultural relationships soon, hope you'll be back for the next installment ;)

14 April 2019

Uncle Bubble Mega Loop* - plus giveaway

Sunday, April 14, 2019 0 Comments
Are you enjoying the Easter holidays? Adam's been off since the 5th, and we're actually spending a week in Poland right now ;) 

The weather hasn't been great for the past couple of days, but it's cleared up now so we're enjoying the spring sun - I probably don't need to tell you, that kids' holidays are always so much easier when the weather is good!

Couple of weeks back we were sent the Uncle Bubble Mega Loop - a super cool bubble making kit. It allows you to make gigantic bubbles, and even put someone inside one! 

Here's what you can do with the Mega Loop:

The kit contains an inflatable drip tray, giant hoop, and a bottle of bubble mixture.
The blue ring, which serves as the drip tray, is quite easy to blow up. The hoop's handle needs assembling, and takes some strength to make tight enough - at first my hoop kept falling apart. For the bubble mixture, make sure to follow the instructions - it's a concentrate that needs mixing with water. Unfortunately it didn't seem to work too well for us (maybe I messed up the proportions) and we ended up using homemade bubble solution, but that's great about this kit - if you run out of the bubble mix, just make some more and keep having fun over and over again!

It can take a few attempts to manage making large bubbles. Windy weather is no good, and you need to work out at what speed to move the hoop, but once you master the techinque, it's hours of fun! We brought the kit on holidays with us - once disassembled it's easy to pack away - and even some neighbourhood kids joined in. I must admit that the kids were actually doing better job than me, Hubby said they had more delicate touch ;)

Here's some of our attempts:

Our first attempt at home, when we were still unsure about the weather ;)

Uncle Bubble Mega Loop is available on Amazon for £29.99. You can also win one here! Uncle Bubble is giving away a Mega Loop kit to one lucky reader, so scroll down to the giveway widget to get your entries in before the 7th of May. Good luck!

Win The Uncle Bubble Mega Loop Tool #19

14 March 2019

mother's day with prestige flowers*

Thursday, March 14, 2019 0 Comments
*GIFTED - I have been sent the following product in return for a review.

Mother's Day in 3 weeks folks! 31st of March this year in the UK. Funny how different places have different dates - last Sunday of March for the UK, while in Poland we celebrate on the same day every year, the 26th of May.

What do you normally do to celebrate? I don't think hubby ever realises when Mother's Day actually is, and the kids are obviously to small to sort anything out. Hint hint, Mr I! ;)

Ahead of this special celebration, the lovely team at Prestige Flowers has sent me one of their luxury bouquets from the Mother's Day range.

The flowers come in a large box, as a beautifully arranged bouquet. Unlike some of the letterbox delivery services, these are ready to be put into a vase and adorn the house straight away.

If you're concerned about the freshness of the flowers - they come with moist stem wrap, that will keep them safe until you're ready to put them in the water. 

The bouquet I received is the "Exquisite" from the Mother's Day range. At first it can look a bit modest with germini flowers and lisianthus, but it's actually full of luxurious white lilies - they reach you still closed, so you can enjoy the bouquet for longer.

This is what the bouquet looked like when received:

And this is what it looked like 10 days later, with most of the lilies open:

All in all, the bouquet lasted well for over two weeks.

If you're thinking to treat someone this Mother's Day, but can't get the flowers or gifts in person, Prestige Flowers is the place for you. Just pick your flowers - some come with free chocolates! - add a message, pick the delivery date and you're sorted. Next Day delivery starts from £5.80, and if you're really forgetful you can get Same Day delivery if you remember before 3pm (except Sundays).

The best thing is that if you live abroad, you can order and have them delivered to your Mum, Gran or any other special Mum you know, that lives in the UK. Or if you're a foreigner in the UK like me, and your Mum is back home, they offer international deliveries too! Do check their website for details x