Saturday, June 2, 2007

And You Thought Your In-Laws Were Bad

A bit of background before continuing with this...
My husband is Japanese. From Japan Japanese, not Japanese American. His parents are quite is in her 70s and dad's in his 80s. He has a brother who is 13 years older than him (My husband is 28, brother is 41).
We spent about a year and a half saving up money so that we could move to America and start a business. Yes, we have "a lot of money" relatively speaking. But considering the fact this this is money that we are supposed to be living off of while we get the business going, it's not exactly "disposible".
During the time that we have been together:
1. His family insisted that we pay for them to go to our wedding in upstate NY. In addition to this, my husband wanted to put them up in the castle/hotel where we were going to get married (significantly higher in cost than, say, Econolodge.) and not only that, but they had to have the "best room" (which, to my American mind, should go to the "happy couple"). All of this was going to cost in the neighborhood of $5000 (To put this in perspective, we were trying to do the whole wedding for $5000.)
2. While coming to America for the wedding, they also wanted to see New York City. My family is from Rochester, which is quite far from New York City. This trip would have cost an additional $2000 or so.
(We canceled the "big wedding" because of this and had a small ceremony in Vegas, just us and my brother.)
3. My husband had not been working for 5 months. When he did get a job, the day that he got his first paycheck, his mom called and said that she needed to borrow $1000. This was more than half of his paycheck. His first paycheck in 6 months. This was not the first time she needed to borrow large sums of money.
4. When we had a small wedding celebration/Bon Voyage dinner with his family, his mother repeatedly insisted that her gift to us was that she paid to raise my husband. Um, like my mom didn't pay to raise me? And my mom gave us $4500 as a wedding gift. (To be fair, his parents later gave us about $500 and his brother the same.)
5. Before we left for America, my husband's brother made my husband sign a "brother's agreement" saying that we would never come to the family for financial help. Two months later, my husband's brother helps himself to a $2000 loan from our account. What the &*(^?!?!

To me, and I think to most of my (white) American readers, it seems like I've married into the family from hell. But as it turns out, these types of things are apparently quite common in Asian families. Make Love, Not Debt had an article about this a few weeks ago. Many others from Asian families piped up with similar experiences.

Now, I have to admit that the idea of "taking care of your parents" is something that I particularly valued about Asian cultures. My mom is a single mom and I always worried about what would happen to her when she gets older. I want to be able to take care of her. I appreciated the fact that my husband wouldn't question that this was a responsibility.

However, it seems that this idea is not just "taking care of your parents" but also "treating them to the finer things in life". My husband frequently has ideas that start with, "Hey, I've got a great idea...How about we (do something that involves spending a lot of money on his parents)?" Fortunately for him, he's also started including my mom in these plans. Otherwise he'd get smacked too many times. ;-)

I actually would love to be able to pay for our parents to come to Hawaii. I'd love to be able to buy them nice things. But right now, we've got a limited amount of money to spend and no income (currently) coming in. It's just not the right time. It's very frustrating to me that my husband has so much pressure put on him to do these things now.

I know that this is one of the prices that we have to pay for being in an inter-cultural relationship. If anyone is in a similar relationship, perhaps you can share some experiences of how you deal with this.