Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Wendy & Youssef

This fabulous couple is a Hawaiian/Puerto Rican - Lebanese mix who live in my new favorite place: Hawaii! Wendy also writes an amazing multicultural food blog!

My name is Wendy, born in Honolulu, Hawaii and I’m half Hawaiian-half Puerto Rican. My husband is Youssef, born in Beirut, Lebanon and he's Lebanese. We both live in Honolulu, Hawaii and have 2 children (6 year old boy and 8 year old girl).

Three words that describe you… 
Bold, courageous and creative.

Favorite childhood memory…
Going to the beach - any beach in Hawaii!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Listening to stories of adversity and watching people overcome them. These people inspire me to be grateful for everything I have in my life.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met in a supermarket while we were both working overseas in Dubai, UAE.

 How long have you been together?
23 years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He's generous, open-minded and caring.

Favorite memory together as a couple…
Travelling cross-country in Europe with our children in an RV for a year.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Quite a bit. I lived and worked in the UAE which was a Muslim-dominated country back in the 90's. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
We were friends long before we "hooked up"! So many of our friends already knew there was something there before we even knew. But when we decided get engaged, we received all kinds of feedback - mostly negative. Some of his friends kept asking him if he's marrying me for my passport. My own friends asked the same question, everything was about if he wanted to obtain citizenship.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Our relationship continues to grow and flourish the older and wiser we become. We no longer let religion, color or culture define us as human beings but instead want to leave a blueprint of kindness of love for our kids to follow when we are no longer here on this earth.

Who proposed and how?
I was in London and flying into Dubai early one morning (like 6am). I was coming out of the airport and saw this figure of a man that looked like my boyfriend standing with a very large PINK sign. It said, "WILL YOU MARRY ME?"  I was confused at first, walked up to him kind of embarrassed and asked "What are you doing?". He looked as me and ask me again, "Will you marry me?". I said, yes, and heard a whole crowd cheering nearby. I turned around and he had rallied all of our friends and family to the airport to be a part of that proposal. It was beautiful and I was completely shocked and overwhelmed.

Describe your wedding…
We got married on the top of a beautiful hotel in Dubai with 100 of our closest friends. I wore a maroon colored dress and he wore a suit. We had an open bar upon arrival, and we greeted each guest with flower leis. We had a beautiful sit down dinner and then just danced the entire night away. It was just one big party.

What does being married mean to you?
It means giving love unconditionally.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We want to continue to live the life we currently have. Traveling the world 6 months of the year and spending the other 6 months in Hawaii. We want to continue world-schooling our children, spending time with them, getting to know them before they eventually turn into adults and leave our nest. We then want to live comfortably together in a small home overlooking a vineyard or farm that we own, watching the sunset every evening.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Don't discuss your dirty laundry with anyone.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Being born and raised a Hawaiian, it was important for me to teach my family about our deep connection to the universe, nature, land and sea. Our land or “Aina” is sacred to all Hawaiians. It has given us everything we need. Not just food, but clothing, housing, weapons, tools, musical instruments, canoes, etc. We are dependent on nature and respect it. Therefore our family’s success depends on living in harmony with nature. This is why we love to travel so much. To see the world that nourishes us.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We spend a lot of time alone together whenever possible. Just having a nice dinner, talking or walking. We make time for each other.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Our eating habits are much more healthier than they were before. Lebanese cuisine is full of vegetables and fruits, something I never really grew up with (American diet). 

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
We celebrate all Christian and Muslim holidays. We teach our children about both religious holidays but don’t put emphasis on the religion in general. We will wait for them to ask questions when they are older about Mom and Dad’s religious beliefs. Let them decide if they want to embrace a religion or not.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
Nothing so far. :)

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed…
I used religious prayer mats as carpets throughout my apartment and didn’t know it was prayer mats! When he came to my apartment once he just laughed and told me what they were used for… I felt silly.

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
We put off the wedding date for 3 years because he and I were “stuck” on if I should convert to Islam or not. His side said I “had to”, my side said “I shouldn’t”. This caused a rift that we tried to ignore and eventually had to face. It almost tore us apart because we were listening to others. I didn’t want to, he felt pressure from friends and family and it was causing a lot of stress between us.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is knowing we’re different, and we embrace this. The worst part is having to answer silly questions about our religious beliefs to complete strangers.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That they never last, and the children come out confused.

What are the biggest misconceptions about American Women?
Working in the Middle East for 20 years, every Arab man thought American women were cheap or “easy”. Not sure why… but nowadays this has changed.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Not so much. I get asked a lot of questions about what my children “are”. Are they Muslim or Christian? This seems to bother people the most. We just explain to them that we were born into our religions and didn’t seem to think it was fair that we didn’t get a choice so decided to let our children have a choice. Seems only fair… :) We just tell them God loves everyone, it really doesn’t matter what religion you are.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
We were lucky. Although both families were worried about the other, there was mutual love and respect for others' concerns. When there’s a strong bond of love from all sides it makes things so much easier :)



  1. What a beautiful family!
    I want a pizza oven too.

  2. Always so happy to read the amazing love story in this section. Good platform :)

  3. Nominations open for Nepaliaustralian’s Blog Award 2015. Please nominate your favourite blogs.


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