Pin It
Monday, June 13th, 2011

Cultural Faux Pas: Don’t Let Assyrian Men Serve the Tea

By
cultural-fax-pas: men-don't-serve-tea

There I was, a bride at the tender age of 20, living in a cozy townhouse with my husband and eagerly awaiting my first houseguests as a newly married woman. Excited and nervous, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d live up to the high standards of being a good Assyrian housewife. Both my husband and I are of Middle Eastern descent, Assyrian to be exact, with me being the more “Americanized” one, since I was born and raised in the U.S., while my husband immigrated there at the age of 15. I grew up in a traditional Assyrian home and was used to our distinct ways and customs. But now, as a married woman, my upbringing and traditions were going to be put to the ultimate test, as I prepared for my guests.

 

The table was set with every lavish and tasty pastry from the local Assyrian market. The house had been deep-cleaned earlier that morning, and we were both ready to entertain. The doorbell rang and in walked my mother and grandmother. We sat in the family room making small talk, while snacking on the mini-feast I had set out on the coffee table. Then came the moment of truth: the serving of the tea.

 

According to tradition, Persian tea is served with the desserts and fruit in lieu of coffee, and the woman of the house always does the serving. Because I grew up in an arguably spoiled manner, and was rarely responsible for any household chores, I did not have the slightest idea of how to traditionally serve tea. Somehow I made my way to the kitchen, worked some kind of magic and came out holding an ornate tray of tea cups. We all continued to drink and laugh and I began to relax as I knew I had completed my wifely duty successfully. Or so I thought.

 

Noticing the now empty cups sitting on the coffee table, my husband without hesitation took them back in the kitchen and refilled each one. When he came out, I was met by my grandmother’s disapproving and disappointed glares. Apparently, this was a big no-no in our culture. It is specifically the woman’s duty to take care of her guests, especially the act of pouring the tea.

 

My grandmother didn’t articulate her true thoughts to me until the next day. She thanked me for our hospitality yet clearly stated that never again was my husband to pour her tea. She went on to reveal her embarrassment at having a man serve her and warned that this could not continue. To me, this was pure comedy; to her this was simply to what she had always been accustomed. We politely finished the conversation, and I soon realized that even though this woman served as a teacher to me throughout my childhood, it was now my turn to educate her on the modern day practices of my household.

 

Many more visits took place thereafter and my new “Americanized” tradition continued. I poured the first round of tea, and my husband poured the second and sometimes even third rounds. My once embarrassed and shy grandmother slowly became accustomed to this foreign practice.

 

I knew we were all beginning to understand each other just fine when I heard my grandmother say to my husband, “Emil, can you pour me another cup of tea please.”

© 2011 – 2013, Ramina Gilyanna. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law

A whole year of arguing in the making

All I Want for Christmas is Perfectly Bilingual Children

Why OPOL has been harder than we thought.

An Islamic Perspective on Child-Rearing and Discipline

Does Islam's reputation for severity and harshness apply to how Muslims raise children?

How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000

It's cheaper than you think to make that move abroad you always dreamed about

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Ramina Gilyanna has had a fascination with words since early childhood. Remembering back to the days where she would become unusually excited to attend her English and Literature classes and complete the writing assignments, she continues to nurture that same enthusiasm today. Growing up in a traditional Assyrian household in the U.S. has tested her abilities to juggle the Assyrian expectations of a married woman, while staying true to her Western ideals and traditions. With a B.A.in Psychology, Ramina speaks Assyrian fluently and is working on her Farsi. She has been married for seven years to a fellow Assyrian man and resides in San Jose, CA.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Ric...
From How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000
HI! I love your website! Just read your review of books that teach about culture and food! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you've share...
From Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart
Please, refrain from using "western /western society" for anglosaxon countries. Western can be Mexico and Spain as well, anything on the west side of the world is western ...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
We've tried to make use of, but It doesn't works by any mean...
From African Parenting: The Sane Way to Raise Children
I'm back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter. This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms ...
From What Confused Me Most about Brits
Fascinating. I have been to Germany and met this guy who was soo rude! This article explains everything!! Since all Germans are so terribly rude it should come as no surprise that I should have met ...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@ Josep. How could you possibly comment on how Germans treat people if you have never even been there? A three-day stay in Berlin and a one day stop-over in Frankfurt was enough for me to see the ut...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I am trying to find a Sikh triangular Nishan Sahib flag and haven't found one. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag
I have tried to buy a Sikh triagular Nishan Sahib flag and had no luck. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag

More Communication Fail