Guess Who's Coming?

Now that Max faced my Big, Fat Greek Family, I’ve begun obsessing about the next meeting to take place. Our trip to Egypt to meet Max’s family is still a few months away, but that doesn’t mean I can’t already be stressing about it.

I ask myself all the usual questions that a new bride poses before meeting her future in-laws. Will I like them? Will they like me? Will I be accepted as part of the family? But I also worry about the vast cultural schism that might exist as I, an independent Western woman, make my way in an Islamic world. I do not know much about Muslim society, and I would hate to offend Max’s family out of sheer ignorance.

“I read that in Middle Eastern cultures, it is an insult to show your sole to a guest. What if I accidentally cross my legs and show my foot? Will your parents be offended?” I asked.

“ Maybe,” Max replied. “I really don’t know.”

And he really doesn’t know. Having never lived in Middle East and rejecting much of the culture himself, Max offers little guidance. As far as he is concerned, we might as well be visiting Disney World. There isn’t anything I need to do differently in order to prepare for this trip.

“Just chew with your mouth closed and flush the toilet after you use it and everything will be fine.” Max says with a chuckle.

Since he’s not taking my worries seriously, I’ve been doing online research. After all, we know that everything on the Web is 100% accurate.

Max insists that because Egypt is a popular tourist destination, the people are familiar with Western ways and style of clothing. He says I don’t have to change anything about how I dress while we are there. But everything I read tells me that this isn’t the case. While I wouldn’t need to don a head scarf, I should try to wear calf-length skirts and ¾ sleeved tops at a minimum. If we go to a mosque, I will have to cover myself completely.

As you can probably guess, my wardrobe wouldn't be considered "modest" even by western standards. So I’ve already begun hunting for my Egyptian wears. Somehow I’ll need to find clothing that covers my body, but will also be comfortable in the 100 degree temperatures. Even with my savvy shopping skills, this task may be a mission impossible.

Max’s immediate family spent many years living in Greece, so I am less worried about offending them with my wild Western ways. But a few of his extended family are less moderate, and some of the female cousins even wear burkas, clothing the completely covers the head, face, and body. In these cases, Max tells me he has not seen the faces of these women since they were children. I think that my fiancée shares these tales as a way of preparing me. He is hosting a post-wedding party for about 50 of his friends and family in Cairo, where I will be on full display for all to see.

Did I mention that alcohol is forbidden in Muslim countries? I’m a goner.


kenju said...

I have no advice for you, but since they have lived in Greece, perhaps they will be more acepting of you - as long as you don't flaunt western ways too much. From what I understand, modesty is more than just covering up, to them. I wold read everything I can get my hands on about their culture.

Dan-E said...

if they lived in greece for a while maybe,, just maybe they'll have a stash of ouzo for "special occasions."

(kinda like the same way i have a superb bottle of pyrat rum for "special occasionas." in my case, "special occasions" being stuff like "coming hom from work.")

SassyAssy said...

Burkas and dowdy clothing aside, it sounds like things are great!

Jamy said...

I have some advice. :) My brother is an ultra-orthodox Jew and they have many of the same clothing restrictions.

Unless the family is wealthy, you don't need to wear anything fancy. A long, full skirt is handy (below knees). You should also plan to cover your legs with long socks/stockings (naked legs are bad). And, nothing low cut. You are right about the 3/4 length sleeves. Also, women are not supposed to wear "men's" clothing, so a big man's shirt is a bad idea as a cover-up. A light weight cotton sweater or long sleeve blouse is more appropriate.

The trick to being cool under all that clothing is wear itloosely. No fitted clothing on this trip.

It's great that Max doesn't care, but I'm with you--it's best to try not to offend the family. If possible, I'd ask Max if you could speak to one of his female relatives and find out what they wear--that's the easiest way.

running42k said...

What about the climacool stuff from Nike and Adidas? That stuff keeps you dry and cool in the heat plus is fairly stylish. As for the alcohol, perhaps you can find a patch that releases it into your system.;-)

Åsa said...

Diane: I would be scared shitless if I where you! (now that didn’t help now did it…) How ever: if they where burkas and all, there is no way you would ever “fit in” so my advice is to not even try! Wear the things you talked about: normal but not showing any skin. Be who you are – case that’s who Max loves – and hopefully they will accept that he is marrying a Western woman. You can’t do more than that. I’m sure you are a polite and respectful guest and that is enough.

Egypt is a popular tourist attraction for Europeans by the way.

Besides the “meet the family hassle”, you will have a fantastic time (don’t drink the water and probably do not eat ice-cream) and you will se historic sites from times way before Sweden was populated! Read up on history and try to make it to the pyramids. What a cool trip Diane!

Cristalle said...

Don't blame you for being scared, and kudos for doing some research! Although I would trust Max, it is good to be as respectful as you can be of the culture. That said, I have faith that it'll all turn out fine :)