In the early stages of dating, you tend to stay up late texting or talking to the desired person on the phone and maybe even scrolling through his photos on social media, wondering what your children would look like. When on dates, the two of you generally go out to eat, fill the time together with engaging activities, and put on the best version of yourselves. Expectedly, when you begin to take the relationship more seriously, the real you comes out — what you really eat, how much you can really afford to spend on movies, how you fill your down time, and all those personal subjects that a person tends to shy away from in the beginning.
Luckily, in my relationship, we got the hard conversations out of the way. Our pasts, our values, our careers, our families… We laid it all out on the table. This isn’t to say that our lives are perfectly aligned, because they most definitely are not. We have our fair share of differences, though none are enough to make either of us run. However, one difference stood out more than the rest and likely tempted both of us to run at some point:
He’s a Guatemalan, Spanish-speaking, soccer-playing, Messi-loving Latino, and I’m… a white girl.
Growing up in Marin County and attending college in Santa Barbara, my cultural color wheel consisted of about three shades of ivory until I landed a job teaching at a school in which white kids were the minority. This is where I met my boyfriend, the school’s P.E. teacher at the time. While my observations at school helped me to understand some cultural differences, it wasn’t until I became serious with my boyfriend that the culture shock hit. Here are a few things that I’ve learned over the past few years:
1. You mean a lot to him if he brings you home.
Though, in our circumstances, I had already met his mother through school, it still took months for my guy to invite me to his house. By bringing a girl into his house, a guy is communicating to his family that he is serious about her. He doesn’t want to jump the gun on this. In Latino culture, if he brings you home, you’re well on your way to becoming family.
2. Always accept food, even if you aren’t hungry.
Luckily, my guy told me this before I ate with his family. It’s considered rude if you don’t accept the food that is offered to you. The gym is a good friend of mine these days.
3. Try all the food, even if you already know you don’t like it.
Have you ever seen that movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Well, it’s like that part where she tells her family that her boyfriend doesn’t eat meat, and her mother responds, “That’s okay, I make lamb.” Whatever foods you don’t like, you’ll likely end up eating if you truly like the guy you’re dating. In my experience, I despise seafood. In the past few years, I’ve eaten ceviche, shrimp tacos, and several versions of fish soup… Which generally include every type of seafood you could possibly imagine.
4. Religious faith is incredibly important.
For me, this was an easy transition. We were raised in the same faith, but our families were at very different levels of practice. In a Latino family, religious life is a top priority. Great offense is taken if you express any disinterest in the church or its beliefs. Once, when we were cleaning his room, my boyfriend offered me a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe (there are likely many images of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a typical Latino household… even on blankets). Because I didn’t want him to give up his painting, I said that I didn’t need it. His mother overheard the conversation and she interjected, “Why? You don’t like Mary?” I am now the proud owner of a lovely painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
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This was only the beginning of my Latino education. When I expressed my desire to move out of my apartment to save money, his family didn’t hesitate to offer me a bed in their house. With much consideration, I accepted their offer and moved in. It was then that I began to learn a tremendous deal more about Latino culture.
5. Expect to stay up late.
In many Latino families, dinner time is anywhere from 8:00pm-10:00pm. Coming from a white family, that is about 3 hours later than my regular eating schedule. If you are like me, and you are accustomed to waiting 2 or more hours after eating to go to sleep, then you will likely be heading to bed a lot later than you’re used to. You do, of course, have the option of sleeping early and not eating with the family… But you know what I said about accepting food. If you often choose not to eat with the family, they will wonder if you either dislike their food or don’t want to spend time with them.
6. Learn to sleep through noise… Or expect to be up early.
If you already have an early morning schedule, this won’t affect you much. However, if you value sleeping in as long as possible before your day begins, that sleep may be interrupted. Chances are, someone in the house will be up before 6:00am daily, and you will definitely hear it.
7. Know some basic Spanish.
While many Latinos in the United States have knowledge of English, Spanish is more often spoken in the home. You may not be called on to use Spanish often, but it is ideal to at least understand what the rest of the family is speaking about… Especially if it’s important. Additionally, there are likely some non-immediate family members that have little knowledge of English who will prefer to converse with you in Spanish. You also want to be in on the jokes, trust me.
8. You’re never done cleaning.
Cleaning the kitchen or the living room once in awhile may be a nice way to help around the house, but don’t be offended if it goes unnoticed. Often, these areas can become cluttered within a matter of minutes, depending on how many people occupy the house. Additionally, someone (generally the mother) will likely unintentionally overlook your attempt to clean and do her own cleaning soon after you’ve finished. In my experience, my guy’s mother is experienced in cleaning. Therefore, what I may think of as clean may not be up to par with her standards.
9. Always show your face at the rosary.
Be it a birthday or just a typical Tuesday night, your house is likely to host a rosary. Whoever hosts the rosary takes much pride in the event, so it’s important to be present for at least a portion of it. Typically, rosaries can last anywhere from three to four hours… So, if you have a lot of work to do, I recommend joining the congregation about an hour and a half in. Leaving early is always a bit more awkward than showing up late.
10. Christmas traditions may differ.
Do you believe in Santa Claus? Well, get over it. Because Latinos are dream crushers. Just kidding. They respect your beliefs and traditions, but you will experience different traditions if you plan to spend Christmas with them. Latinos generally stay up until midnight on what we call Christmas Eve. All evening, they play games and eat together to pass the time. At midnight, they celebrate the birth of Jesus by showing love to one another, dancing, and giving gifts. That being said, there’s no logical time for Santa Claus to visit your house if you’re up past midnight. However, it’s a fun, exciting, and beautiful celebration of the holiday, and you will enjoy it.
11. Mañanitas celebrations are no joke.
Mañanitas is a birthday tradition for which you wake up early in the morning to sing, pray, and eat together. When I say early in the morning, I mean 5:00am.
12. The salsa is hot.
For real though. If someone in the family says that the salsa is “not that hot,” they can’t be trusted. The salsa, even in its mildest form, is always spicier than the hottest salsa at Chipotle.
13. These people are your family.
If you are lucky enough to experience living with a Latino family for any period of time, you will learn that the nurturing nature of your environment is a blessing. Their home is your home, and they want you to feel as comfortable as possible… but not too comfortable. Because they will treat you like family, you will also be expected to do your part around the house. Living with Latinos is a wonderful learning experience and an opportunity to know some truly incredible and caring people.
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While this list may give a brief outsider’s perspective on a Latino family, the qualities of the guy are what really draw you in. My guy is, no doubt, the best man I could hope to love. This is, in part, due to the way he was raised and the traditions he practices. Here are some things that my wonderful Latino has taught me:
14. It is important that your values align.
Just as in any relationship, your core values should be very similar. He will be adamant about his own values, and his core values will not be compromised for any reason.
15. But you won’t always see eye to eye.
Because you were raised differently from one another, some compromises will need to be made. The stars won’t magically align for every decision you make together. Keep an open mind and be understanding of your guy, and most times, a resolution will surface without a struggle.
16. Sundays are for soccer.
This is one of my favorite parts of the week. Before dating my guy, I knew nothing about soccer other than a few things I picked up from my glory days as an eight-year-old do-nothing defender. I was ecstatic about watching him play every Sunday, because I knew that this was one of his greatest passions. I’ve spoken to a handful of girls who have dated soccer players, and the majority of them roll their eyes at the mention of Sunday soccer. My advice to you is this: Be there. Cheer for him. Make it a part of your weekly routine. If you are anything like me, you will find joy in seeing him happy and alive on the field.
17. His family is a top priority.
So, you were supposed to meet your guy at the gym? Well, his mother just called and told him to pick his sister up from school, and he’s going to be late… Needless to say, sometimes, you’ll have to be adaptable. Last-minute favors are common. This can be frustrating, but you can’t blame him for making his family a top priority, as yours is likely high on your list of priorities, too. This also means that, if he really likes you, he will want you to be a part of family events and make a genuine effort to spend time with his family.
18. He is as sexy as you’d imagine your Latino boyfriend to be.
Well, at least my boyfriend is as sexy as I’d hoped. There is something about his passion, both for me and his interests, that make him incredibly attractive. This may have nothing to do with being Latino, but I thought I’d share.
19. Just because his family plays salsa at celebrations doesn’t mean he can dance.
My guy’s got moves like Shakira, though he’ll deny it. His confidence does not extend to the dance floor, so we actually take lessons together. It’s been fun, and it helps us to feel more comfortable at events that encourage dancing.
20. His love is incomparable.
This part is obviously subjective. However, I’ve observed that those I know who were raised in Latino families have a unique strength, passion, and willpower in relationships. Together, through our own experiences and in observing our parents and friends, we have learned that all of these qualities are vital to a loving and enduring relationship. Additionally, my guy has a quality that makes me feel undeniably lucky. He is the master of the little things. Therefore, whether I think I deserve it in the moment or not, I always feel loved and valued. I’m no princess, but he makes it clear that I’m his princesa.