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Our First Marital Culture Clash


Our first cultural confusion happened mere days after we got married. That’s right. In fact, it had to do with the post-wedding etiquette itself.

Upon our return from our honeymoon, we sat down to open the gifts from our guests. I grabbed a pen and piece of paper.

“What are you doing?” Billy asked.

“I’m writing down who gave us what.”

“Why?”

“The thank-you notes.” (Blank stare.) “We have to send cards saying thank you for the gifts.”

“I already said thank you at the wedding.”

And thus began the Great Gracias Debate that has resurfaced at every child’s birth and major celebration.

You’ll notice in the “bios” and what not for this blog that I refer to myself not as an American girl, but as a Southern girl. I identify pretty highly with my Southern roots. And GRITS send thank you notes, y’all! Ideally on monogrammed stationary…

And so, if I remember correctly, I wrote every single thank you note from our wedding myself. But Billy has been inching his way on board.

Perhaps ironically (I say perhaps because I’m never quite certain I’m using the word ironically correctly), Billy is actually one of the most grateful people I know. So he’s adjusting to cultural norms since he married a Southern girl and lives in the South. When in Rome… even Rome, Georgia…

And I’ve adjusted a little bit, too, I suppose. Sometimes I’ve written thank you notes to Billy’s friends that I cognitively know are not expecting them. I guess my concession is I let it go when he doesn’t deliver them.

Maybe one day I’ll stop actually writing them. But right now I can’t. It is so deeply engrained in my cultural upbringing.  

Although I will say… our last trip to Guatemala we were lavished with gifts celebrating Isaac’s birth and Christmas. I said thank you to everyone. And that was that.

It was actually kinda freeing. I could get used to this… Okay, maybe not really. But I can appreciate that we’ve got two different gratitude strategies going on here.

Do you send thank you notes? 

*GRITS - acronym for "Girls Raised in the South" and a delicious Southern hot cereal that I ate as an afterschool snack every day for years.


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14 comments

  1. This was so interesting! What a beautiful blog you have. I am visiting via the comment you left at Becca's blog : ). So nice to meet you. I am going to have to dig around and find a baby picture because I am positive he is a sweetie. Love, Becky from Life with Kaishon

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  2. Angela Lerena10:01 AM

    We actually got most of our day of gifts from Rico's family, and NOBODY put their names on their gifts! This may explain why. I was much more concerned about why in the world you wouldn't put your name on the gift because then I couldn't send you, or even tell you thank you!

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  3. jodylouise11:30 AM

    My grandma and great-aunt LOVED thank you notes to the point that they quit giving gifts if they didn't get a thank you note for them. Much to their chagrin, I didn't take to the habit very well, so am usually scrambling to remember if I actually sent a thank you or not... In my perfect world, they would not exist, but I'm quite certain my grandma and great-aunt would be thrilled with this southern tradition!

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  4. Denise L Hershberger5:32 PM

    I'm very pro-sending thank you notes! I even try to send them the same day if at all possible! My husband was not raised doing this but since we got married and his mom and sister realized I always send them a thank you if they give me something they have started doing it in return!

    Occasionally if the gift is VERY small or nonchalant I will just send an email or text but I try even then to acknowledge the gift in a small way in return!

    I guess I don't mind if someone doesn't want to snail mail me a thank you note but I would at least appreciate a text or FB wall post saying they GOT the gift especially if I had to mail it! It is nice to know at least that the received it...but I might have to give up on this hope :(

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  5. This is such a great example of how culture is so much deeper than what you see on the surface (food, dress, greetings, etc). Last year I helped lead a team of students going to Guatemala, and I did my best to teach them about Guatemala and about culture in general (hopefully some of it stuck!). I think it's so important to go below the surface observations and assumptions we make in cross-cultural interactions, but sometimes this is hard to do when you don't spend a lot of time somewhere or develop deep relationships (as in short-term trips). This is definitely an example I'll share with teams in the future as we discuss culture and cross-cultural interactions. :)

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  6. Nice to meet you, Rebeckah! Thanks for stopping by. I love Becca's blog. :)

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  7. Haha. We had one wedding gift with no name and somehow we started talking about it in our Young Marrieds group at church. Someone else piped up, "Hey, we got you that!" Then I could send a note! :)

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  8. Oh yes. I have known those that choose not to give gifts if they are not properly thanked. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I write notes not to say thank you as much as to say "keep giving me gifts!" LOL.

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  9. You know, I recently started trying to do them the same day or immediately after, and it has made it a more enjoyable process. But, I agree with you, now I've become that person who's like, "Um... did you not receive my gift because I never heard anything.....?"

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  10. Hi Naomi! Yes, it is so fascinating all the small ways that culture pops up when we least suspect it. How fun that you got to lead a team of students to Guatemala!

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  11. Mary B8:14 AM

    Apparently Kentucky doesn't qualify as deep enough south, because I've had to explain the thank you note tradition with him as well.
    Also this reminds me of a very funny episode of How I Met Your Mother.

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  12. Ashley S6:37 PM

    Sarah, I love your blog! I cannot stand not writing a thank you note and, I too, have thought "I didn't get a note, I wonder if it got there?" Alas, I did have to teach my Southern hubby to write thank you notes, and it is still a process with him, but I think it is absolutely ingrained in every Southern girl. And, I often find myself wishing I had monogrammed cards... I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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  13. Ha! We are keeping the tradition alive! :)

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  14. It's funny the practices that are embedded so deeply in our consciousness that they feel impossible not to do!

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