Friday, 14 September 2012

Latin American/Caribbean Men vs Finnish Men

I have been meaning to write about this topic for a long time because I think this is a very interesting topic and highlights so well the differences between cultures. Also I have gotten a request from a fellow Trini who is also with a Finnish man to write about this. But I have been so preoccupied with other things lately that I just haven’t found the time.

Let me say up front that I do love my Trini men and that I am not trying to put down any one culture over another. It is what it is. But there is a definite culture in Latin America and the Caribbean for men to “play around” on their women. Many men, and some women too, think it is the norm and you will even hear people say “he is a dan” if a man has more than one woman. You will also hear people say stupid things like “every marriage have horn” meaning every marriage will involve some cheating. A man who is faithful, goes home early, and helps his woman around the house or with the children is a “mama man” or a “sissy”. And many men have “outside” women and children. On the other hand the wife is expected to endure this and understand that a man is a man and patiently wait at home taking care of the children and keeping house. I met a Venezuelan who said that he had half brothers and sisters by his father and that it was a common occurrence in Venezuela. When asked if his mother also had affairs he was shocked I would ask such a question. “Of course not!” was his reply, she was always a good mother and wife at home taking care of her children and the house. This Venezuelan man followed in his father’s footsteps when it came to cheating on his wife. I have also seen numerous examples of this amongst my own relatives. Many of my male relatives have cheated on their wives at some point. In some cases when the wives found out they confronted their husbands and saved their marriage and family. In other cases the wives knew and simply endured. Many of these relatives saw their own fathers do the same or were themselves outside children. And so the cycle repeated itself. I cannot understand why any man would do the same thing to his wife and children that he saw his mother and himself suffer through. Why perpetuate the pain and even leave children to be fatherless? Needless to say I don’t understand the women who would knowingly have affairs and children with married men. Then Trinidadians wonder why we have so many delinquent youths.

This idea of a man being a stud if he has many women is so entrenched that some men don’t seem to understand any other way of operating. For example, while in Trinidad for our wedding in 2005 some of our friends met some Trini youths at the guest house/hostel they were staying at. They were chatting about life and my friend said he asked them if they had a girlfriend. They replied yes they had girls. But my friend asked if they had one special girl whom they loved. He said they didn’t seem to understand the concept of just having one special girlfriend. I find it truly sad that running around is such a part of our culture that some young men can’t even understand the concept of having just one woman. They probably don’t understand what love is either. In addition to the acceptance of this sort of behaviour many women seem to stay with these cheating men out of desperation. Sometimes begging and pleading with them not to leave. I have heard of women sometimes even promising the man that he could “do what he want” if he would only stay. What causes this desperation I wonder? Is it so hard to get a man in Trinidad that we have to beg, plead and settle? Or do we women have so little self worth? And if so where does this sense of worthlessness come from?

On the other hand, in Finland, having a woman “on de side” is decidedly rare. And there is no euphemism for it. It is just called plain old cheating. Having “outside children” is also rare. And cheating is not considered a good thing for either the goose or the gander. Usually such cheating results in divorce. There doesn’t seem to be much tolerance by either female or male for cheating spouses. Don’t get me wrong, of course there are Finnish people who cheat. However, it doesn’t seem to be as prevalent or most importantly not acceptable as it is in Latin America and the Caribbean. From what I understand cheating is not culturally acceptable for men in all Scandinavian/Nordic countries. I only know of one of my Finnish friends being “an outside child” or one of many children by different women from one man. And when I tell people here that I am one such child and that I never really knew my father it sounds like something from a story or soap opera to them.

Unlike Latin and Caribbean men Finnish men are not good with sweet talk. And few of them swagger. Few of them will take you out and pay for the entire evening just so that they can get into your pants. Instead, if sex is all they want, they will ask you straight up “your place or mine?” Instead of saying they love you and pretending to try to get to know you a Finnish man will probably take a year or more before he says the words “I love you”. But when he does it will be because he means it. At first Finnish men are generally shy and unsure of themselves. They need a few drinks to get up the courage to speak to a woman and even more drinks to get up the courage to dance with one. Because most lack a flair for words, just agreeing to have a regular conversation with a strange man will give him the impression you might be interested in him. Agreeing to dance with him will give even more proof of your interest.

On the other hand Latin and Caribbean men are quick to tell you how “sweet” you look or are, how beautiful you are or how much they like you or even love you. I once met a Mexican who told me he loved me and wanted me to meet his mother after conversing and dancing with him once in a bar! They will express all this sentiment for you even if or especially if they only want to get laid. Not to mention with Latin and Caribbean men you usually never know where you really stand. Do they really love you? Does he have another woman? Does he want to marry me? These are questions constantly on a Trini woman’s mind. The day I hooked up with a Finn all those worries ceased because he was always so brutally honest about his intentions - or lack of intentions - that I knew exactly what I was getting into. If anything went wrong I knew it from the start and could blame no one but myself. The day he said I love you, many months after I had started saying it to him, I was so happy because I knew he meant it. And he has not stopped saying it since. I am so sure of my man that when we lived apart I never worried that he would stray. My grandmother told me “be careful” and to “watch him” because “some women will want to take your man even if he is married”. And I had a Ghanaian guy tell me I should leave my dog in a shelter and go with him “to know what my man is doing” rather than let him be abroad by himself where one only knows what he could be up to. But I didn’t panic I told them I was not worried about my man. And I know many other Finnish men I would say the same about.

Now as I said there are cheating Finnish men as well as cheating Finnish women. Also there are one-women men in Trinidad. My step father was one of these. And I have heard that nowadays women in Trinidad are not so docile and many are even giving as good as they get. But culture is hard to change in an instant and the general idea of unfaithfulness among men being acceptable or normal in Trinidad is still pervasive. It is simply interesting to note that what is the norm in one culture could be so alien in another.