Tell me amour and amor about love


Thora Pearson

art by Thora Pearson

Maddie Meyers, web managing editor

The bride looks out the car window with a paper fan in her hands, preparing to drive away with her new husband. As the engine starts, she takes the fan her mother gave her and tosses it out the window. Throwing the fan symbolizes leaving old bad habits and behaviors behind to start a new life. As the car rolls away, she sees her family, home and past fading behind her.

According to Edrin Chen, Chinese teacher, this tradition is very common in Taiwan. Chen is from Taiwan and moved to the United States in 1998 to study abroad. She said she planned to move back but she met the love of her life in college, and decided to stay. Cultures all over the world have their own rituals, like the fan tradition, when it comes to relationships and marriages.

“In Spain you might find people who go around serenading,” Gina Muller, Spanish teacher, said. “In college, they have these gentlemen called ‘Tunas.’ They are male acapella singing groups who dress up really funny like [in the] medieval Spanish time. They will go out through the weekends and serenade girls.”

Muller lived in Spain when she was in her 20s for about 18 months. She said it seemed like everybody in their 20s was in a relationship, but they did not get married until later. According to Muller, young adults in Spain are very loose with their dating and a lot of times they see other people on the side.

Anna Kalfus, French teacher, lived in France for a year and went to college there. Like Spain, infidelity is more common in France than in the United States, according to Kalfus. In a Pew Research Center 2013 poll, 47 percent of French people thought married people having an affair is morally unacceptable, compared to 84 percent of Americans.

Teenagers and relationships and young love are the same everywhere. It’s just as hurtful and painful and lovely and wonderful.”

— Gina Muller

Tim Harig’s wife, Nabila, is from Tunisia. According to StudyCountry, 99 percent of Tunisia is made up of Muslims. Harig, social studies teacher, said many people there have arranged marriages, and his wife had one that did not work out. Harig describes this process more like an interview rather than dating, and in many cases the man is significantly older than the woman. Harig said a Muslim woman is also not supposed to marry a non-Muslim man.

“To marry out of Islam is a stretch for almost anybody,” Harig said. “What my wife did is very outside the norm because I am not a Muslim. I am pretty white, and she is a practicing Muslim.”

Religion matters a lot in Tunisia, according to Harig. He said they check women for virginity prior to marriage, and there is a perceived shame if a woman is not virgin. If a woman gets divorced or her husband dies, she cannot remarry because she is no longer a virgin.

“It doesn’t matter how wonderful you are or talented or cute or beautiful,” Harig said. “You are like a damaged good.”

Kalfus and Muller both said even though France and Spain are both Catholic countries, most people are not very religious and it doesn’t play a huge role in relationships. However, Muller said religion could play a role in sex education.

“A lot of the schools are Catholic-based, even if they are public,” Muller said. “I assume that there isn’t much sex education. [But] birth control is free, so any girl at any time can go and grab birth control pills, and I feel like [the Spanish] are very responsible when it comes to protection.”

Harig said in Tunisia they have very open discussions in school about sex education. He also said it is surprising that abortion and prostitution are legal there.

“They encourage people to use condoms, and they have been really successful with regard to birth control, in ways that surprise me,” Harig said. “You wouldn’t think in a Muslim country they would talk about that so freely.”

According to Chen, in Taiwan, sex education has become more open and talked about, but in her generation, the teachers would just assign a textbook reading about it. This is very different from Germany because there, Cheryll Bowman, German teacher, said sex is very open and you see public displays of affection (PDA) and nudity everywhere. Kalfus said nudity is also very common in France.

“French people are much more comfortable with their bodies,” Kalfus said. “It is not uncommon to see a billboard with a bare-breasted woman on it. Whenever we watch a movie, I always have to screen them because they might be rated PG, but it’s PG for French standards because kids [there] are used to seeing naked people.”

Bowman, Chen, Kalfus and Muller said movies in Germany, Taiwan, France and Spain are more Westernized and shaped by Hollywood and American films. But Bowman, who was born in South Africa, said that is not the case there.

“In the States, [relationships in movies are] this fairytale people want to sell of a man and woman, and usually it’s a white man and a white woman who fall in love and get together and have a beautiful child,” Bowman said. “In South Africa, we speak 11 languages, so if you had a white man and a white woman, that would not be representative of the whole country. I think in that regard, we show more real situations [in South Africa].”

Bowman and Muller agree that because of online dating, social media and apps, relationships are very similar in a lot of countries. Muller believes there may be some cultural differences in relationships, but they all are based off the same concept.

“Teenagers and relationships and young love are the same everywhere,” Muller said. “It’s just as hurtful and painful and lovely and wonderful.”