Attitudes toward Cleanliness and Wastefulness in Bicultural Marriages in Japan

Couples in bicultural marriages face numerous challenges when trying to sustain love. Some practical issues, such as attitudes toward cleanliness and wastefulness, can play a very important role in bicultural marriages in Japan.

In one of my previous articles, I discussed the main issues that Japanese and American married partners encounter in this pursuit. I examined cases of third-culture marriage in Japan by observing and interviewing people about these themes. In an attempt to resolve any misunderstandings concerning the cultural values and attitudes in bicultural marriages, I rely on kotowaza.

Kotowaza are Japanese sayings and proverbs expressing cultural values, wisdom, and typical behaviors of people in Japan. This wisdom allows us to better understand how people interact with each other.

When people in a third-culture marriage talk about each other’s core values, they can better understand why each other does the things they do. As they get to know each other better, their relationship improves.

Takashiro and I discussed in depth the eight main features of third-culture marriage in our chapter in the International Handbook of Love (Clarke & Takashiro, 2021). We described interactions that occur when spouses try to form a cross-cultural union.

In earlier blog posts, I talked about the general rules for how Japanese and American couples can stay in love in mixed-culture marriages. Specifically, I examined

One more piece of advice is about the Japanese cultural value of cleanliness and attitudes toward wastefulness in bicultural marriages in Japan.

A Japanese Cultural Value of Cleanliness

Various norms and values of each culture’s interpretation of cleanliness and perfection can create real issues, especially in housekeeping roles. We find that ‘common sense’, ‘jōshiki’, is not at all universal. Around the world, Japan is renowned for its cleanliness (Koffman, 2019).

The Shinto faith encourages the practice of purification of the body and of the natural environment. The Buddhist monks are always cleaning their temples. The Japanese custom of taking off shoes before entering the home and other sacred places suggests a strongly felt need for cleanliness in the home.

The Buddhist faith encourages the practice of meditation in order to clean the mind of thoughts, particularly of one’s desires. The tea ceremony room is swept clean of every speck of dust, and students clean their public classrooms daily.

The Japanese amazed the world’s soccer/football fans recently by thoroughly cleaning the stadium seats and the players’ dressing rooms. The absence of trashcans where they ‘should be’ (an American perspective) suggests that Japanese carry any trash they have around with them until they can find one.

Understanding the Japanese Cleanliness Value in Bicultural Marriages

In bicultural marriages, American husbands may see their Japanese wives as obsessively committed to home cleanliness in every room, including checking every dish for water drops after washing them or vacuuming the house a couple of times a week.

Alternatively, the Japanese wives may perceive their American husbands as uncouth at best or barbarian at worst. Such observations that are made regularly highlight the different standards and are often conveyed as “common sense” standards that clearly differ across these two cultures, for example, on the meaning of wastefulness (Siniawer, 2014). 

From the U.S. point of view, flexibility is a highly valued characteristic, so one’s perception of his wife’s ‘obsession’ with cleanliness may be a perception that lacks flexibility. From a Japanese point of view, flexibility is also valued but varies according to ‘time, place, and occasion’ (TPO). These contexts or conditions often determine the relative appropriateness of certain speech or behaviors. The status of the other person also determines one’s flexibility.

Take note of the kotowaza proverb, isogaba maware: ‘When in a hurry, make a detour.’ It implies that understanding each other may require a flexible approach. After all, he will benefit from living in a super-clean home.

Therefore, for both partners, the attitude of adapting to the other’s common sense, jōshiki, is a topic that requires discussion between couples for clarifying standards and expectations. This would be needed in the context of the couple’s issue about role responsibilities in the home. Much has been written about this subject, but the articles primarily represent statistics about the numbers of people in Japan who want this or that style of gender role in marriages when searching for marriage partners. However, intercultural marriages usually modify prior expectations when the issue is discussed interactively with mutual respect in a way that allows for flexibility and mutual adaptations that enable a level of satisfaction in the relationship for both partners.

Cultural Perspectives on Wastefulness

Cultures vary in their perceptions of standards regarding wastefulness, which can lead to tension within the household (Siniawer, 2014).

Japan has one of the world’s most noted standards for recycling everything, and Americans barely participate in such activity. Therefore, we can anticipate differences in the urgency and standards of what constitutes waste and what does not.

In Japan, leaving food on one’s plate is traditionally taboo; however, most restaurants participate in throwing away food that might be left over every night before closing. Grocery stores do the same with expired food.

However, efforts are underway to change that system to avoid wastefulness. Nevertheless, between married couples, it often becomes an issue that requires clarification from both marriage partners because one could perpetually be criticized for continuous wastefulness in the home, i.e., over what temperature is best for the heater or cooler or for the length of time the water is allowed to run when brushing teeth or showering. Here again, there are usually some differences advised for uchi (“inside the home”) and soto (“outside the home”) environments, depending on time, place, and occasion.

How Sensitivity and Humility Work in Bicultural Marriages in Japan

Intercultural partners encounter numerous challenges when attempting to find and maintain love in a bicultural marriage. For example, culturally specific attitudes towards sensitivity and humility are crucial in bicultural marriages in Japan.

In one of the previous articles, I talked about the main problems that Japanese and American couples encounter. I looked into those cases of third-culture marriage in Japan by observing and talking to people about them.

My objective is to resolve any misconceptions by employing kotowaza. Kotowaza are Japanese proverbs and sayings that illuminate the values that underlie cultural interactions. Spouses in a third-culture marriage better understand each other’s actions when they communicate each other’s core values. They become more compatible and harmonious in their relationship.

In chapter 51 of the International Handbook of Love (Clarke & Takashiro, 2021), Takashiro and I elaborated on the eight primary characteristics of third-culture marriage interactions that arise when spouses establish an intercultural union.

Previous articles on this blog discussed the general principles of how Japanese and Americans maintain love in bicultural marriages. In particular, I explained how assertion and hesitation contribute to the maintenance of love in Japanese bicultural marriages, as well as how an adequate understanding of touch and intimacy can sustain love in bicultural marriages in Japan.

Here is one additional observation on how sensitivity and humility can help sustain love in bicultural marriages in Japan.

Cultural Sensitivity to Thin-Skinned and Thick-Skinned Attributions

Thin-skinned, thick-skinned attributions are reciprocal judgments that are rooted in each culture’s assumptions about their respective ‘face-saving strategies’ that vary considerably.

Perceptions are different according to each culture’s ability to separate behavior (public) from feelings (private)—a form of role flexibility or an identity formulation process—and intentions from perceptions—a form of perception flexibility or interpretation flexibility, both requiring a withholding of judgment.

First impressions, when expressed openly and directly, may result in either a permanent negative attribution or a curiosity with an openness to alternative interpretations and to changing first impressions. However, when judged harshly by someone across cultures, such as Japanese and Americans, there is reluctance on both sides to discuss it.

The depth of one’s skin, so to speak, is a measure of sensitivity to feedback. It is difficult for the vulnerable to receive feedback about personal thoughts, feelings, or behavior, but the strong have learned to handle it with resilience and/or a fighting spirit.

Can Thick-Skinned Americans and Thin-Skinned Japanese Understand Each Other in Marriages?

A frequently expressed Japanese perception is that Americans have thick skin because they can take any criticism. Their interpretation is that Americans do not delve into concerns of the face.  Americans, on the other hand, perceive that the Japanese practice a lot of face saving behaviors, which they interpret as having thin skin.

Hence, American men often say that being married to a Japanese woman is like walking on eggshells. Couples sometimes say things that they each find regretful and yet hard to forget and forgive.

Holding a grudge does no relationship any good, so it might as well be discussed calmly without renewing the emotion brought about by the initial judgment. If perceptions are hardly ever based upon the other’s true intentions (Barnlund, 1976), then it must be a valuable exercise to seek to understand each other’s true intentions and feelings.

Humility in Japan Is a Sign of Strength and Good Character

In Japan, humility is a sign of strength and good character, as in makeru ga kachi, stooping to conquer or to lose is to win. This kotowaza refers to the interdependency in all relationships. It suggests an approach for the American husband to accept as the relationship matures over time. If humility is genuinely felt and demonstrated, it will enable interdependency in the relationship to develop.

Minoru hodo kobe o tateru inaho kana, the head of an abundant rice plant hanging down, is another kotowaza that stresses the importance of humility in Japan. Perhaps it would encourage a deeper loving relationship if the American would initiate a humble revelation of his own concerns for saving face in certain situations. It would probably encourage his wife to soothe his thick skin.

In any case, the goal of improving relationships across cultures is to withhold the negative judgments, recognize the differences in perception, and engage in sharing assumptions, interpretations, and intentions to discover potential alternatives presumed by partners and personal inaccuracies due to reliance on one’s own proverbial cultural-colored glasses.

Can Touch and Intimacy Sustain Love in Bicultural Marriages in Japan?

In bicultural marriages, intercultural partners face numerous obstacles when trying to establish and maintain love. For example, culturally specific attitudes towards touch and intimacy are important to sustain love in bicultural marriages in Japan.

I went over the main issues that bicultural marriages between Japanese and American partners face in one of the earlier blog articles. Through observation and interviewing, I delved into those instances of third-culture marriage in Japan.

Using kotowaza, which are sayings and proverbs that shed light on the values underlying cultural interactions, I aim to clear up any misunderstandings. When spouses in a Third-Culture Marriage work together to understand each other’s core values, they are better able to adapt their understanding of each other’s actions to be more compatible and harmonious.

Takashiro and I recently expanded on the eight main characteristics of third-culture marriage interactions in chapter 51 of the International Handbook of Love (Clarke & Takashiro, 2021), which occur when spouses decide to build an intercultural marriage together.

Earlier on this blog, I presented some general principles of how Japanese and Americans sustain love in bicultural marriages, in particular, how assertion and hesitation help sustain love in Japanese bicultural marriages and how sensitivity and humility work in bicultural marriages in Japan.

Here is one more piece of observation: how the lack of touch and intimacy challenges bicultural marriages in Japan.

What Is the Decline of Skinship and Intimacy Syndrome?

Bicultural couples usually encounter major variations with their partners in the context of touching and intimacy. Skinship or sukinshippu (Japanized English) before and after marriage has been explained as ‘first… you feel it; then… you don’t’. They may be unclear about the causes, but not about the consequences.

The decline in skinship and intimacy syndrome reported by most of our US male husbands with Japanese wives has many explanations, but it is the perceptions and interpretations that raise concerns. Most studies on the subject of relationship closeness are culture-comparative, such as Rothman, Pott, Azuma, Miyake, and Weisz’s (2000) and McFadden & Moore’s (2002). These do not assess actual intercultural interactions. Others are culture-specific studies, such as Alexy & Cook (2019) and Tahhan (2010), which are examples of intimacy and skinship in Japan.

Why Do Japanese Avoid Public Displays of Affection

One study based on interviews of nine bicultural couples mentioned the natural issues that occurred between husband-and-wife vis-à-vis public displays of affection when going out as a couple or in front of their children. Most Japanese were resistant to holding hands in public or showing affection in front of their children. Given that the interviewees were living in Japan, the dominant behavior was to avoid any shows of affection in either situation (Yamamoto, 2010).

The public recently supported a gathering with signs saying, “Stop public displays of affection, it hurts our feelings.”

Further, the influence of parental models without expressions of love may be a factor that limits expression and other behaviors even within marriage households as well as outside in public. Touching in public (PDA–public displays of affection) is an issue in part due to Uchi–Soto consciousness regarding demonstrations of uchi behavior in soto places (Kincaid, 2019). Such behavior lacks respect for and consideration of others, the killjoys, from the American perspective.

The Private and Public Expressions of Love in Japan

The uchi (inside the home) and soto (outside in society) concepts represent values and determine what is ‘appropriate’ behavior in a conforming culture. These two terms have much broader applications, but they are also relevant to this situation. Uchi can refer to members of any social organization beyond the family, i.e., one’s company, social club, sports team, and others. Children learn behaviors specific to these locations or contexts, such as honne, or private talk, and tatemae, or public talk (Barnlund, 1976).

One more source for understanding this attitude of avoiding a public showing of affection as well as demonstrating a minimal amount of affection in the home may be found in the literature on sexual relationships in Japan, which suggests that this is something that occurs in private settings between men and not their wives. Often, the model of love has been represented as that between a man and his mistress, not his wife. Expressions of love are mostly heard in movies and TV dramas. With this perspective, marriages are primarily initiated for other reasons than love, i.e., children, security, and to have a homemaker or a breadwinner.

The Challenges of Modern Marriages in Japan

Due to more modern gender role issues and the current economic situation regarding salaries, the percentage of marriages in the country has shrunk to the point that the average age of a reducing number of marriages has increased from 25 up toward 35, with an increasingly larger percentage avoiding it altogether.

Men without an adequate income consider themselves unlikely to ever get married. Women who desire security and modern roles at home do not express interest in marriage until men acknowledge their desire for equality at home.

In bicultural marriages, American males report in one unpublished study that of 22 such men, none of them had sustained sexual intimacy after their first child was born, due to their spouses’ dedication to the role of raising their children.

The Absence of Physical Intimacy in Bicultural Marriages

The absence of physical intimacy between bicultural couples seems to be a common phenomenon in bicultural marriages (Yamamoto, 2010). Engaging in this subject matter within the home may be difficult for couples who wish to construct a third-culture marriage, it seems, but it is worth the effort if it continues to be an unacceptable situation for one partner or the other.

A further indication of the societal norm against rapid changes in household role relationships in Japan is that the government’s strongest-in-the-world support for workplace marriage leave for new parents has received only 5 percent support from working males. Lastly, on the subject, the majority of working women in Japan still anticipate returning home to motherhood when the couple has their first child.

Ghanaian Love Meets the Needs of Close Others

Modern Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic cultures commonly perceive material relationships and love relationships as existing in distinct and even opposing realms. However, in numerous other societies, expressing love typically involves providing material resources to family members and other close individuals (Karandashev, 2019; 2022).

Such a cultural understanding of love is consistent with patterns of love that researchers have documented in many parts of Africa. In all these cultural contexts, love implies material and social arrangements (e.g., Coe, 2011; Cornwall, 2002; Osei-Tutu et al., 2018; van Eerdewijk, 2006).

A Recent Study on Love in Ghana

In their recent study of love in Ghana, a country in West Africa, researchers investigated how Ghanaians think about love in the context of family. Let us consider some of the major themes that 61 participants, men and women from 20 to 70 years old, whom researchers interviewed expressed about their understanding and experience of love (Osei-Tutu et al., 2018).

How do contemporary Ghanaian Christians conceptualize love?

The major themes of the interview data showed that people express love by meeting the material needs of their children, spouses, parents, and close relatives. They also love helping others in need and giving affectionate care. Community-based and maintenance-based love seems to be how Ghanaians show their love to the elderly, friends, and strangers.

In this article, I present only one aspect of the Ghanaian cultural understanding of love that the authors revealed in their analysis of interview data. This is an understanding of love as fulfilling the needs of close others.

Love as Meeting the Needs of Children, Spouses, Parents, and Close Relatives

Approximately 96% of the participants interpreted love as fulfilling responsibilities towards their children, spouses, parents, and other immediate family members (such as siblings). These social obligations are fulfilled through

  • the provision of financial and in-kind assistance, such as food, clothing, and shelter,
  • emergency aid,
  • personal presence, such as visiting the ill or attending funerals,
  • offering verbal support, such as advice or encouragement.

Here are some examples:

For our parents, they’re number one [priority]. As I’m staying here my mother is … 90 something [years old]. I used to go there; the least is twice a week or even more than that….When I’m going there, you know money matters. You send some little thing.

 (70-year-old female)

I also show love by supporting family when they need me. Uhm, I also show love when I make sure that my other siblings are also well taken care of.

(29-year-old male)

In their analysis, four sub-themes of the love experience stood out to anthropologists: The sub-themes they identified were

  • (A) need identification,
  • (B) need anticipation,
  • (C) need provision, and
  • (D) need remittances.

Love as Need Identification

The subtheme of need identification involves getting close to people by visiting or calling them to find out what they need:

Sometimes you see because you have [sic] married they [parents] don’t want to put pressure on you. So they’ll prefer, even if they are dying, they’ll keep it to themselves. But you find out daddy why this, or mummy why are you doing this…. You do a general check up and make sure they are in good health. Then they’ll know that oh my son is caring for me.

(34-year-old male)

Love as Need Anticipation

Need anticipation in love entails determining people’s needs and meeting them without their express request or prompting:

There was this instance and I bought eh sandals …ladies sandals to my wife not knowing she was really in need of it, expecting me to do that. So I called and she said how do you get to know that I need this at this point in time. She was, I mean, glad.

(37-year-old male)

Love as Need Provision

The subtheme of love as need provision implies giving financial or in-kind support to meet the needs of family members. Support is provided in the form of clothing, food, and shelter, depending on the recipient’s developmental needs. Furthermore, meeting children’s needs entailed providing educational necessities such as school supplies.

For spouses, providing “chop money” implies meeting their needs. “Chop money” is the custom when a husband gives money to his wife or when parents give money to their children. Spouses express their love for each other as a need provision in the form of companionship and meeting other needs.

Love as Remittances

Participants also said that they provide remittances as an expression of love by giving monetary support to family and parents as a regular income source:

As a husband I’m supposed, as much as I’m supposed to fend [for] my family, make sure there’s food, make sure there’s shelter, make sure there’s clothes.

(30-year-old male)

For parents, sometimes let’s say we’re working. When you earn salary and you didn’t give anything to your parents that means you doesn’t [sic] love them.

(64-year-old female)

While the majority of participants emphasized the significance of fulfilling needs, a small number indicated that this demonstration of affection is contingent upon certain conditions. For instance, some propose that remittances should be affordable unless there is an urgent situation:

If you’re working, I think at the end of every month you should be able to give them [parents] some money as well as you buy some ingredients and other things they may need at home.

(23-year-old male)

Communal Expressions of Love in Ghanaian Cultures

One can see that the expressions of love among Ghanaians are largely communal in nature. The distribution of basic material resources is the primary way in which people express love. Both cultural factors and the economic conditions of everyday life influence the experience and expression of love for men and women in Ghana.

This conceptualization of love aligns with research among Ghanaian transnational families. In Ghanaian culture, the allocation of material resources serves as an indication of love and affection.

Such an understanding of love means that migrant parents who leave their children behind in Ghana can continue to be good parents by sending remittances. Furthermore, they may be considered better parents than caregivers who stay and are poorer (Coe, 2011; Osei-Tutu et al., 2018).

The Indian Myth of Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love

Many modern Western symbols of love date back to the early Greeks and Romans. Eros was the Greek god of love, while Cupid was the Roman god of love and desire.

The image of a chubby Cupid aiming love arrows at unwary people’s hearts appears to be a typical Western symbol of love. Americans and Western Europeans can widely see him on greeting cards and chocolate boxes on Valentine’s Day.

What about Eastern cultures, such as Hinduism? Does Cupid trick them too? Or do they have their own “Cupid”? People from all over the world, especially Indo-European cultures, have sacred stories that are a lot like Hindu stories about gods.

Who Is Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love?

In Indic traditions, Kamadeva represents the Hindu equivalent of Cupid and Eros. Kamadeva is known as the Indian or Vedic Cupid. He is the Hindu god of love, desire, and infatuation.

Jeffery D. Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, USA, explored the old Indian scriptures about Kamadeva.

Kamadeva is the god of desire and love. The word Kama comes from Sanskrit, meaning “sensual desire.“ He is accompanied by his wife, Rati, a goddess of love and sexual passion.

Different from Cupid, however, Kamadeva is depicted not as a plumpy cherub but rather as a handsome young man who rides on a majestic green parrot named Suka. He is riding a parrot’s back with a sugarcane bow, a honeybee bowstring, and flower arrow points. Kamadeva, the Hindu Cupid, also shoots his love darts into people’s hearts.

This is how the Rigveda, the most ancient of Hindu scriptures dating back at least 3,000 years, describes Kamadeva.

Each of these elements of his description represents the inherent sweetness of love. Additionally, they elicit the spirit of the spring season, when new life arises in the world. Suka, the parrot of Kamadeva, symbolizes both the spring season and the notion of love, as parrots frequently live in pairs.

The Tensions of Hindu Love

The stories of love in Hindu culture illustrate the tension between the most deeply held Hindu values. Love is a highly valued belief, especially in the context of families.

The highest ideal of life, however, is liberation from the cycle of rebirth. To reach this goal, spiritual people must give up worldly attachments, including love relationships. They should seek meditative solitude instead.

Shiva, a highly esteemed Hindu deity, embodies this tension by combining the qualities of a devoted yogi with a loving husband and father.

What Happens When Kamadeva Intervenes Life with His Love Arrows?

One time, during a period of intense meditation, Kamadeva was going to pierce his heart with an arrow. Then Shiva, angered by the interruption of his meditation, blasted the unfortunate god of love with a powerful beam of energy emanating from his renowned third eye.

Actually, Kamadeva’s intention was good. It was not meant to whimsically pierce Lord Shiva’s heart. According to the Indian story, a dangerous demon, known as Taraka, endangered the world. None of the gods could defeat this terrifying demon.

Only Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, and his wife, the Mother Goddess Parvati, could defeat this demon, according to a prophecy. However, Kartikeya had not yet been conceived. Shiva was the patron deity and embodiment of yoga, so he unlikely could do this anytime soon given his dedication to meditation. So, the Hindu gods sent Kamadeva to do just that: to make Shiva fall in love with Parvati and wake him up from his meditation so he could have the child who would save the world.

Shiva demonstrates mercy despite his proneness to anger. Heartbroken over the death of her beloved, Rati begged Shiva to bring Kamadeva back to life, which he did. Following this, Shiva and Parvati had a son named Kartikeya, who later killed the demon.

What Was the Message of This Story?

It says that erotic love is important in all religions, even ones that value asceticism and meditation as ways to reach the ultimate goal of freeing people from the cycle of rebirth and its pain. Not only is Kamadeva a fun thing to look at, but it also does good things in the world.

How Japanese and Americans Sustain Love in Bicultural Marriages in Japan

Intercultural lovers experience many challenges in attempts to build bicultural marriages. In this article, we consider the key issues that arise in the dozens of bicultural marriages we have known through observation of interactions and interviews in Japan. We clarify misinterpretations by use of kotowaza or proverbs and sayings that illuminate the values behind the cultural interactions. Understanding the deeper values leads to modified interpretations of each other’s behavior that become more isomorphic and mutually acceptable to partners committed to constructing together a successful Third-Culture Marriages.

A Third-Culture Marriage (TCM) builds upon earlier concepts of Ruth & John Useem’s (1967) Third-Culture Kid (TCK) and David Pollock’s (1999) Adult TCK.

What Is Third Culture Building Model?

Fred Casmir (1993, 1999) recognized the need for a building model or conceptual framework for individuals interacting across cultures for extended duration.  He developed the conceptual Third Culture Building Model (TCBM), which inspired Clarke & Takashiro (2019) to research and develop an applied process of communicating between Third-Cultural Marriage partners in Japan.

The Third-Cultural Marriage is defined by its process wherein two partners from different original cultures commit to a lifetime of utilizing periodic processes to investigate each other’s perceptions, values, and communication styles with approaches grounded in intercultural communication competencies. The goal of the Third-Cultural Marriage is to sustain commitment to the relationship in a way that demonstrates increasing mutual understanding, respect, appreciation, empathy, trust and love.

The Third-Culture Marriage interaction process they developed was built upon Barnlund’s (1976) holistic interpretation of intercultural communication processes and Ruben and Kealey’s (1979) augmented seven intercultural communication competencies.

In their recent chapter 51 in the International Handbook of Love, Clarke & Takashiro (2021)elaborated on the eight primary qualities summarized below.  These eight primary qualities below are not sequential steps of interaction processes but rather must be applied simultaneously with consistent awareness.

Here Are Eight Primary Qualities of the Third-Culture Marriage Interaction

  1. For Third-Cultural Marriage (TCM) creation, instead of trying to fit into others’ categories, construct together from your own experiences, with new definitions and communication scenarios, the intercultural interactions that are relevant to each partner. The ICC (Intercultural Communication Competencies) that are required is that of personalizing one’s perceptions, in other words, the ability to communicate one’s own values, beliefs, and assumptions as personal and not universally applicable and accept that personal preferences may need modification or to be changed altogether. This usually requires learning about oneself by analyzing how it impacts its new environment, the society and the marriage.
  2. TCM focuses on creating a process for communicating about any issues of your choice that you would like to create clarity around, such as making sense of each other’s attitude or approach to something or interpreting what each partner perceives as common sense in order to build common grounds. Develop mutual commitment to your communication process even as you make changes together along the way. It is this process that is your goal rather than building final unchangeable standards. The ICC skill for this process is being non-judgmental about whatever one hears from one’s partner, while seeking to understand and accept whatever that may be. 
  3. TCM is based on principles of fairness and democracy, focus on each other as equals and build an atmosphere of caring and respecting the other, avoiding confronting or trying to persuade each other. No one’s needs take priority over the other’s needs. An ICC for this quality is to communicate respect in a way that is acceptable to the other partner and that requires listening to the other’s preferred ways of receiving respect that generate happiness and self-esteem. 
  4. TCM requires a process that searches for new insights to oneself as well as the other’s including personal backgrounds, preferences, knowledge, and feelings. Think of this process as an exploration into the unknown of both parties and a negotiation that constructs shared experiences and new learnings. ICC that support this process are perseverance and patience because the end of the process never ends. For such sharing patience needs to be demonstrated and not only felt internally. Patience is required because exploring the culture that each partner brings to the relationship and then constructing together a new culture takes dedication and perseverance. 
  5. TCM processes are engaged with mutual enthusiasm and deliberateness. It requires conscious effort and discipline to establish structures, systems, artifacts, shared values, and styles of communicating that can enrich the quality of the couple’s lives together. Their process should be aimed at creating trust, respect, and meaningful interactions that both partners can understand, explain, and support. The ICC skill for this process is to show an ability to tolerate ambiguity when working together without demanding clarification or conformity to one’s own standard or common sense.
  6. TCM is grounded in proactive communication that avoids crises, conflicts, and problems because it takes a proactive problem-solving approach that can enable healthy interactions with modifications of external circumstances or ingrained cultural behaviors. The ICC skill for a proactive problem-solving approach is to display personal empathy for the partner when a situation seems to be creating a problem. The challenge is to learn how to exhibit empathy in the partner’s preferred way. That requires keen observation, trial and error, or inquiry in a way that shows appreciation for any answer. 
  7. TCM is strengthened by a striving for positive outcomes that will be beneficial and satisfactory to both partners for the present and into the future. It is designed to enable partners to build, create, and shift frameworks if needed by any situation but does not advocate any specific outcome as it is a process for constructing a new culture for a third culture marriage of partners from two different cultures. An ICC skill that suits this process is demonstrating role flexibility by the willingness to experience new roles within the marriage and the society, as an active learner eager to try new behaviors with the partner. 
  8. TCM definitely requires time because it is a communication process that serves to integrate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from two cultures into one new culture. It requires of partners considerable reflection, exploration of new information, new standards or norms for the new culture.  Expanding one’s behavioral repertoire also requires practice with mutual support. The ICC skill needed for integrating diverse thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the partners is a demonstration of perpetual reciprocal concern for each other. Concern for another is a feeling of compassion that is best communicated by action with or without words.

The foundational ICC that were mentioned in these eight steps are the authors’ modifications on Ruben & Kealey’s (1979) Intercultural Communication Competencies. (Refer to: Clarke & Takashiro, 2021)

We believe these pieces of advice and experiences about sustaining love and building bicultural marriages among partners in Japan will be helpful for partners living in bicultural marriages not only in Japan but also in other countries.

The Expressive Nature of Italian Beauty

The value of Italian mental culture certainly enhances Italian beauty. As Henry Finck noted, Italian women of all social classes are known for their intellectual indolence. However, their extreme emotional sensitivity compensates for this quality in large part. A natural love of music, beautiful scenery, and blue skies have trained and softened their feelings.

The Italian Cultural Tendency for Expressive Emotions

The Italian climate does not appear to foster a deep artistic culture, but it does foster Italian expressive beauty. Italy’s climate warms the blood and shapes cultural features to express every passing mood. This tendency toward emotional expressiveness gives the Italians a distinct cultural charm and the capacity for graceful modulation.

According to the observations of the German artist Otto Knille (1832-1898) regarding the Italians,

“They pose unintentionally. Their features, especially among the lower classes, have been moulded through mimic expression practised for thousands of years. Gesture-language has shaped the hands of many into models of anatomic clearness. They have a complete language of signs and gestures, which each one understands, as, for instance, in the ballet. Add to this the innate grace of this race … and we see that the Italian artist has an abundance of material for copying, as compared with which the German artist must admit his extreme poverty. Whoever has lived in Italy is in a position to appreciate these advantages…. Think of the neck, the nape, and the bust of Italian woman, the fine joints and the elastic gait of both men and women. Nor are we much better endowed as regards the physiognomy. The German potato-face is not a mere fancy—the mirror which A. de Neuville has held up to us, though clouded with prejudice, shows us an image not entirely untrue to life. We artists know how rarely a head, especially one which lacks the enchanting charm of youth, can be used as a model for anything but flat realism. Most German faces, instead of becoming more clearly chiselled and elaborated with age, appear more spongy, vague, and unmeaning.”

 (As cited in Finck, 1887/2019, p. 515). 

The German archaeologist and art historian Johann Winckelmann (1717-1768) commented on Italian beauty in the same vein:

“We seldom find in the fairest portions of Italy the features of the face unfinished, vague, and inexpressive, as is frequently the case on the other side of the Alps; but they have partly an air of nobleness, partly of acuteness and intelligence; and the form of the face is generally large and full, and the parts of it in harmony with each other. The superiority of conformation is so manifest that the head of the humblest man among the people might be introduced in the most dignified historical painting, especially one in which aged men are to be represented. And among the women of this class, even in places of the least importance, it would not be difficult to find a Juno. The lower portion of Italy, which enjoys a softer climate than any other part of it, brings forth men of superb and vigorously-designed forms, which appear to have been made, as it were, for the purposes of sculpture.”

 (As cited in Finck, 1887/2019, p. 515).

Here Henry Finck (1887/2019) once again comments that the “brunette type” of Italians attracts the most admiration from foreigners.

Furthermore, Henry Finck (1887-2019) mentions German poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), who wrote about the women of Trent, a northern Italian city. Trent is a town in Austrian Tyrol that used to be part of Austria. However, practically, it consists of an Italian community.

Heinrich Heine claims in his book “Journey from Munich to Genoa” (1828) that he would have felt tempted to stay in this town where

“beautiful girls were moving about in bevies. I do not know,”

and then Heine adds,

“whether other tourists will approve of the adjective ‘beautiful’ in this case; but I liked the women of Trent exceptionally well. They were just of the kind I admire—and I do love these pale, elegiac faces with the large black eyes that gaze at you so love-sick; I love also the dusky tint of those proud necks which Phœbus already has loved and browned with his kisses; … but above all things do I love that graceful gait, that dumb music of the body, those limbs with their exquisitely rhythmic movements, luxurious, supple, divinely careless, mortally languid, anon æthereal, majestic, and always highly poetic. I love such things as I love poetry itself; and these figures with their melodious movements, this wondrous concert of femininity which delighted my senses, found an echo in my heart, and awoke in it sympathetic strains.”

(As cited in Finck, 1887/2019, p. 515).

What Is Unique About Italian Typological Beauty?

Many Italians believe their people are the most beautiful compared to other cultures and other regions of their own country. The Milanese, for example, claim that the men and women in their cities are the most beautiful. But the Venetians, Florentines, Romans, and Neapolitans all extol their own virtues of beauty. We can’t trust what Italians say about their own region or country because local pride makes them biased. Anyway, we shall acknowledge the unique qualities of Italian beauty. What is unique about it?

The origins of the unique Italian beauty can be traced back to times of cultural mingling with Greeks and Africans in the south and barbarian invasions in the north of the country.

What Makes Italian Beauty So Special?

In one of his letters, the English poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) extols an Italian beauty of oriental type. He also portrayed Italian culture as natural: “the garden of the world,” where “even the weeds are beautiful.” In Italy, the cosmetic value of fresh air and sunshine is striking. Italians live in a garden, where the sun is mellow and the air is balmy.

What Characterizes Italian Personal Beauty?

Many commonly acknowledge that Italian beauty is of the brunette type. The origin of this Italian type goes back to the cultural mingling that occurred as a result of contacts with Greeks and Africans in the south and barbarian invasions in the north of the country. With the exception of Rome and the Roman Campagna, the natural type of the Latin population is extremely rare.

The Brunette Beauty Type

As Henry Finck and other authors of the 19th century noted (Finck, 1887/2019), the mixture of races created the brunette type of Italian beauty. He compares it to the brunette German beauty type. 

Henry Finck says that according to general consensus, in Germany, brunettes are much more common in the south than they are in the north. Therefore, we can conclude that mixing in the brunette type enhances the blonde type.

It is still unclear whether the admixture of northern blondes improves the brunette type of northern Italy.

Henry Finck commented that according to others’ opinions, it is true that beautiful women abound in Venice, Milan, and Bologna. Naples and Capri, the brunette paradise, are also widely regarded as the regions where Italian beauty is at its best. Here, mostly dark-skinned people have mixed, so the eyes are always a deep brown color.

Many people do not express much admiration for Italian blondes. In Northern Italy, the introduction of blonde blood created lighter tints of the iris. Many people do not favor this type of beauty.

In the same way, these features are also present in South Germany. But the dark eyebrows, long black lashes, and more flexible and rounded limbs typical for this region neutralize the impression of these characteristics.

Italian people are also well-known for their emotional expressiveness. In another article, I show how the climate and cultural traditions of Italy make Italian brunettes so expressively beautiful.

The Italian Value of Beauty and Love

Many cultural characteristics distinguish national beauty standards. In this and previous articles, I describe Italian beauty based on many sources from the last several centuries. Let us explore the archival legacy of love scholarship (Finck, 1887/2019). Here are some of the ways that Henry Finck and other writers of the 19th century described the beauty of Italy. 

The origin of Italian beauty is in the mixture of cultures that evolved from the contacts with Greeks and Africans in the south and the barbarian invasions in the north of the country.

What Makes Italian Beauty Natural?

An English poet, Lord Byron, characterized Italy as “the garden of the world” and said that its “very weeds are beautiful.” These unique qualities can be due to the race as well as the soil. It is because they live in a garden, where the air is balmy and the sun is mellow. Italians can, to some extent, disregard personal hygiene laws. They can thrive in the conditions that would torture others to death.

The cosmetic value of fresh air and sunshine is striking in Italy.

Miss Margaret Collier notes in her book “Our Home by the Adriatic” that in rural Italian communities, even among the wealthy, requesting a bath raises concerns about one’s health.

And Berlioz referred to Italian peasant girls in one of his writings:

 “Carrying heavy copper vessels and faggots on their heads; but all so wretched, go miserable, so tattered, so filthily dirty, that, in spite of the beauty of the race and the picturesqueness of their costume, all other feelings are swallowed up in one of utter compassion.”

Berlioz also spoke of “the beauty of the race,” notwithstanding the national indifference to the laws of cleanliness.

Italian Beauty, Love, and Marriage

The value of beauty and love in matrimonial relationships in the 19th century varied across social groups of Italians.

In rural regions, French cultural practices regarding marriage appear to be prevalent. Miss Collier recalls a young woman who came to see her to wish her luck in her upcoming wedding. When Miss Collier asked the girl the name of her future husband, the girl answered naively, “I don’t know; papa has not yet told me that.”

The peasants, on the other hand, had the freedom to choose their own mates. So, the value of Italian beauty was most prevalent among them. Individual mate selection was also more permissible in nineteenth-century France. Instead of being cynical and making fun of it, the Italians worshiped love as if it were a law.

The Chivalrous Poetry of German Minstrels

The cultural concept of chivalry describes the social norms that medieval knights were expected to uphold in their interactions with women. These ideals of chivalry and standards of chivalrous conduct gave rise to a new romantic culture. Historians frequently refer to courtly love as the cradle of romantic ideals (Karandashev, 2017).

During that time, chivalric ideals and courtly love became popular in many European countries, including Spain, France, and Germany.

All over Europe, the fascinating chivalry tales of the Middle Ages popularized courtly love. Stories like Don Quixote’s from Spain and Ulrich von Lichtenstein’s from Germany were among them. These tales depicted noble chivalry and the beauty of courtly love. Other examples of poetry, songs, and folklore of medieval European societies also made important contributions to the history of romantic ideas of love. Some of these were the poems about knights by the German minnesinger and the Provencal troubadours. These examples demonstrate how the history and psychology of love in these countries were similar in some ways while being different in others. Here, I take a quick look at what Henry Finck (1887/2019) says about the chivalrous poetry of German minnesingers.

Who Were the German Minstrels

The German wandering minstrels, like their French counterparts, the troubadours, belonged primarily to the aristocracy. They gave their addresses primarily to married women. In both cases, of the German minstrels and French troubadours, the rigid chaperonage of the young was a reason. Since men were not allowed to make love properly, they did it improperly. However, the Minnesingers, at least in verse, were less amorous than the Troubadours. However, the minnesingers, at least in verse, were less amorous than the troubadours.

What German Minstrel Songs Were About

As American music historian Louis Elson (1900/2015) commented in his History of German Song:

“The Troubadour praised the eyes, the hair, the lips, the form of his chosen one; the Minnesinger praised the sweetness, the grace, the modesty, the tenderness of the entire sex. The one was concrete, the other abstract.”

However, abstractness is not a desirable quality in poetry, the essence of which is concrete imagery. As a result, with a few exceptions, the German Minnesingers are not poets on par with their French counterparts. Friedrich Schiller, a German poet of the 18th century, was very critical of these early writers. Schiller once remarked to a friend,

“If the sparrows on the roof ever undertake to write, or to issue an almanac of love and friendship,” he once remarked to a friend, “I would wager ten to one it would be just like these songs of love.”

“What a dearth of concepts in these songs! A garden, a tree, a hedge, a forest, and a sweetheart are just a few of the things that can be found in a sparrow’s head. Then there are fragrant flowers, mellow fruits, twigs on which a bird sits in the sunshine and sings, and spring comes and winter goes, and nothing remains but ennui.”

This criticism of Schiller, however, was too broad. There were notable exceptions to these sparrow-poets. One of them was Johannes Hadlaub, a Minnesinger of the 14th century. As Wilhelm Scherer, a German historian of literature, described him in his History of German Literature,

“He introduces human figures into his descriptions of scenery, and shows us, for example, in the summer, a group of beautiful ladies walking in an orchard, and blushing with womanly modesty when gazed at by young men.”

Then, Wilhelm Scherer compared the challenges of love to those of hardworking men such as charcoal-burners and carters.

“Hadlaub tells us more of his personal experiences than any other Minnesinger. Even as a child, we learn, he had loved a little girl, who, however, would have nothing to say to him, but continually flouted him, to his great distress. Once she bit his hand, but her bite, he says, was so tender, womanly, and gentle, that he was sorry the feeling of it passed away so soon. Another time, being urged to give him a keepsake, she threw her needle-case at him, and he seized it with sweet eagerness, but it was taken from him and returned to her, and she was made to give it him in a friendly manner. In later years his pains still remained unrewarded; when his lady perceived him, she would get up and go away. Once, he tells us, he saw her fondling and kissing a child, and when she had gone he drew the child towards him and embraced it as she had embraced it, and kissed it in the place where she had kissed it.”

How Minstrel Songs Changed Over Time

The differences between the earlier and later Minnesongs indicate a gradual change in the social and amorous position of women. As Professor Scherer observes in the early poems, “The social supremacy of the noble woman is not yet recognized, and the man woos with proud self-respect.”…

Another rejects a woman who desired his love… A fourth brags about his victories. He claims that “Women are as easily tamed as falcons.” In another song, a woman describes how she tamed a falcon, but he flew away and now wears different chains. …

“In the later Minnesongs it is the women who are proud, and the men who must languish.”

The German folk songs that came after the periods of Minnesotan music show an even more striking change.

“The women of these popular love-songs are not mostly married women; they are, as a rule, young maidens” [at last, pure Romantic Love!] “who are not only praised but also turned to ridicule and blamed. The woes of love do not here arise from the capricious coyness of the fair one, but are called forth by parting, jealousy, or faithlessness. Feeling is stronger than in the Minnesong, and seeks accordingly for stronger modes of expression.”

As Henry Finck (1887/2019) commented in his book, the first appearance of true romantic love in these folk songs was no mere coincidence. Some gifted people from the lower classes composed those folk songs. Among them, chaperonage, as the archenemy of love, was less strict than in the upper classes.