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Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband’s Food First

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Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First
San Juan, Puerto Rico | Photo Credit: Derio Ilari

The sound of cultures clashing has such a melodic tune when perspective is gained at the end of it. Who knew such a simple question could spark so much debate, yield so many answers, and invite endless dialogue?

Last night I took to Facebook and posed the following question:

If you’re at a party with your husband (hypothetically-speaking for the singles) and the food is ready, do you prepare/fix a plate to serve him first, or do you get your plate for yourself and he does the same?

Just a few minutes in and the comments were pouring in by the dozens. It’s now around 600-deep, and you can scroll the thread in its entirety here, but I’ll share my favorites in this post.

I also asked people to list their country (or state if in the U.S.) when answering, because location truly is telling.

Who knew the responses would be so polarizing and it really shows how certain cultures maintained traditions that first world countries couldn’t even fathom.

Food is ready at a party. You get up. Are you fixing your husband's plate first or yours? Click To Tweet

I made sure to mention how there is NO right or wrong answer. This is simply something that’s passed down in some households and cultures and not in others’.

The whole point of asking this was to show others how some cultures around the world show respect to their spouses.

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

This question was largely inspired by my travels around Africa for the past two months, where women are traditionally expected to serve their man first when at any kind of function or gathering.

Whether your first world privilege wants to scream oppression or not, I soon learned from your answers that this goes beyond culture, and is also something taught in some homes as a way of showing love.

Now anyone who’s met me or has been following me for a while knows how much I embrace my independence and constantly preach on female empowerment.

Johannesburg, South Africa - Conversations, Colors, and CultureJohannesburg, South Africa - Conversations, Colors, and Culture
Traditional South African food | Johannesburg, South Africa

But being raised in the U.S. by two Nigerian-born parents, I felt like I was constantly living a life of dual narratives — where I experienced one culture in my home, and then lived a completely contrasting one outside of it.

And one thing about most African cultures that people don’t know, is how RESPECT is king. The reasoning behind everything we do and how we do it, revolves around it being a form of respect.

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

But what one culture views as respectful, another culture might dismiss as subservient, docile, or even patriarchal submission (looking at you ‘Murica!).

It was funny how people tried to complicate the question as well, as if they wanted to straddle the fence and were in denial of their actual answers in fear of looking weak to fellow women commenting. I asked it hypothetically for a reason, but I was flooded with justifications rather than straight answers.

Depends on this. Depends on that. Those who spoke in circumlocution gave me their answer before I read it. Either you enjoy serving your man food first as a cultural sign of respect and love, or you don’t.

No, kids are not in the picture — they obviously come first.
No, it’s not about knowing portions or preferences.
No, it doesn’t matter if you were hosting the party.
No, he’s not busy entertaining guests.
No, he’s not handi-capped and yes, he has two legs.

I did appreciate though, how some said they would’ve never considered the question until I asked. And that’s everything you need to know about how compassion works (or should work).

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

I immediately noticed how most [white] Americans won’t. Especially if they aren’t “Southern Belles”.

And while I loved reading the varying responses, some had a very condescending undertone, and it reminded me how elitist the western world can be when presented with any other way of doing things other than the one they’re used to.

Learning how other cultures live is such a humbling thing, because it forces you to question yourself. Click To Tweet

I also realized that this “party” context will mean different things for different people. For most [white] Americans, perhaps this is a laid back setting with friends.

But for people outside of the U.S., they likely referenced a party where someone’s birthday, wedding, or anniversary was being celebrated, which meant that only ceremonial (aka traditional) food would be served, in which your husband will eat everything and go back for seconds if he chooses, so preferences and portions don’t matter.

Phong Nha Ke Bang, Vietnam
Phong Nha Ke Bang, Vietnam

So when people mentioned they didn’t know what their husband liked or how much, it was another reminder of the cultural clash, because in second and third world countries, couples know exactly what the other likes and eats, and it shows how much more intimate the courting/dating styles can be outside of the western world.

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com
Loved this!

Let’s also get one thing very clear. Wanting to serve your husband before yourself as a sign of respect and love does not revoke your feminist card.

Here’s the thing, my feminism is not your feminism. 

And while most feminists don’t care to stand for intersectionality in the realm of feminism anyway, they can miss me with the faux rage and keyboard activism.

Society loves labels, but labels can only give so much insight into a person’s behavior before you have to realize we’re essentially the sum of our individual experiences, cultures, and upbringings.

I was raised in a culture where your husband, who is traditionally known as “the head of the household” and provider of his family, should be served first, not only out of respect but because it’s a beautiful act of love.

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

I recognize as a single woman I do lack some credibility here, but I love how traveling and observing other cultures allows me to pick, choose, and adapt parts of me that I think would not only make me a better person, but hopefully a better partner as well.

I especially loved seeing all the Black Americans who said they loved to serve their husband, because it means they’ve personally broken free from the societal pressure that black women are to be strong, fiercely independent, intimidating and nothing else.

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

And make no mistake, I’m not here to preach about what makes you a better spouse or partner than the next person (but if the podium don’t crack), I can definitely speak on what I’ve observed and there’s a level of admiration I have for women who were raised to show acts of servitude to their husbands, especially if it’s culturally part of their love language.

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com
Have you learned your partner’s love language?

The beauty about relationships is that we’re not all coming home to the same husband (well, some of you might be, but I’ll speak for myself, ha), and your love language you speak with him should be effortless, not forced.

The goal in life isn’t to become a doormat for a man, and if that’s all you’re getting out of this, you’ve entirely missed the point.

Yes, every relationship has varying dynamics, and egalitarianism should essentially be at the core, but these small gestures of love will always be reciprocated in other ways. That’s how a relationship works.

When one gives in one way, the other gives in another. Small acts of servitude are not only sexy as hell (to me), but they are appreciated and thanked in many other ways.

Again, I only have so much credibility as someone who’s never been married before, but I can’t wait to spoil my husband one day with these small gestures of love, respect, and servitude, because at the end of the day, when you love someone, you show it through actions, not just cheap words.

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

And ladies on that serving end, don’t ever allow other women to guilt you for enjoying it.

One day we’ll learn to embrace cultural differences, rather than judge them.

But I think we can all agree that men should be bringing more than their appetite to the proverbial table and happily spoiling their women back in other ways.

I was recently talking to a guy and I noticed, when put in situations where I could serve him, I wasn’t excited about it. And funny enough, that was an early sign for me that my attraction to him hadn’t matured, or was surface-level at best.

When you’re wildly in love with someone, the idea of catering to them should excite you (cue Beyonce’s “Cater 2 U” also, why does she have a relevant track for everything, I digress).

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com
Anybody else remember Claire Huxtable’s epic rant on serving? This quote nails it! You can watch the full scene of that Cosby episode HERE.

We live in a bash first, ask later, society. And we don’t realize how we often grow up doing things simply because we’re told that’s the right way to do them.

We never question or think twice, and next thing you know, it becomes engrained in our heads as the only way to do something.

Again, there is no right or wrong way, only different. And I wish more people took the time to not only learn about other ways people do things, but to appreciate them as well.

And while this is very much an educational dialogue, I appreciated some friends chiming in with humorous responses:

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.comCultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.comCultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.comCultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.comCultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.comCultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.comCultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.comCultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

And my girl Faye basically brings everything home with this:

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com

Where are you from and what is your stance on this? Comment below! BONUS: Ask your parents what their stance is, and then share this article with them too 🙂

Cultural Clash | Why I And Many Others Will Gladly Serve Our Husband's Food First | TheBlogAbroad.com
PIN me baby one more time!

  • Amanda Kendle

    Fabulous post Glo. I just love these kind of discussions – it is so fascinating. I used to teach English to groups of students who were from all over the world, and the discussions we would have together were so amazing – over the years I learnt some great topics to get them all to be blown away by how different things were in different parts of the world – from washing dishes (we Aussies do it in a way that disgusts most other cultures!) to how you count how old you are to how many continents are in the world – simple things we wouldn’t question until we heard another culture had a totally different approach.

  • Love this! So fascinating indeed. I answered that my husband and I would both get our own (out of habit, mostly) but I am so glad you shed light on the differences amongst cultures and even show how certain things become looked at in a negative light! I would consider myself a feminist but I can 100% see how this would be an act of love and service to my husband. Not because we aren’t “equals” but because putting someone’s needs first is the very essence of love. ❤️️

  • “I especially loved seeing all the Black Americans who said they loved to serve their husband, because it means they’ve personally broken free from the societal pressure that black women are to be strong, fiercely independent, intimidating and nothing else.”

    Hmmmm. Most Black women didn’t just subscribe to this, though. This is how it was when I was growing up and before that and before that. Dad eats first, and he gets the BIG piece of chicken. 🤣

    I personally have yet to meet a man that actually has a woman that cares about this topic, I think the latest version is paper plates are the devil. Serve him first, and make sure it’s on fine china 😂😒

    No shade, but I’m so sick of this topic and the variations of it. It has mostly been used as a slight toward single (Black) women on a myriad of “do this or else” type of posts. I know that’s not what you’re doing here, but as one of your respondents put it, I can’t believe this is a question.

    My man cooked and fixed my plate. My dad would often cook and feed us kids first, too. I do agree that it’s a grand form of affection but I hope no grown person is throwing tantrums if it doesn’t happen every meal, everyday, or using this as a litmus test for a potential partner.

    • Nicole

      Yeah I’ve notice many times this topic [online] is used to throw a jab at single [black] women, which is usually followed by “that’s why yall bitter women are still are still single.” I never realized people felt so deeply about who gets served first until I saw those kind of debates on social media.

  • Alicia Crews

    hmmm…well I think the answer for me is no. While in general, I am a very generous loving person, I naturally push back against anything that could even almost be defined as being subservient to a man. Yes I am single. Yes I am happy to remain single. I am just not on that page due to my past. If anything, we can stand in the line together and help one another, but I ain’t about it…lol which also means that there are certain cultures (ahem) that I will not be able to marry into…and I’m okay with that as well…

  • Bean Sidhe

    White Northern American of mostly Irish descent here. I can understand the roots of the practice but I think dynamics have changed. My mom worked full time but was still expected to do everything a stay at home wife/mother was supposed to do. I watched my father take her for granted and be selfish. That is not something I want for myself. I do not want to be subservient nor do I want to rule another.
    If it’s a token of respect and love then why doesn’t the man also do it for the woman? Despite my father’s treatment of my mom, she didn’t fix his plate but we set the table, the food was there, and we passed the food around. When at a social function everyone got their own.
    I think people should do what works for them. Personally I would like a partnership – I don’t expect 100% equality, relationships are give & take. As long as both our needs are being met it’s good and the times we choose to do more for each other, it’s great.

  • Lauren Haas

    I have no issues with a woman choosing to fix her husband’s plate as an act of love and service. I think individuals should be free to express themselves in relationships as they choose.

    However, I think if it’s a societal expectation — i.e. she’ll be frowned on by others at the party if she doesn’t choose to express her love for him in the way they prescribe — that doesn’t sit well with my feminism. Respect and love should be a two-way street, and people should be free to forge their own identities, relationships, and ways of expressing themselves without arbitrary gender rules.

    I realize there are societies that haven’t explored this kind of freedom, and still find great comfort and joy in their traditions. IME, while there is sweetness in tradition, those often tend to be societies where a woman has a damn hard time surviving on her own, which means she doesn’t have the freedom to leave a relationship if her man isn’t respecting her back. That’s not freedom.

    The cultural expectation that a woman should serve her man joyfully is rooted in the idea that your wife is your servant, no matter how pretty it can be in the hands of a loving couple, it’s a problem if that doesn’t suit a particular woman’s temperament or situation.

  • Omolayo Nkem

    1. Yes Beyonce has a relevant track for EVERYTHING and 2. LOVE that Claire episode.

    It’s funny, when I started reading this article, I was already in defense mode – I always get like that in these topics. When I got out my feelings a bit, I tried to think hard about opportunities that I had to “fix my [boyfriend]’s plate at a party,” (I’m Nigerian American, currently living in Nigeria….so totally feel yay on the internal culture clash). And it just hasn’t come up. One time at a church function, all the couples just got up and went to the buffet line. At the weddings we’ve been to, the caterers or bridesmaids (I was an honorary one) just served everyone under the tent. But I remember my aunts kept checking to make sure I had served bae when I was serving our tent. And I think to other functions I’ve been to while here, and I just don’t see it happening that much. But I know it’s part of our culture.

    Also, as I read more and stopped being so defensive, I realized I LOVE serving le bae. Just because it wasn’t in the setting of “getting up to serve him first,” doesn’t mean I didn’t spend all afternoon making him lunch just to take it all the way to his office building. I think it was just the sentence that had me on guard at first like “major eye roll, why would I do that?” But I actually do. One of my biggest love languages is acts of service (although, many of them are high…lol, #highmaintenance) – both giving and receiving, so it’s draining for me if its not reciprocated, hence the initial eye roll.

    I also know the eye roll is at when it’s EXPECTED. I don’t like people insisting I HAVE to serve him hand and foot to keep him happy, which is often the other extreme and what many people imagine when hearing your innocent question. I honestly don’t think I could be with a guy that would expect/demand I serve him first (still scarred from my study abroad trip in Senegal where I stayed starving upstairs because often on Fridays, the women in my host family ate after the men were finished).

    But I would gladly serve a guy first, when the opportunity arises, if he genuinely appreciated it and reciprocated it in his own way. But I also think that just because you don’t serve your husband first makes you a bad spouse or that you don’t respect/love him. It’s just that it wasn’t something you were taught to place value on or you two show your love for each in other other ways.

  • Kristine AARSHEIM

    This is an interesting subject! Never really put much thought into it when cooking at home or being a guest at a dinner party. All I know is how it’s done where I come from and how it’s done where I live. In Norway, the person who cook the meal serve everybody else before serving themselves. At least that’s how I was raised. In France, where I live now, it’s ladies first. For the food. Not for the drinks. When serving wine it’s men first, so they can taste and approve the wine for the rest of the party. I think it’s great that each culture have their own traditions, and I would never judge anyone for doing things differently 🙂

  • Kristy Atkinson

    I saw this on insta and thought it was a really interesting question because it made me think about my own assumptions and upbringing. I think in general at a party situation like that I wouldn’t serve my bf that way because I imagine we would both go and get the food together. But in some situations, actually I would. I’m Australian and I think most of my friends would just let their partners get their own food. However, I was raised by my grandparents and so my whole life I always saw my grandmother serving my grandfather first as in their generation it was the accepted way of showing love and respect. I used to think “oh I would never serve my bf/husband like my Gran does” but I think it did rub off on me because I actually like making my bf his lunches to take to work because now I understand that it’s a way to show my love. But questions like this are such a great way to learn about other people’s cultures!

  • Cory Varga

    HAHA this was great. I need to actually look through the comments, I am intrigued now. The thing is, I love my husband so much, I would gladly fix his plate first. And funny story, he would fight to do the same for me. So chances are, we would result in fixing each other’s plate. I appreciate this might not be right for many out there, but it’s right and fun for us. We honestly enjoy seeing what we picked from the buffet for one another. But in a normal circumstance (like we go to a hotel and hit the buffet!) we just feed ourselves of course. This was good, Gloria, I liked it.

  • This was fun to read! Of course I would serve my husband first. And he would do the same for me – or else, we often end up eating from one plate anyway. (That is actually a wedding tradition in Slovakia – the couple need to feed each other from one plate with one spoon. My husband is from Colombia so this was new for him but he loved it.) The thing is, I am from a family where my father would clean up on Saturdays while my mom would cook. Then we´d all have lunch together and me and my sister would help her serve the food and make the table. My father would be the one to serve alcohol though. I love feeding my husband and it makes me happy to make food for him and see him eat – although he´s usually the one who cooks and serves the food, especially now that I walk with a stick…I think we both love to serve food for each other.

  • I love seeing what cultural differences there are in a new place when I travel. It’s so interesting, and it makes you think about things a little more. I totally agree that people are too quick to judge and argue, but it’s really a matter of perspective.

    I would also choose to make sure my parents eat first before myself, and my parents would try to make sure that we would eat first as well. In general, it’s serve everyone else in order of seniority and then yourself (and grandparents would be higher seniority than parents). It’s not as formal at home, but outside that’s generally the case. That’s the filial piety that we grew up with in a Chinese household even though I’m American and was born and grew up in New York, NY.

  • Jenna Meier Bilbo

    I have no issues with people who choose to serve their husbands first, the instance when it does sit strangely with me if I notice the man immediately goes to sit and just waits to be served. I’m of the attitude that if you can do it yourself, you should do it yourself. When it comes to occasions I’m used to the men in my life helping the women putting out food and then stepping back and waiting until all the women have been served and are sitting before they serve themselves. Women have been the dominant force in my household my entire life. In fact I would go as far as to say that the traditional male/female roles in my house are totally switched.

  • Autumn Hayes

    Interesting. I can see both sides of this argument, but not exactly for “cultural” reasons. I used to be married to a controlling, abusive, manipulative guy who intentionally played mind games about this very issue. I’d fix his plate and it was never “right” enough; he made faces about the host’s cooking in front of them, refused to eat, told me one thing and then complained about it, etc. If he didn’t do that, it was kind of like when your waitress brings you your food: cordial, but barely acknowledging your presence (like a lot of the other men present). It got to the point where it was annoying at best and nerve-wracking at worst, especially because my very Southern (Texas by way of Louisiana) family pressured me to serve him when I didn’t want to and supported him in criticizing me even when I’d tried my best to “do it right.” These and other issues in which “tradition” trumped (ha, puns) my actual feelings and his actual actions really hurt and led me to distrust and pull away from certain family members. I could tell these people were less interested in either of our real happiness or compatibility than in the superficial status labels of us being “married” “just like them” (and so not causing them to question their own happiness, treatment of each other, or compatibility). So, as a Southern girl and as an American, I think there’s something to not being pressured or expected to do anything except what feels right for you two.

    As an example, I have no problem fixing my current BF’s plate. It’s probably because he is caring, loving, honest, polite, and eats everything, and we mutually bring each other stuff all the time (in fact, sometimes I have to insist that I can get it myself!). But the first time I took him to a family get-together, I have to admit I was a little hesitant–not only because he was my first serious BF after my divorce, but honestly, because he was my first white boyfriend! Lol I just happened to be in the kitchen and he happened to be sitting down in the living room when the food was ready, and before I knew it I had grabbed a plate for him. I had a moment’s pause where I was like, “Ooh, they gon’ think this look real Sally Hemings…” But then I decided I’d give it a try anyway because I love him, and it felt good–both to see the appreciative look on his face and to know it was there because I made the choice to do something nice, not because he or anyone else expected me to.