The Truth Nobody Tells You About Intercultural Relationships

There are so many conflicts that can arise between two people of different cultures, especially when they’re in a romatic relationship. Religion, politics, the importance of family, children…the list goes on and on. You expect that kind of thing, at least to some degree, when you enter into a relationship with someone from a different country or background.

But the biggest disagreement Isaac and I have had yet concerns a very serious and potentially dealbreaking topic: how to order pizza.

Our neighborhood pizzeria offers this deal where you can get two pizzas for the price of one. Which is great, right? Except we don’t need two pizzas. We are only two people, and when we order pizza, which is inevitably at 10pm on a weeknight, we aren’t really in the mood to eat that much. Lunchtime is the main affair in Spain and that’s when we cook our big meals. Dinner is meant to be simple, and more a way of staving off starvation until morning rather than filling one’s belly.

Anyway, the point is, whenever we order two pizzas, we either end up with leftovers, which nobody ever eats (I am just not a second-day pizza person), or we stuff ourselves silly in an effort to clean out our pizza boxes and can’t move for the rest of the night.

So the last time we felt like ordering pizza, I told Isaac I thought we should just order one. “But it’s free,” he said. “Yeah, I know,” I said, “but just because we can order two pizzas doesn’t mean we should.”

 

“But…it’s free“, he said.

 

And this became such a deep discussion that we ended up talking about it with our friends the next day (whose opinions were also divided), because it’s really about a difference in perspective (by the way, I don’t really think it’s a cultural thing – I know a lot of Americans who would hate to “give up” something that was offered to them for free), and how, strangely, when something is offered free of charge, we feel perhaps more obligated to take it than we would if we were paying for it, even if we know it’s not something we want or need. Which is a little bit backwards, isn’t it?

It reminds me of a book I read a while back and have recommended to others on various occasions, called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz. Basically he says that we have a problem when we view not choosing something as losing something. In other words, when Isaac and I order pizza, we are already planning on paying for one pizza. But refusing a second, free pizza, which I see as simply “not adding more quantity to our order”, Isaac sees as “missing out or losing something we had”.

Anyway, the book is fascinating, although not nearly as fascinating as the twenty-minute conversation Isaac and I have every time we want to order pizza, which was only exacerbated by the fact that the last time we called them to order and told them we didn’t want the free extra pizza, the pizza guy’s incredulity was palpable even over the phone, and he asked Isaac several more times if he was absolutely sure he didn’t want another one, as if there must have been some sort of error.

We ate just the one pizza, and later I asked Isaac if he was still hungry, and though he bedgrudingly admitted that two pizzas would have been a lot, he still had a wistful look in his eyes, imagining his faraway second pizza, waiting for him there the next time we order. Because trying it my way once was okay, but not ordering a second pizza every time? Well that would just be crazy.

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