Monday, 29 June 2009

Severing my Azeri dæmon

Tonight, husband is watching Glastonbury music festival. Respect.

I have a new resolution. I have decided, looking at my credit card bills, that I must stop being so Azeri.

Despite what some more traditional Azeries might tell you, there actually are many things that are very Azeri about me. Some of them I manage to hide well, some I get away with. Some I am even proud of. But there is one thing that I must (absolutely must!!!) get rid of.

Husband is getting increasingly annoyed about bailing me out. He probably finds it even more annoying considering he wants to spend every penny he has left after the mortgage payments, endless taxes and everything else on his new business idea-becoming an off-road competition buggies manufacturer. He is telling me he will start selling them shortly (as soon as the recession is over, I guess) and make me rich.

In the meantime, between husband’s middle-age madness (or a genius business plan- who knows?) and my Azeri habits my credit card bills are not looking too healthy. And before you assume I keep buying myself expensive things, let me explain. I tend to spend a lot on other people.

It is like some mental disorder.

I already mentioned something about Azeries being wasteful with money before. And about our genetic need to show off. And about wanting to appear generous and better off than we really are. But since this is something that I am focusing on right now, I will risk this gentle reminder.

OK, so here is a situation. We got invited to our good friend’s birthday lunch last weekend. Husband thinks we don’t have to take a present: a bottle of nice wine would be enough, he says. After a few minutes of my meaningful look, he goes to the shops and returns with a book.

It is very English and very elegant- to buy someone a book. Sometime ago, I would have argued that it was embarrassing and unacceptable- because it only cost £9.99.
I don’t care if it is a great story (which it was: one of my favourite books this year). I would have not accepted my husband’s explanation that I am “not Mrs Abramovich” and that this friend “would appreciate the gesture, not the price of the present

I would have insisted we must buy something more substantial.

But not the new me! I have now given myself a promise and I am going to work on it.
No, Scary- I told myself,- You do not have to go overboard just because you feel thankful you have been invited to a birthday party. Or because this is one of your very few good friends who is actually in this country. Be cool. Be British about it. I feel the pain as I am severing my Azeri dæmon though.

Another important thing I must remind myself all the time that it is not a competition.
And when we show up with our elegant and sophisticated symbolic present, I must not get depressed that the other couple brought him an Armani tie.

Or when my good friend has a new baby, and I buy her a lovely soft toy, I must not feel like I failed when our more successful girlfriend pulls out a gorgeous bespoke keepsake box.

But it is all about the mentality, isn’t it. I was shocked when my Irish girlfriend was telling me how annoyed she got with her sister.

-She bought such expensive Christmas gifts for our nephews and nieces!- she said, clearly outraged.

I did not get it. What can she possibly get annoyed about? The sister loved her nephews, had a good job, was single and wanted to spend her money on buying them nice gifts. I even felt sad I was the only child and my daughter did not have generous and loving aunties like that.

-But their parents can not afford such presents- my friend explained - how do you think it made them feel??

Oh?...-I thought.
Oh…-said my dæmon.


  1. Oh, my God so right!!! My sister (living in Azerbaijan)and me(living in the Anglo-Saxon society) were comparing our "incomes and expenditures" and came to the conclusion that most of their family income is spent on social gatherings: wedding parties(nothing less than a 100 manat a person), birthday parties (nothing less expensive than 50 manat) and parties given on different occasions to celebrate just anything. And every time one should not look stingy.

  2. I guess the key is in the last words: if you give someone a very expesive gift, the other person may think he/she has to "match" their next gift to you.
    I used to think like you do, until my mom made me realize, as you Irish friend did.

  3. I love it! However, starting to question myself if i am a bit Azeri? Or just a soviet creation? Cannot go to someone's birthday without a present, a bottle of wine, flowers etc. Tried few times to do the sensible thing and ended up feeling pretty bad about myself. However, i am not offended if my good friends turn up with nothing. xx

  4. Been there, done that, have a t-shirt :)
    My husband’s family is a classic high WASP. They went so far as send a note before Christmas each year agreeing to “no presents” treaty to reduce the residual Christmas stress I guess. But I send them gifts anyway for Christmas and other occasions. And I extended an open invitation to all holidays and birthdays and anytime they want to come. At this point, they know I don’t expect anything back and just accept me with my “Azeriness”. Overtime, I think it did bring them a little closer; they are not as uptight as I remember them 12 years ago. My mother in law always points out how much she appreciates my attitude towards her family. I believe that “Azeriness” is a disease and it seems to be contagious. :) :)

  5. Hmm..... doesn't your continuous writing about things your husband watches violate his privacy? :)

  6. What his is mine, and what's mine is for me to decide. :) He really does not mind. as long as I don't mention all those semi-naked girls he is going to hire for the car show...Oops!

  7. I am still an Azeri when it comes to pushing my guests to eat more food and to spreading the table with countless dishes even if I know I only get treated to one easy fix-up dish in return:)I guess some things just never change:)

  8. My Mother-in-law who is British, suffers from the same condition that you call "Azeriness", which I appreciate in her and support her when the men in the family (who actually earn money, and we, women, spend it :-) attack her for her generosity. Although we asked her not to spend a lot on gifts for our kids, she'll bend over her back to make sure that all the grandchildren (they have 8) get their nice B-day and X-mas presents. I don't like when people expect though. Talked to an azeri friend who lives in a different state and he was so furious that the house guests they hosted for 2 days came empty handed. Generosity is a wonderful quality, more common for oriental cultures, but to me true generosity does not imply expectation of something in return. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I like your sincerity and look forward to new posts.

  9. @Farida:
    I bet your friends are terrified to be inviting you over- just looking at your cookbook pages, dinners at your place must be something! but hard to compete with.

    @Seva...If someone came to visit me for 2 days empty handed I would blog about them. :) It happened before, and it always amazed me in people. It is not because I need it, or expect it. To be honest, I just get shocked when people (of any culture!) could be so rude, don't YOU think? Would YOU visit someone, stay at their house, eat what they cooked... empty handed?

  10. I guess, my British husband spent too long time (9 years)in Baku before we moved elsewhere:D He is actually more concerned about the presents than i do these days... or may be he is just an exception as my Azeri friends usually admire him for having "Azeri man" type actions/features"...