Cultures Collide: 6 Things To Realize Before Marrying Someone From Another Country
Marriage itself is a huge step. Whether you view it as a mere formality or the joining of two souls, it means you’ll be spending a heck of a lot of time with this other person. As such, it’s certainly not a matter to be taken lightly.
Bring in a difference of nationalities amongst the two individuals, and you’re sure to encounter situations that your other married friends wouldn’t.
As an American who has married an Englishman, I can safely say that marrying someone of a different background is both exciting and interesting. It also requires a lot of empathy and understanding on both of our parts.
The disparity of our upbringing means we view certain aspects of marriage (and life, for that matter) differently, and, in turn, we both must be aware of these differences.
However, this does not make our marriage any less of an experience. In fact, to some extent, I feel our diversity has brought us closer as a couple. There are certainly issues we face on a regular basis that perhaps our friends and family, who have chosen to marry of the same nationality, do not.
You’ll become an expert at visa, passport and other government applications.
When my husband and I got engaged, it wasn’t your typical romantic proposal. Before we could even begin to plan a wedding, we had to apply for what is known in the UK as a "Fiancé Visa" (that was before we even applied for our marriage license and my residence visa).
They say if you want to get a real sense of who your partner is, sit him or her in front of a computer with a really slow Internet connection and see how he or she reacts.
Well, the same goes for any government application. It’s confusing; it’s long and, often, it’s frustrating to ungodly levels. It’s also the perfect way to gauge how you and your partner are able to pull it together, especially when one of you is losing your sh*t over the inevitable vagueness of application questions.
Also, get used to keeping every scrap of paper to verify that you both, in fact, are not only married, but married for love, rather than for residency in each other's countries.
Celebrating holidays will never be the same.
We’ve all scrolled through our Facebook and Instagram accounts during the holidays to find picturesque images of our friends with their relatives.
How lovely it must be to zip between both immediate families and in-laws during the festive season with such comparative ease (even if it means a four-hour car ride of battling traffic on 95).
Marrying someone from a different country, however, means you’ll certainly be divvying up the holidays by country, and it gets even more complicated when divorced families are added into the mix.
You’ll even find that these holidays drastically differ in traditions from yours (trying to explain what Eggnog was to my in-laws, without making it sound utterly revolting, was an interesting experience).
One thing to remember is that this separation from your own family and the different cultural norms means experiencing holidays in a completely new and interesting way. Eventually, you’ll find that these traditions are adapted as your own.
Raising children raises questions you never thought you’d need the answers to.
Childrearing varies from family to family, but bring different nationalities into the picture, and we’re talking about a completely different ballgame.
I was amazed to find out that my husband was completely against the use of a pacifier (known as a "dummy" in England). My mother-in-law never allowed my husband or his sisters to use one when they were kids. Simply put, it was viewed as "common," or rather, unrefined.
I, on the other hand, used a pacifier until I was a 1-year-old, and no one thought anything of it.
In another instance, an English friend of mine married a woman from Russia, and when they had their first child together, the wife insisted on not using diapers. Instead, she potty-trained the boy by having him go to the bathroom in a bucket until the time came where he could use the toilet on his own.
(Surprisingly enough, the amount of accidents they had were few and far between.)
We don’t even have children yet, and we’re already making compromises over my idealistic views of our little ones sporting Yankees jerseys, while my husband dreams of the kids decked out in Newcastle United’s black and white stripes.
My point is, don’t expect child-raising techniques to be universally accepted. You will both need to compromise on how even the smallest nuances are dealt with.
Family members and friends will always add their two cents
Most of the men in my husband’s family go sans wedding ring, and this isn’t an uncommon thing in the English culture. You’ll even notice that, while Kate wears Diana’s gorgeous rock, Will doesn’t even sport a wedding band.
So, when my husband decided not to wear one (aside from the prop we brought for the wedding ceremony), to say it caused a few eyebrow raises from my friends and family is an understatement.
Part of the incredible experience of marrying someone from another culture is accepting these different practices into your daily routine. While every marriage has the friend or family member who “knows” how your marriage should run, it seems the drastic differences in traditions that you and your partner will adapt once married will bring these individuals out in droves.
Soothed with deep breathing and the necessary glass of red wine, it’s important to remember that a lot of their shade-throwing will be a result of them simply not understanding these cultural differences. Many times, simply sitting them down and offering an explanation alleviates a lot of problems and confusion.
FaceTime with friends and family will gain a new level of importance.
Inevitably, one or both of you, depending on where you choose to settle, will see his or her family and friends far less than if you were both from the same country. Simply put, it comes with the territory of marrying this awesome person with -- in my case -- an even more awesome accent.
It will require a lot of understanding, and acceptance that your significant other will spend most of his or her Sundays Skyping and calling various people to keep them updated -- especially if, like some of my own family members, their close relations haven’t quite caught on to the revolution that is social media.
Also, start saving... like, yesterday. You will find that most of your spare cash will go towards flights back home to visit each year. It’s not all doom and gloom, though; take solace in the notion that this will not only make you excellent travelers over time, but also expert flight finders.
There’s a certain high you’ll get when you score a flight that’s not only cheap and direct, but also takes off on a Friday evening and scores you double frequent flyer miles. Cling to this thought when you’re jetlagged as hell over Thanksgiving turkey.
Communication is that much more important.
If pop psychology taught us anything, it’s that communication is key to a long lasting relationship. Not surprising, then, is that this holds true, perhaps more so, for those who marry someone of a different culture.
Whether the idea of communicating better quite literally refers to learning your partner’s mother tongue to help ease confusion during arguments, it’s vital you talk honestly about the differences in views towards your marriage.
Not only will it make for a more enjoyable experience, it will also help you to grow stronger as a couple.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It