I always wonder if I could have ever got married to someone who had a different culture from mine or spoke a different language than me. Sometimes I assume I would have been too scared not to be understood and accepted for who I was as so much about my culture would come out into my day to day behaviors, or that I could have even felt at some point the need to change my attitudes to please my partner’s point of view. Funny enough there is an Italian way of saying: ‘Mogli e buoi dei paesi tuoi’ – ‘[You should always choose] Wives and bulls from your own country’!
Though I should know what it feels like as my father is Italian and my mother is French. They met in the sixties (to cut a long story short, through one of my mum’s older sisters who met and married an Italian man too that she had got in contact with as pen friend to learn the language back in the fifties!) and they got married in the seventies. My mum (as my aunt had done as well before her) left her country and accepted to live in a foreign land which she probably found characteristic and fascinating.
I have noticed through my own experience that most of the times it seems to be the woman that follows the man, unless he meets her in her region because he came to work there and cannot go back for some reason. In fact, once established in what I consider my home town, my mum met later on, by chance, a lot of other French women that had married an Italian man and followed them, therefore she now has her own group of friends to regularly catch up with and enjoy speaking her mother tongue or talk about her country (probably criticizing Italian politics and similar topics too, hehehe).
I have a long term friend who is in a similar situation than me, but even more ‘extreme’ in diversity as she is half British and half Japanese. She is very open minded and has a very peculiar charm of her own. I also have a very good friend half French half Belgian who is about to follow my parents story and marry an Italian (one of my husbands best friends). I have an Italian friend (one of my son’s little mates’ mum) who is married to an Indian and another Albanian mum who is married to a Brit. She actually inspired me this post with her own about how it feels to live here and be married to ‘one of them’ :-). I actually identified with a lot of what she wrote, such as being very dramatic in expressing her emotions, all the opposite than her husband’s culture would consider acceptable…
In my opinion, it takes a lot of courage, sensibility and excellent communication skills to accept to mix your own culture with another and don’t be scared to raise kids within this atmosphere, as I believe there are still many people out there that would not go down that path, so well done to both members of those couples to get on this amazing adventure! I suppose it’s about being broad minded in the first place if you are able to fall for someone quite different from you, therefore probably it does not feel like a weight or a sacrifice at all, but comes quite naturally; nerveless I feel admiration for them. Another benefit that mixed couples get is that, as a matter of fact, they tend to have healthier, more beautiful and smarter kids on average (just to prove how stupid was the whole concept of perfect race that emerged from the Nazi politics at the beginning of last century 😦 ).
I guess I am very lucky as I suppose I have the best of both worlds. I find my family enriched by the fact that I speak French to my kids and my husband speaks Italian to them and we travel quite a lot visiting both our countries (he enjoys France too luckily, the food to mention one aspect, despite the long term rivalry between these two countries, especially being a big football fan lol). But because we both came to London from the same home town where I was raised, we also have the same humor and in our daily conversations we would refer a lot to people/habits/places that we both know as original from our region. Time to time we can both moan about the same things we don’t understand in Brits (their 100 cuisine TV programs, their obsession with the property ladder, their inability to be themselves without a few drinks at a party, their need to spend more than they can just using their credit cards, their taste in fashion… 🙂 ); even if we are certainly very grateful they welcomed us here nearly 10 years ago as we don’t forget the so many things we prefer to experience in a UK style rather than the Italian way (noisy, late, disorganized, lazy… Exactly as in all the stereotypes you see in films and books!).
However, despite we have a lot of background in common, we are quite different at the same time… That is why I truly believe the key to a successful relationship is good listening and acceptance in general. You may think that by marring the girl/guy next door you will avoid these types of issues, but it’s a learning curve anyway and you will always have to put a lot of efforts and compromises in a lasting and effective relationship, though it is so worth it in the end ❤