Why Marrying Someone From Another Country Is The Best Worst Thing Ever
My wife is a real Italian.
I say a real Italian because when I say Italian to some people they think Jersey Shore Italian.
I’m not Italian. I’m American. Our cross-cultural marriage isn’t as divergent as some (I’m looking at you Mongolian-Tanzanian associate), but it’s not without its humorous misunderstandings.
Language is the obvious starting point. The first summer my wife moved with me to the States, it was sweltering. One of her coworkers asked her if she wanted to go crack the windows of her car and, shocked, she said, “We just bought that car! Why would we want to break the windows?!?”
My gaffes in Italian aren’t as frequent as my wife’s since we haven’t lived in Italy, but I nevertheless have found a good opportunity here and there to put my foot in my mouth. Before meeting my wife’s parents for the first time, I proudly wrote them an email telling them how excited I was to meet them. My then-girlfriend wrote to her parents in horror because being excited in Italian has an, ahem, sexual overtone.
Of course, not everything about having an international marriage makes for amusing anecdotes.
Here are some things they don’t tell you before you get married to someone from another country:
- You really only get to travel to one country anymore… or feel guilty for missing an opportunity to visit family.
- One person will always feel like an outsider, no matter how culturally and linguistically fluent they get.
- Getting told “You’re so American/Italian” loses its charm fast.
- It’s usually the responsibility of the person living oversea to stay in touch with everyone–and time differences suck.
- You won’t realize how much you miss that one food until you find yourself on Amazon making a cost-assistance examination of whether or not a box of cookies from back home are really worth $40.
- Having kids makes everything exponentially harder.
- Finding books, music and movies in the minority language is nigh-impossible.
- Getting them to speak two languages is hard. “I know mommy understands English, so why speak Italian?”
- additional plane tickets add up. Fast.
Hopefully this list doesn’t make it sound as though everything about being married to someone from another country is horrible. It’s not. I love my wife and would marry her a thousand times over again. I’m sure most couples in our situation would agree.
But that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of things become immediately harder. It’s not something that should be entered into lightly. Count the cost. If you find that all of that is worth it and you want to marry your international love, here are a few of the things that make cross-cultural marriages totally worth it:
- My wife never cooks meatloaf. Ever. Instead she makes risotto and bruschetta and gnocchi al pesto.
- Having a secret language is funny and useful (“You ready to go home?” “Yeah, this party’s boring.”).
- Getting to introduce someone to a typical component of your culture (like Star Wars!) for the first time feels exceptional.
- Visiting your spouse’s home country comes with a built-in tour guide!
- There’s never a dearth of things to talk about because there are always new cultural elements to discover about one another.
For us, the good far outweighs the bad. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, like when my wife makes me change out of my flip flops into something “less American” or when I tease her for always wearing an undershirt–already in the summer–so she doesn’t catch a cold. But I would never give up those frustrations for in-laws that celebrate Thanksgiving, too. There’s not enough turkey in the world.