Rasmus and I met at a picnic in the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels on a warm May day. I was nine months into a ten month internship and only just now starting to feel like maybe it would be okay if I stayed a bit longer. My first six months had been lonely and often hard and only the last three months had I started to feel settled.
I was on the lookout for Mr Right (it’s not cool to admit that – you’re supposed to say you were happily single when love startled you) and as my previous relationship had been with a South African, nationality was not a big problem. So when this handsome Danish man entered my life and seduced me with his homemade fruit bread and calm self-assurance, I didn’t think twice about cultural differences.
And in three years of marriage, our cultural differences have never caused any big issues. Danish culture and British culture seem to share quite a bit in common (which I guess makes sense since those mean Vikings invaded us years ago and settled there). Any conflicts we’ve had have tended to be more due to our differences in personality rather than culture.
And yet I know for other people, marrying into very different cultures, it can be a much bigger adaptation. There are different values, different understanding of gender, different expectations of marriage and a husband and wife’s roles within in. There are different approaches to religion and politics and family.
Marrying someone from another culture requires being willing to find common ground together as a couple, to find together new ways of living and flourishing together that respect and honour where you both come from, even as your move forward together.
There can be layer upon layer of complexity. But there is also such richness.
And this is what I can speak to. I love that I am now connected to Denmark and Danish culture in such a significant way. I love learning the new-to-me traditions, recipes, ideas, words. It’s not always easy – learning a culture rarely is – and so it requires an abundance of patience and empathy. But I believe that both of our lives are enriched by having married someone from a different culture.
Are you married to or dating someone from another culture? Has it been easier or harder than you expected? What has been the biggest surprise?
This post is part of my 31 days to embrace expat life. I’m writing every day through October on this topic. Click on the button to see all the posts so far…
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Photo taken by my FIL of my parents’ house, the weekend of our wedding. My Dad had strung up all these Danish and British flags as a celebration – such a fun surprise when we first turned into our road two days before the wedding!