Is it cooler being married to someone from another country? In my experience, it’s often everyone else who seems to think so, although maybe that’s because I happen to be married to someone from a country whose people are perennially voted the coolest nationality on the planet.
Typically, as soon as I mention that I’m married to a Brazilian the almost universal reaction is:
“Cool! I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil!”
Such reactions inevitably tend to be informed by the idealized images most people have about Brazil and Brazilians:
- Exotic beaches frequented by beautiful people wearing minuscule pieces of beach attire.
Brazil is, of course, far more complex than this. It’s as equally well-known for its
- Gang violence
- And…errr…films about favelas, drugs and gang violence.
Naturally though, people tend to assume that I probably haven’t married a gun-wielding, drug-pusher from the favelas, and so it’s the cool, beach-loving Brazilians they tend to envisage whenever I mention my marital status.
So, in everyone else’s eyes at least, my story of marrying the Brazilian girl I met in Argentina is way cooler than that about the girl they met in their local boozer in London.
And to be fair, it is a pretty cool story.
Cool as in mind-expanding
Yes, the samba, the beaches and the football (especially the football!) make life exciting, but what’s even cooler is that marriage to a Brazilian woman has been a life-changer — in a good way. For instance:
1) My horizons have been broadened immeasurably.
I’ve learned to view things through the eyes of someone who’s experienced them within another country and culture. Thus, things you may have previously found exotic, unusual or irrational become familiar, normal and logical.
2) I now see “cultural differences” in a positive light.
True, cultural differences have the potential to make a relationship fractious. But in our case, these cultural differences help to fill in certain gaps that we’d always looked for in the people we’d dated.
As a self-conscious Brit (British stereotype No 1: tick), I find it appealing to have a naturally sociable and confident wife (Brazilian stereotype No 1: tick), who is able to take control of social situations in which I’d otherwise feel uncomfortable. Her effortless sociability is the perfect counterbalance to my stuttering inability to engage in anything other than mindless small talk with most strangers.
By the same token, she appears to have found it a pleasant surprise to encounter a man who was a little less “forward” than what she had been used to in Brazil.
That, and the fact that I was the only man she’d ever met who could cook, I imagine.
3) I also think that cultural differences are often overdone.
Despite the perceived and real differences between our countries and cultures, there are occasions when I realize that in many ways, my wife and I aren’t all that different. As a football geek, I’ve found my wife’s interest in watching football one of life’s great blessings (Brazilian stereotype No. 2: tick; British stereotype No. 2: tick). I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come home to find her watching a game on the telly.
Cool as in constant adventure
Another cool thing about marrying someone from another country is that life becomes more adventurous — at times rather literally. For example:
1) I’ve had the opportunity to learn and explore a culture and country with what effectively amounts to having a free tour guide.
And, let’s face it, where would you rather go when you have to go and visit the in-laws: Brazil or another boring town in England?
2) I’ve now embarked on the adventure of learning another language.
This is something I’d always wanted to do but was too lazy. Also, language schooling is pretty appalling in the UK — I can barely remember any of the French of German that I learnt all those years ago.
Whilst it’s still a work in progress, my Portuguese is now at least functional — and improving everyday.
3) I’ve been able to do something I always wanted to do, live abroad.
Indeed, my language learning has been significantly aided by our recent relocation from London to São Paulo. Would I have done this without my wife? Maybe not, because of circumstances and/or apprehension of moving countries on my own. For me, the option to live in Brazil was instantly made more manageable by my wife being from the country we moved to — my own personal relocation advisor if you will. As explained it my Random Nomad interview, it makes me feel a lot less displaced.
But, not always as cool as it sounds
However, despite how cool all this sounds it’s not to say that marrying someone from another country doesn’t come without its own particular challenges. Here are two that really stand out for me:
1) The early days weren’t easy.
Once we’d both returned home, following what was effectively a holiday romance, there was the little issue of us both living in different continents — a mere 6,000 miles apart.
And then, once we’d decided to give the whole (very) long-distance relationship a go, there was the feeling, similar to the one expressed by fellow Brit James Murray in his column last month, that the few weeks here and there we occasionally managed to spend together consisted mainly of getting re-acclimatized, rather than enjoying each other’s company.
And, of course, there were the usual issues that complicate long-distance relationships: loneliness, uncertainty, jealousy, lack of communication, etc. Fortunately, we had the Internet — a relationship like ours would have been unimaginable 15 years ago.
2) UK immigration laws — need I say more?
When my wife made the crunch decision to move to the UK, there was the added complication of the navigating a Kafka-esque immigration system that does its best to keep out anyone deemed to be from a “developing country.” Four years, various visa refusals, threats of deportation and thousands of pounds later, my wife was finally able to settle her status permanently in the UK.
Rather ironically, as soon as she received permanent status, we scarpered from the economic crisis in Europe to the relative calm in Brazil — where they’ve been far happier to accept me as a resident.
But hey! That’s pretty cool, too.
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Readers, having witnessed Andy’s valentine to his Brazilian wife, what do you think? Are you in a cross-cultural relationship and if so, do you perceive similar benefits? Or are you more jaded than he is — suspecting that the challenges can outweigh the benefits once the “cool factor” wears off? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, when a Random Nomad with a finely-tuned sense of romance joins us!
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