Invariably, marrying a foreigner means that you might well end up living on some far-off distant shore. After spending eleven years in Britain, my American husband began to pine for his native shore, and so it was my turn to be the foreigner. It was my turn to come up with a list of gripes about his country, and that I did. I complained about all the same things as he had in Britain, but for different reasons.
The weather was too hot, it never rained, the people were always busy doing, but never being, there were far too many choices, the roads were so big that you couldn’t navigate them unless you had been born with a compass in your mouth, and there were never any decent plugs in the baths.
Worst of all, there seemed to be a complete disregard for privacy: the houses never had any hedges, people collected mail wearing bathrobes, they sat out in their front porches with gay abandon for all the world to see, and the public restrooms had, what I could only call an excuse for a door. (I am still trying to figure out why there is a two-foot gap all around these doors. Does it perhaps hearken back to the days of the Wild West?)
Raising your children in a foreign culture is difficult. My poor daughters are saddled with an eccentric Scottish mother whose official title is Resident Alien. The sad part is that when I first arrived here, the only bit of that title that I took umbrage with, was the word, resident. I was quite convinced of my alien status, but I needed some persuasion regarding the wisdom of remaining a resident.
On the positive side, I must admit that in over fifteen years of marriage, life has seldom been boring, we are never at a loss as to where to spend vacations, our children have been exposed to a broader slice of life than many, I have come to appreciate my Celtic heritage more than ever, and our arguments tend to be less personal than most: when the going gets rough, it is always easier to blame a country than a spouse.
I have now finally come to believe that maybe my parents weren’t so wrong after all. Maybe we would all do well to tell our children to marry someone from a different shore. It is one way to learn about tolerance, sacrifice, compassion, and, most of all, it teaches you to see the world as that bit smaller, and yourself as that bit bigger.