To us, it's normal, but I'm sure others must see us as the odd couple. In the beginning we were a novelty on both sides of the Pond to our friends and family. And, yes, I was asked on my first visit to the States to "say something; I love your accent". A friend of my family, on meeting Mike for the first time, commented later to my mother "He's not much like an American." He obviously didn't have his 10 galleon hat and cowboy boots on!
Being married to Mike has given me the opportunity to see my home country from many different angles, and to enjoy it in a new way. I've always had holidays in the U.K, childhood holidays in Scotland, walking holidays in Yorkshire, the Lake District and Ireland. But now, every year, we rent a cottage in a different region—we just spent a wonderful week in Dorset enjoying both the coast and the countryside—and I have discovered many new parts of the U.K, including previously unexplored sites in my own back yard, such as Stonehenge and Battle Abbey.
I also represent the whole of the U.K population, having to explain political, social, economic and cultural events and situations while attempting to answer his who's, what's, where's and why's. At times you can hear me saying, "I don't know, it just is".
Living with an Expat has meant I have become more IT aware, reading blogs and surfing websites. This has allowed me to meet people from all over the country and the world: a possible relative in South Africa, a Mummy blogger from Chicago, a Southern Californian Social worker and many other friendly and interesting people.
I'm nearly bi-lingual now, though I will never get over how some words are pronounced, and by Jove Mike clings to these—“'erb”, “Aloominum”—as he knows these make me cringe.
Even after 8 years we still have to explain local words and saying to one another. Only the other day I had to explain to him what a BILLIEDO (phonetic spelling) is, answers on a post card.
Then there is food; just don't get me started. How often do you find yourself in a shop showing your other half a food item and explaining how it is used—“Quite frequently” is my reply. Last weekend I found myself in a supermarket explaining the various ways of making Jelly (NOTE: she means Jell-o): crystals, gelatine leaves and blocks, but it was a good excuse for picking up some individual tubs of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
What's it like being married to and expat? It is the opportunity to make our own mix of cultural traditions: Thanksgiving dinner and Pancakes at breakfast and Scones and Tea at National trust teashops. A lot of discussion and lots of laughter.
If marrying a foreigner is a bit like taking in a stray—introducing an outsider to a new routine, helping the newcomer to navigate unfamiliar surroundings and schooling the uninitiated in heretofore unknown customs—being the one to leave your homeland means putting your life in someone else’s hands. For the first two years, I was unable to go anywhere without my wife. At least if I wanted to find my way back home. And if I did need to go out on my own, trusting directions such as, “Go to the top of the road, go left, take the right just beyond the Strangled Goose and when you come the roundabout go…”left me hoping she had not tired of me and was sending me on a course that would assure I could not possibly find my way back home. This requires a special kind of trust.
Now, of course, I can find my way around Britain and back home again on my own with only the occasional frantic call to my wife, the Met or 999.
Being married to a foreigner and living in a foreign land puts you at a constant disadvantage. You forever find yourself sitting with your beloved, watching the Telly and listening to them howl with laugher while you sit there like a pillock. And if you press for an explanation, you’ll find the joke involved some incomprehensible cultural reference and a scene from an obscure 1960’s sitcom.
Language, too, is a continual—and sometimes startling—barrier, such as the day I discovered our mechanic was “diddling” my wife.
Eventually, however, you find yourself laughing more and asking things like, “Who, exactly, is Chicken Lickin’?” less.
But no matter how long you stay, you’ll always feel just a bit the outsider, surprised by the culture, language and customs of the natives, which is, of course, what makes it all worthwhile.
Except she still doesn’t know how to pronounce aluminium.
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