Is your Darling a Foreigner? Then you might want to read this list of seven things to think about before putting a ring on it.
There’s a bit of buzz in Japan at the moment for mixed-race babies, and many women (fewer men, hmph) will openly declare that they quite like the idea of a kokusai kekkon (international marriage). That in itself it all well and fine, but what are some of the things that Japanese people who are in international marriages wish they’d known before tying the knot?
Pithy commenter on all things gaijin Madame Riri recently polled some of her blog readers to create for a short list, which we’ll share with you now.
1. Don’t take cultural differences lightly
Unless you married only because you’re on the hunt for some exotic baby genes, chances are you don’t really see your partner as “foreign” and instead just think of them as a person you like enough to want to spend the rest of your days with. Now, that all sounds fine and natural, but some of Madame Riri’s readers point out the danger of taking the differences between cultures too lightly. After all, Japan’s got a lot of special customs and etiquette rules to follow, and you can be sure the same applies to whatever part of gaikoku your honey’s from. :P It definitely pays to brush up on each other’s culture before hitting that baajin road (wedding aisle) since this will prevent culture clash later on.
2. Make sure hubby/wifey is cool with you jetting off home now and then
Homesickness can be a killer, and in an international marriage one of you is always going to be just a little bit homesick for some of the time and have to live apart from your family. International flights are expensive, and what if your other half isn’t happy with you taking a big chunk out of the family bank account to jet off home and indulge yourself in some R&R every few years? Where in the world you’ll live and how often you’ll see your respective families—not to mention whether you’ll one day want to uproot entirely in order to see them more—is something that needs to be seriously discussed before “I do”s are exchanged.
3. Make an effort to learn each other’s language
In any multilingual couple, there’s going to be a shift towards whatever language both parties can speak more fluently. If you only know a few words of Japanese but your hunny-bunny’s been studying English for years, you’re probably going to only speak English. But it can get extremely tiring to have to speak your second language all day, every day, and sometimes a break is needed. If you want to have a happy international marriage, it’s best for both parties to make as much effort as possible to learn the other’s, um, tongue.
Rigorous arm polishing is required to master Japanese.
4. Think about where to raise the kids
Some of Riri’s readers stressed the importance of deciding which country to have the kids in, and noted that mamas who have their babies in their home country tend to have an easier time of it (well, that’s pretty obvious). However, they also had another tip — if you’ve already chosen a country to live in, it’s best to have the babies there, since making a big move tends to be 10 times harder with small children in tow. Good job little kids are so adaptable.
5. Hash out food prejudices first
If you’re a Japanese person married to someone who can’t stand the taste of Japanese food (if such people actually exist) then you’re going to have a tough married life without your favourite comfort cooking, unless you like eating alone. Likewise, if, say, British cuisine makes you barf like a picky schoolgirl, then you’re going to go hungry in the UK while your spouse is serving up a delectable roast beef with all the trimmings every Sunday.
6. Think about death
Now this is something no one wants to think about, but what if your foreign spouse has an unfortunate accident and, um, dies? If you’re currently living in “their” country, you may find yourself suddenly without any support, possibly with young kids to look after, and might have to think about going home to your own family who can get you through the tough time. Gulp.
7. Get the parents on board
An important part of a happy marriage (or so they say) is getting along with your spouse’s parents, something that can be a little difficult if you’re from a different country to them and possibly don’t speak their language. Now, there are some crusty and disapproving parents out there who will balk at the idea of a foreigner potentially snatching away their precious son/daughter, but on the whole, parents tend to be quite welcoming of anyone who’s out to make their child happy. Especially if said child is getting on a bit and cluttering up the household as a parasite single. At any rate, parent-whispering is a vital tool for any potential spouse to learn.
So, there are the seven things that Japanese spouses in international marriages wish they’d thought about a bit more before getting married! We’re sure there are probably lots more, but this seems like a good start. Hopefully, if two people love each other enough they should be able to get over any hurdles which come their way, whether as a result of being from a different culture or not. The divorce rate in Japan is actually in decline right now, but then again, so is the marriage rate, so we reckon the odds are pretty even.