Bicultural and/or international couples (in my case, both) have some habits that can seem odd for an outsider. Most of the time, when Mario and I take a trip, we end up speaking a weird hodgepodge of English and Spanish and Spanglish, which confuses the locals who just want to place us in a little box. (Oh, Americans; or Oh, Spaniards.) But no, we’re not so easily categorized or identified.
Mix up traditions.
I wear my wedding ring (alianza) on my right hand because I didn’t have the traditional engagement ring and wedding ring match set. I wanted everyone who saw me, in Spain and in the US, to know I was taken, so I figured I’d wear one ring on each finger. Problem solved. Mario, on the other hand (literally), wears his on the other hand, his left. Why? It’s more comfortable. So we mix up traditions. So what?
We also chose to say our vows both in English and in Spanish, because those words in our native languages were and are really important to us.
Oh yeah, and we had two weddings. We’ve decided we could have one every year. There are lots of states, after all.
It’s not uncommon for me to say to Mario, “Did you have lentejas for lunch?” or “How was the sandía?” I also tell him, “Love you mucho” in our emails. We talk about Spanish foods in Spanish (see: chorizo, salchichón, all kinds of fish, fruits) and American foods in English (see: the turkey pot pie a friend made for us this weekend, the stuffing we ate for Thanksgiving, and the gravy I made too). This is called code switching, when a speaker alternates between two or more languages in a conversation. If you’re part of a bilingual couple, you know this phenomenon all too well.
Know a lot about the other’s culture without even trying.
When you get married, you acquire a new family. That new family is most likely very different than the one with which you grew up, and you end up learning a lot from them. This happens to an even greater degree in a bicultural relationship, because not only are you learning about that family’s customs and traditions, but you’re also getting a cultural education!
I’ve learned a lot about Spanish culture without even trying—I simply absorb the information by spending time with Mario’s.
Get confused about how someone could possibly do something that way.
Similar to the previous point, I sometimes wonder why Mario and his family and often Spaniards in general do things a certain way. Of course, it’s better not to wonder aloud—at least not too often! We all have our ways of doing things, and if using a bayeta is what you think is best … by all means, go for it!
Think about which country they’ll live in … eventually.
Most people take for granted where they’ll end up, at least as far as the country goes. You may live in different states or counties, but you don’t think you’ll end up on another continent. Not us, though; we’re an international couple, and the question of where comes up quite frequently. (Sometimes more frequently than I’d like.) The answer? We don’t know yet.
Spend holidays in different countries.
I’ve heard of people splitting up for holidays, with one partner going home to his/her family and the other going to his/hers, but in an international relationship, sometimes one takes an eight-hour flight back home and spends the holidays several thousand miles away. For now, Mario and I don’t mind this arrangement, but maybe it will change in the future.
Do you have any to add?
Please check out the discussion on my Facebook page, where I’m asking which cities or areas in Spain you wouldn’t recommend!