The Journey Itself is Home

After I moved back the the U.S., after living abroad for ten years (The Netherlands, Zambia, Indonesia, England) I thought my international, cross-cultural days were over. What I didn’t understand, was that I brought my international marriage along with me. Living internationally will always be a part of my life.

Cross-cultural marriage, also referred to as transnational, inter-national or duo-cultural, is defined as a marriage between two people from different countries. It’s a marriage that is in-between cultures.

I’ve been living in one for over thirty years. What that means is that half of my family lives in the Netherlands and half in the U.S.  Half the cousins live in the Netherlands. Half in the U.S.  We don’t get to see each other often. But when we do, it’s a blast!

Sometimes we find that some of our favorite things (i.e. Calvin & Hobbes) have gone through inexplicable, cultural modifications. I just can’t get used to it. Really? CASPER & HOBBES. I don’t even.

cousins, The Netherlands, Jill Kandel, So Many Africas, In-Between Cultures

Transnational marriage is not new. One of the first large examples of border-crossing marriages came at the end of WWII. An estimated 70,000 British War Brides crossed the pond and formed the single largest group of females to migrate to the U.S.

Recently, transnational marriages have become a global phenomenon due to dozens of factors: globalization, holidays abroad, studying in foreign universities, going on short-term mission trips, migration, immigration, refugees, war, internet dating sites, international marriage brokers.

Renowned Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, said of her trip to Bali, “My husband was my favorite souvenir of that trip.” Gilbert, 46, met José Nunes, 63, a Brazilian-born importer, in Bali. They married in 2007.

According to The Economist, the rise in international marriages is one of the world’s biggest rising social trends.

  • Japan:  5% of marriages in in 2008-09 included a foreign spouse.
  • South Korea: over 10% of marriages included a foreigner in 2010, (Up from 3.5% in 2000).
  • Taiwan: 13% of wives in 2009.
  •  France: 16% international marriages in 2009.
  • Germany: 13.7% in 2010.
  •  Switzerland: nearly 50% of all marriages are international.
  • Sweden, Belgium and Austria: one in five marriages involves a foreign partner.

Jill Kandel So Many Africas Certification Zambia Book Publication

And the U.S? 

  • America 1970: 2.4%
  • America 2010: 4.6%

When I married a man from the Netherlands, in 1981, our marriage made up part of only 2.4% of the marriages in America.

Harlem, the Netherlands, Jill Kandel, So Many Africas, In-Between Cultures

Every week my husband still says things that boggle my mind, that I can’t quite get and need to put on my Dutch-thinking-cap in order to understand. Just last night at supper, while the girls were talking about a friend, he said, “Daar komt de aap uit de mouw!”

When I asked him to translate, he said, “It means, ‘There comes the monkey out of the sleeve!'”

“That doesn’t help much,” I replied.

He tried to explain. “It means something like, now the real meaning, which you have been hiding, comes out.”

“Ah,” I replied. “Perfectly clear. Sort of.” Which is a rather good picture of the communication in our marriage. Perfectly clear. Sort of.  

Tall, the Netherlands, Jill Kandel, So Many Africas, In-Between Cultures

As Matsuo Basho said, “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”




Jill Kandel
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