Transnational Couples: A Tale of Two Halves
Posted by: Leonard Bentley, Senior Corporate Writer, Marketing.
National Marriage Week runs from 7-14 February in the U.S., and with Valentine’s Day on Thursday, love really is in the air! So what better time to take a look at relocating transnational couples? In fact, I’d like to share my own experiences of living in a multicultural household and what it’s like relocating as a family.
My wife was born in Chengdu in the south west of China. We met there in 2007 and have three gorgeous girls. Living in a home with more than one culture is like a surprise meal–lots of ingredients with rich flavours and no clear recipe for success. Of course, this does mean one of the biggest advantages is great food! But it can be difficult for children. As a toddler, our eldest regarded English as our secret language, later rejecting all things Chinese to integrate into her new UK school, before being asked to give a presentation on Chinese New Year.
We’ve done our fair share of international relocation as a family too. With the aid of that good old friend hindsight, I acknowledge that relocating with toddlers is easier than with primary school children. Leaving friends behind was compensated for, in part, by Skype and other platforms. A tip for any international assignees: get the children involved in selecting which clothes and toys to take with them. Ask, don’t tell, them to help with packing. It’s a great opportunity to strengthen parent-child bonds. And you won’t get blamed for leaving anything behind!
Sharing Experiences Helps Smooth the Transition
Sharing our experiences with friends and colleagues also helps with the transition. I recently spoke with Katarzyna Burchett, a Supply Chain Management Executive for EMEA, who shares her own experiences of living in a multicultural household:
After 15 years of living in sunny Spain, I relocated to the UK in 2012 with my English husband and six-month-old son (we now have two). Originally from Warsaw in Poland, I have found living as one half of a transnational couple to be both entertaining and enlightening. There’s also the added benefit of having family in different parts of the world so we have somewhere to go on holiday. Of course, this also means that major celebrations can be logistically challenging as you try to make sure you see everyone, including family members that live overseas.
The biggest challenge for me, however, is that it normally means one person in the relationship has to make an extra effort every day to speak a language that isn’t their native tongue. The upside to this though, is that both our sons were exposed to two languages from birth.
Transnational couples also require a great deal of compromise, maybe more so than couples with the same nationality. Christmas is one such example in our house. In Poland we celebrate on 24th December with a traditional dinner of fish, dumplings, and soup. Once dinner is over and the first star can be seen in the sky, Święty Mikołaj (Santa) delivers the presents and we open them that night. Despite this meaning a lie-in on Christmas Day, my husband still prefers to celebrate on 25th.
There’s also the odd culture shock along the way…in Poland babies are seen by a paediatrician every month until their first birthday. This is unheard of in the UK and means that my husband now thinks that I’m a hypochondriac for even suggesting we take our infant son to the doctors every month.
Challenges and compromise aside, our multicultural household gives my husband, sons and I an opportunity to participate in different cultural traditions, which broaden our world perspective and really does benefit all of us as individuals.
We’d like to wish all of our transnational couples a very Happy Valentine’s Day!
Please read some of our past blog posts that touch on these topics:
- Third Culture Kids Develop Valuable Career Skills
- Blog series chronicling the first-hand experience of a Cartus employee relocating with his family:
- International Assignee Insights: Part I – The Decision to Relocate
- International Assignee Insights: Part II – Preparing for a Relocation
- International Assignee Insights: Part III – Arriving in a New Country
- International Assignee Insights: Part IV – Relocation One Year On
- A Cultural Take on Valentine’s Day