This story, like many of this age, does not begin with “Once Upon a Time” but “Once While Online”…
The modern fairytale, it seems, is undergoing a transformation.
Where once the prince of your dreams lived down the block, now he often lives in a land you have never visited, except possibly in a virtual sense.
While packing for a virtual relationship is brilliant, love online can actually be a very tricky business.
Any long-distance relationship is hard to maintain, let alone strengthen and grow, so why are so many people now drawn to life partners from far-flung places?
Why Foreign is Now Common
What has changed in our world – which at first glance seems a far more insular and frightened place – to encourage so many people to link their lives to foreign loves?
It’s a Small World After All
It cannot be denied that technology has done away with traditional barriers of borders and time-zones.
Just as immigration and foreign travel have become more rigid, the constraints of communicating across great distances have diminished.
The world has become a smaller and more accessible place.
There are now guide books and phone cards for a hundred different destinations. In chat rooms and online communities we are passing through each other’s houses right across the globe.
What was once a dot on the map can now be Google Earthed into your living-room, so that Timbuktu is now as close as a click away.
Pick And Choose
We are a generation of people who are spoilt for choice.
Want a mobile/camera/radio/garbage disposal all in one handy unit? You got it! And which of our thirty six colours would you like that in, madam?
So why should we be limited when it comes to love?
We now have an expectation that love can be found in any post code, in any timezone and will our disposable incomes and adventure-seeking spirits, we have both the inclination and the means to seek love out, despite its destination.
In a world where choice is demanded, is it any wonder women expect to be able to dine at the European smörgåsbord or to treat themselves to the American All-You-Can-Eat Buffet? http://newtimezone.com
We are all equally hungry for new knowledge and experiences.
As we are exposed to other countries through both virtual and real travel, we learn that despite our differences, we have much in common.
Through emails and photos and blogs the once unfamiliar becomes comfortable and as cultural barriers are weakened, relationships find fertile ground to grow.
And for those of us who may have grown tired with the same old men, performing the same old relationship routines, foreign affection can be attractive as their accents.
From Chat Room to Honeymoon
While constructing my profile for all the online communities I’m part of, I am almost tempted to add “immigration survivor” to my repertoire of tricks.
For in the case in my own fairytale, I too took the road now more frequently travelled and married a man with alphabet soup for a surname.
Although our courtship was in the streets of North London, rather than the webs of the Internet, we still went through all of the joys and struggles of a foreign partnership.
The reality is that everything is heightened on holiday.
Even if you are merely slipping away from reality by chatting on the Net, you are still distancing yourself from your current life. You are sipping from the heady cocktail of the exotic and unknown, often dressing up in a different persona and indulging in cultural experiences you can’t find at home.
But what happens when your relationship moves from the virtual to the real world?
Love Conquers Culture Shock
Perhaps I am reaching by saying that it would be a wonderful day if the United Nations could have as much success at negotiation, integration and understanding as a marriage made of two countries!
But I believe that only the truly committed can overcome the obstacles of a foreign marriage:
immigration, racism, homesickness, language difficulties and religious and cultural differences to name just a few.
So here’s a few suggestions from a seasoned traveler for surviving the courtship and marriage to a stranger from across the seas:
- Anticipate turbulence – Marriage is an alien enough experience for the recently-single, without the groom actually being an alien! You must anticipate that there will be bumps in the journey ahead. Do not allow yourself the luxury of second-guessing yourself once the deal is done. Keep your eye on the horizon when your stomach starts to churn and never lose sight of what you love about your traveling buddy.
- Mi Casa Su Casa – No matter where you choose to live, someone will be a stranger. Despite all that you do to make the other person feel welcome and at home, the reality is that it isn’t their home yet. Without their familiar/familial support network, they can turn to you for all of their emotional needs which can be as heavy as a bulging backpack. Homesickness can cripple your fledging relationship, so budget for international phone calls, Skype and expensive, imported foods you can’t pronounce.
- Lost in Translation – You often need to develop a third, shared language when you mother tongues don’t match. My husband speaks five languages (versus my one!) and the language of love can only get you so far.