Ten years ago this month, I met the man who was everything I never knew I always wanted. He was Mr Action, a fierce downhill mountain bike rider who was also into cooking and yoga.
The problem was that I was on a working holiday in Canada at the time. My holiday fling just kept going and the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. After my visa ran out I headed home to Sydney and he followed soon after.
I joke that the Australian ‘man drought’ meant that I had to import my husband. Being married to someone from another country means you get to travel more, but there are a lot of elements that make it very difficult for all involved.
Here's how you know you are married to an expat:
1. You’ve spent thousands on visas.
Getting married as a way of staying in the country is not straightforward, nor is it cheap. It’s almost as if the government pays people to sit around coming up with inventive ways to get you to pay more for the right to get hitched to a foreigner. There are police checks, extensive health checks and you have to dig up ten years worth of addresses and employment history. The application fee alone is a non-refundable amount of over $1000.
If you weren’t truly in love you’d give up and spend the money on a one way ticket home.
2. Your pantry is full of things that just aren’t cricket.
Many years ago someone in Canada somehow decided that it would be a good idea to corrupt tomato juice with clam juice. And now that’s a thing up there.
Clamato (yes, that's really what it is called) isn’t easy to come by in Australia but you can get it if you’re willing to pay top dollar. If you’re ok with shelling out a fortune you can also get hold of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Skor Bars and all manner of treats that North Americans can’t live without.
There’s no substitute for the comfort food of home. Which is why we have several cans of pumpkin pie filling in our cupboard, for use in case of emergency.
3. You only get to holiday in one place.
Everyone else is skiing in New Zealand, heading up to Bali for surfing retreats and trekking in Tibet. You are saving for your bi-annual tour of relatives’ living rooms.
Being married to an expat means you get to travel - but only to the one destination. At least we get to stock up on Clamato juice while we’re there...
4. Your phone regularly rings at 5am.
Hubby moved to Australia in 2006. It has been NINE YEARS.
In that time, humans have figured out how to generate electricity from urine. But nobody in Canada has learned what time difference is.
Our phone regularly jolts the entire family awake at the exact moment when it’s too early to get up but too pointless to try going back to sleep.
5. You feel like you have to apologise for your countrymen.
Australians can be a funny lot with specific quirks and irritating brashness. A lot of the things we do are highly irritating to foreigners. Like shortening every word we say until our version of English is barely comprehensible. And ending our sentences with “yeah, but, aye?”
We tend to be foul-mouthed and our ‘tell-it-like-it-is” culture can come across and blunt and rude.
I am particularly aware of this because when you’re married to an expat you often have to hear about how annoying Australians are, even though you are one yourself.
6. Your marriage comes with an extra helping of guilt.
There is mother guilt, there is work guilt and then there is being-married-to-an-expat guilt.
For me this is heightened in summer, because people from the Arctic North simply can’t handle the heat in this “burnt armpit of a country”.
Being far from home is really difficult for my husband and I do understand and appreciate his sacrifices. But when it comes up during fights it stings like a whip in my face because there’s not much I can do to make it better.
7. You’re always playing host to randoms.
Living with an expat who is away from home means you become a hotel for friends, friends of friends and even your uncle’s former workmate’s son.
I actually love this. I get a kick out of sharing our home and accommodating visitors with a connection to my husband’s homeland.
Plus I figure when my son grows up and is old enough to travel, payback will come in the form of him not having to spend a cent on hostels.
Keep all these things in mind if you ever find yourself having an overseas holiday romance. But be assured that there is at least one major benefit - the in-laws never drop in without notice.
Have you done a long distance relationship? What was your experience like?