Thursday, 28 February 2013

I Married a Foreigner


It began in Wales...

 

When my Mum was young she swore she'd 'never become a teacher' and 'never marry a foreigner'. Before you associate her with UKIP, let me explain. At the time my Mum was studying German. Not only are German words very long but they tend to resemble a line-up of letters in Scrabble when you've been particularly unlucky. The experience completely put her off learning languages and she knew if she married a Brit the chances of needing to learn a foreign tongue was very low.
 
My Mum went on to teach Art and marry my Spanish father. To make matters worse, he was from Catalonia, meaning that my Mum found herself having to learn not just one language, but two.
 
I've been thinking about this story because I've been eating a lot of avocadoes recently. This is the direct effect of being married to a Colombian who doesn't really see the purpose of lettuce.
 
Colombian fritanga - spot the salad!
 
This observation made me think how my diet has changed. I would never have bought plantain before, or cassava, and I love both. When I went travelling I hated arepas, the corn bread eaten so widely in South America, but now, even though I'd still prefer toast and butter any day, I have grown fond of them.
 
Nowadays we make special trips to a newsagent in Camden Town which supplies lots of Colombian goodies. We buy packs of chocolate slabs to melt into 'proper' hot chocolate, and then I turn my nose up as my husband puts a lump of cheese in his.
 
Diet isn't the only thing that has been influenced. As my Mum found when she married my Dad, marrying a foreigner comes with lots of new traditions. Take Christmas, the big day in Colombia is the 24th, in Britain it's the 25th and in Spain there are huge celebrations on 6th January when the King's come with all the presents.
 


Christmas Dinner in Spain

But I don't feel like I've simply adopted a few new traditions, I feel like I've adopted a whole country. When the Colombian BMX rider, Mariana Pajón, won gold in the Olympics I was ecstatic. How I see it, having another country to cheer for, can only be a great thing.
 

Now that people can comment on online newspapers, we can see how afraid of foreigners a lot of people are. Maybe it's the  fear of losing one's identity. Or just plain racism. Either way the prejudice and hate makes me shudder. If we identified with being 'human' before we identified with our nationality, wouldn't the world be a better place?
 
 
That said, I've often pondered what country my future children will identify with, and have even felt sad that my own Spanish/British heritage might be watered down. But that's only when I'm being small-minded, because it doesn't matter where they're from. What matters is that their life is enriched by our different cultures and their minds are opened to new ones. 'Never say never,' they say. Well I'm glad my Mum did.     

 
 
  
                                                                                                                                                        
           

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2 comments:

Oli Benet said...

Really nice blog Em!! We ourselves are bloody foreigners though...to ourselves I guess!!! hahah I'm confusing myself.

ShopGirl said...

"We ourselves are bloody foreigners... to ourselves" - I know exactly what you mean :)