Header Image

Navigation images

Musing: when love and culture collide

Last weekend’s wedding in Lorraine (the region in France with 3 international borders!) kickstarted what I have dubbed the summer of wedding attendances. With six invitations – two coming from a same couple but for celebrations in different countries – under our belt, of which two had to be declined due to timing issues, we have effectively three more to go, unless there are more invitations due to arrive that we are not aware of…


A little something I’ve noticed – none of our friends and family are organising monoculture weddings. Each and every single one of these weddings involve the coordination of customs and celebrations of two different cultures; Indian-Irish, French-Dutch, French-Lebanese, French-American, and Malaysian-Chinese. Now, how’s that for diversity?

Mixed couples are quite the norms nowadays, prime example – Frédéric and I! In the increasingly mobile world, most friends that I’ve made since leaving Malaysia are as cosmopolitan as it gets. They have travelled widely, lived (and some still living) abroad, and how we’ve shared many expat experiences. Then, when love happens, chances are, two cultures would be at play.

When I was reading through The Discovery of France by Graham Robb, I couldn’t help but marvelled at his description of the pre-1900 France at a time when someone from the next village a few kilometres away would be branded a foreigner, from another pays and, in particular, a woman who married into the village would feel the chasm of being an outsider all her life. People who married outside their clain could be banished forever. Such a far cry from how it is today, where couples try to plan to celebrate Christmas in one country, and New Year in another, so both sets of parents won’t be upset that their children have not come home for the holiday season.

Is navigating an international relationship that tricky? Yes and no. There are many elements that are similar no matter where you go, such as love, respect, togetherness, chemistry, laughter, and ease of being. Others a tad trickier, such as defining moment of being in a relationship (e.g. verbal confirmation for many, first real kiss in French culture as unspoken rule), level of affections (e.g. is PDA acceptable or not?), dating culture (e.g. only one person at a time vs many dates in the same period to choose one out of them), and expectations (e.g. religion, familial, definition of romance, etc).

[Pssst… Jenny, a fellow expat in Paris, is trying to bring the reality of French-expat relationship as a web series – you can support the pilot episode of L’Amour (or less…) via Kickstarter.]

Should all go swimmingly, then the progression of things could eventually bring forth the issue of marriage and family, not necessarily both nor in this order. Now other little things crop up – wedding ceremony and rituals, integration of guests from different culture / language / origin, language(s) of choice during gatherings as well as those for the kid(s) to learn as mother tongue, choice of education, parenting style, and so forth.

For this summer though, I’m getting the front row seat to those pertaining to weddings. I’ve just been introduced to the concept of animations – some show-and-tell and sometimes, games – in French weddings, which is fun and fascinating at the same time but more importantly, a real celebration of the lives of the newlyweds! In fact, a very close friend has just asked me if I would lead the animations for her wedding. There should be something French, something American, with a touch of Irish. I’ve got my work cut out for me there!

I’ll come back again in a few months, after attending a few more French-expat weddings, with my observations. Could be interesting too to contrast it against what I know of my family customs? (For the record, no, this is not a hint of any kind and I’m still just happily PACSed, no change of status. By the way, we’ve just hit the 6 months mark on Monday!)

Another thing that I have not yet mention is that I’m now properly inducted into my “extended French family”. Last weekend’s wedding was that of Frédéric’s cousin so I’ve met many aunts and uncles and cousins along the way, and the mother of the bride openly called me her niece! It was nice to finally put faces to names that I’ve heard in conversations, and equally for those whom I’ve not met before, they also went “so glad we’ve met at last – I’ve heard much about you”. I hope they’ve heard of good things ;)

Category: Musing

Tagged: , , , ,

6 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    Wedding season for u eh…enjoy the celebrations and they do trigger some thinking along the way hehehe ;)

    globalization…mixed couples are part of the deal ya

    • Lil says:

      LOL… no triggering anything, we’ll just take things as they come along and as long as we are happy, that’s good enough for me :)

  2. Sarah says:

    I’m in a “mixed” relationship and I suppose how easy/difficult it can be depends on the couple themselves. For us, it’s really not that difficult but French/Irish do have quite a lot of shared culture (for example, there are no religious difficulties, we were both brought up Catholic and are now atheist, our families have the same religious culture). Also I think a lot of complications can remain hidden or ignored til the thorny issue of children and how to raise them comes up!

    • Lil says:

      True that, especially about hidden complications till the next generation comes along. I guess I also see it from the other side where I have a rather Asian upbringing but my adult outlook is a lot more European, so there’s this funny mix of behaviour that comes from me!

  3. Jo says:

    So happy to hear how you are settling into a new life with F. Made my heart melt…

Scribble a note

Notify me!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.