Belonging. It's a feeling we all strive for. And in a 'normal' situation (if ever a thing existed) it is hard enough. But you add a different culture to the mix and it makes it a little more tricky.
A fellow North-American-wife-of-a-Brazilian mentioned this in the comments when I put up the original post. "Sometimes it can be bittersweet as you don't feel you fully fit in on either side." Yes, this is a true aspect of it that I didn't talk about/think about last time. The truth is it is easier for me. I live in my country, around my family, speak my language, and eat my food. I dabble my toes in the Brazilian life for a couple minutes here or a couple of months there. And yes, there are times when I realize I do not belong.
Like when I try to communicate with someone at the store and it comes out "cute", when really I want to be able to fully express myself and taken seriously. Or even here in the States at a Brazilian get-together and they laugh at jokes that make no sense to me yet do not understand my reference to Gilligan... (hey, Dude was wearing a red polo and a sailor hat, what was I supposed to say?). Mostly simple things, but things that remind you that the people you are surrounded by do not have the same understanding as you.
It can be something as basic as mentioning how much I love brownies or chocolate chip cookies -- and I am met with blank stares.
Yet I have the easy side of it. I just pull out some ingredients and show what these 'cookie-things' are all about. And then I step back into my world one month later/ten minutes later, and chalk it up to a fun cultural experience.
|Making cookies with the family. And yes, I visited Costco before we traveled ;)|
I asked him about this the other day. "It's hard," he said, "because my friends today cannot understand my past, or what makes me me. And yet my family and friends that I have had my entire life cannot understand my life today and what I am living. So I don't fully fit in in either place anymore." As far as I can tell, this is the truth for any ex-pat. It was true for me while living in Palau and Ebeye, it is true for Americans living in Brazil, it is true for a Brit living in Hong Kong. And it can be a hard truth.
|Brazilian man and American grandpa enjoying checkers at the Cracker Barrel|
However, it doesn't mean it is a bad truth. He is happy where he is today. And he works to build the bridge between the two worlds he inhabits, while I work hard along beside him to help make that happen. Skype is well used in this house. Plane tickets are purchased for us to go there or for them (those who can) to come here. Friendships are made based off of common interests today instead of what happened yesterday. Some of his closest friends today are American; some of my best girlfriends are Brazilian. Trips are made the market in town that sells Guarana Antartica and then we head out for In n' Out. We keep our mind open to new things. And in the end we remember this: we don't need to always belong out there, as long as we belong in here. Because here, in our little family of two, we both fully belong.
Really, isn't that what marriage is all about anway?
(Original post for Living in a Dual Cultural World)