Shortly before our wedding, my husband-to-be and I travelled to Zurich. Whilst wandering around the city one afternoon, I came across a small English bookstore in which a collection of short stories, Cupid’s Wild Arrows, caught my eye. Intrigued, I read it was edited by an American woman married to a Swiss and of course, bought the book. I then proceeded to laugh my way through very funny tales of mixed marriages – wonderful anecdotes by various authors in intercultural relationships ranging from English/German to Indian/French, from American/Lebanese to Iranian/Chinese.
The stories were immensely entertaining, but I didn’t particularly relate at the time. Approaching wedding bells had me under the impression (highly mistaken) that my husband and I were soul mates of an order that made the mere notion of differences between us ludicrous.
Fast forward. I might have been a trifle optimistic back in those pre-marital bliss days. Despite a wonderful relationship now in its 18th year, my husband and I are not only very different in all traditional male/female, Mars/Venus, XX/XY, simple/complex ways, we are also Swiss/American different. It just adds an additional layer of delight to an always stimulating relationship.
And of course, it's the differences that keep life interesting. It’s only a few areas in which they are, say - challenging.
Any good Swiss will say ‘if you are on time you are five minutes late.’ My husband was raised on this little maxim. I was not. In fact, it has caused untold angst over the years. Particularly as someone who prides herself on being reasonably on time – reasonable being the key concept here. The mere fact that an invitation says 8 o’clock does not necessitate ringing the bell at precisely 7:55, when chances are the hosts will still be showering.
Rule Following (as a general philosophy)
· Swiss Husband: yes, always, without question.
· American Wife: most of the time, probably, sometimes, maybe, if it suits.
Driving – Enormous cultural differences. Stressful ones.
· Swiss Husband: finds it completely normal to engage (with various degrees of frustration/temper/choice-Swiss-phrases) with complete strangers. In other cars. Particularly those unfortunate souls who might not be organized enough to have the exact amount of change prepared and so actually fumble for their wallets at tollbooths.
· American Wife: so what’s another minute more or less? Hope they don’t understand Swiss German.
· Swiss Husband: no-real-speed-limit-to-speak-of-Autobahn fast.
· American Wife: 65-mile-per-hour-since-state-troopers-could-be-lurking fast (which is to say, not very.) So what’s another minute more or less?
· Swiss Husband: elaborate menus planned well in advance but with ingredients purchased daily for maximum freshness and taste. No repetition in any given season. Starter, Main Course, Dessert.
· American Wife (at around 6 p.m): Wonder if there’s anything in the freezer that we could have for dinner tonight?
Cleanliness – I’ve mentioned this area before. It is one in which I not only appreciate my husband’s cultural heritage, I exemplify it. Like Switzerland’s finest, I have adapted to cleaning items no one but the Swiss would imagine could even be cleaned. As for my husband, suffice it to say he is not very Swiss in this regard, which just shows one should never stereotype.
Cupid, kindly take note!