“One of the most profound effects of globalisation is that people from everywhere are falling in love with people from everywhere else.”
–Wendy Williams, The Globalisation of Love
I first came across Wendy Williams’ The Globalisation of Love in an article called, “Why ‘expat’ is a misleading term for multicultural couples.”
(And no, in case you were wondering, this Wendy Williams is not the talk show host, the lead singer of the Plasmatics, the transsexual pornography star, or the author of The Best Bike Paths of New England. FYI.)
One of Wendy’s central claims is that expat couples are profoundly different from multicultural couples.
As a Canadian married to an Austrian and building a family in Vienna, she is often referred to as part of an “expat couple” despite the fact that her husband and her Austrian-born daughter are both actually in their native country.
As she writes,
Typically, expats enjoy a long list of job perks to deal with the “stresses” of life abroad, so they get free rent, paid trips back to the motherland and private school for the kids. Paying income tax seems to be optional.
Expats are like visitors to a country: they deal with external issues like culture, language, and religion.
A multicultural relationship, by contrast, is one where each partner is from a different country or culture. Multicultural couples… deal with issues like culture, language, and religion within the relationship. [They] do not usually have the job perks of expats.
Most of all, regardless of where they live—or whether they shuttle between their respective countries—in a multicultural relationship
there is a sense of permanence about the geography. The imported partner is an immigrant really, although “immigrant” has taken on some negative connotations in our nilly-willy live-here-work-there globalized society.
As I get closer to the official two-year anniversary of my time here in Sweden, I’ve been thinking more and more about the difference between being an immigrant and being an expat as well as how my experience here compares to the experiences I had as a project manager in Austria and as a student in Italy.
In many ways, I’m still an outsider to Swedish society and I always will be. Nonetheless, barriers between Sweden and me are slowly but surely evaporating.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m still a newbie at this whole “multicultural couple” thing, so I got in touch with Wendy to learn more about the challenges that stay lay in store. She graciously agreed to shed light on some of the issues her book examines.