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  • Swedish Husbands and Yemeni Wives October 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback

    A bit of non-history fluff today that has been going around and around in Beachcombing’s head: the strange compatibilities and incompatibilities of married couples from different cultures. When British Beachcombing himself happily tied the knot with his Italian wife a decade ago, he was told that married life with ‘foreigners’ was more interesting but more dangerous. And certainly statistics bear the second part of this formula out. Marriages between nationals from different countries are more likely to end in separation and heartbreak.

    So far so obvious. But Beach is particularly intrigued by the way that some nationality combinations happen more often and seem to work better. For example, Japanese-American/Canadian/British/Australian/New-Zealand marriages are fairly common.

    Or are they? Actually, a type of Japanese-American/Canadian/British/Australian/New-Zealand marriage is common. English-speaking-Japanese marriages are common between Japanese women and English-speaking men. However, the number of permanent relationships between English-speaking women and Japanese men are far less numerous. In other words not just culture but gender has to be taken into consideration.

    Beach had several friends who, took part in the Japanese JET Programme where English-speaking students are employed in Japan as English teachers. Beach has only anecdotal information here but he recalls the repeated observation that English-speaking women who went out on dates with Japanese men were the exception, whereas male English-speaking teachers courting Japanese women was the rule.

    Beach’s experience of Italy is likewise anecdotal but striking, for there does seem to be a similar pattern here. Anglo-Saxon men are more likely to marry Italian women and these marriages are more likely to work than sentimental partnerships between Anglo-Saxon women and Italian men.

    The only explanation for these biases that Beachcombing can find – and he can’t dig out numbers to back up his Italian experience – are the expectations that different cultures breed among men and women. Cultures in the world are often ranked in terms of the rights and spaces that they give women ranging from self-assertive feminist Sweden, where there has even been muttering about suppressing urinals, to traditional Yemen, where women are at the beck and call of their husbands, fathers and brothers.

    If Beach is right a woman would do better to marry up than down the list. A Yemenese woman marrying a Swedish man will be constantly amazed at the help and consideration shown, while the Swedish man will feel as if he is being treated like no man has any right to be treated, and will naturally love it. (Certainly, a less dramatic version of this operates in the Beachcombing family). However, whatever the levels of initial sexual attraction, God help the Swedish woman who marries a Yemenese man: they are both going to have a rocky, rocky ride…

    Beachcombing begs forgiveness for leaving the lovely green meadows of history and promises to return tomorrow: however, is there anything in his Swedish-Yemeni marriage formula? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    19 Oct 2011: TH writes in with her own take on this issue, ‘As someone with a Japanese mother and an American father, I think there is something to your theory concerning male feminism and intercultural marriages, but are you taking into account cultural perceptions of men and women from other races? In America, for example, the stereotypical East Asian woman (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, etc.) is Madame Butterfly, while her male counterpart is I. Y. Yunioshi; as such, Asian women are fetishized and thus more likely to be actively pursued than men, regardless of where individuals fall on the geisha/accountant axis. For that matter, how often in films and other fiction do white men wind up with ethnic women, and not the other way around? James Bond, has slept with an entire rainbow of women, and the white man/ethnic woman of the week pairing is hardly rare in cinema. However, off the top of my head I can’t think of a single white heroine who has been in a relationship with a non-white man that extended past “sexual menace.” Somehow, I don’t think the underlying assumption is that James Bond and his compatriots are caring and considerate feminists. There is, I think, a racial element somewhere in there. It would be interesting to look at data from internet dating sites like OKCupid; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the figures, but I recall that there were very clear and very depressing patterns, e.g. white women are most popular among men of most ethnic groups, while African-Americans (men and women) are rather less popular. I believe this is the article in question, and while I certainly wouldn’t base my worldview on it, the data is interesting’. Thanks TH!

    28 May 2014:  TW writes in: Marrying a foreign wife from a more patriarchal society may have its advantages. However, in the seven years I lived in Hong Kong, with many western acquaintances married to Chinese wives, there was one statement that could always guarantee protracted hollow laughter at parties. “Well, Dr. XXX, and how is your subservient Asian wife?” Even among my Japanese acquaintances the question of who ruled the roost was not always obvious. Seeing someone on the phone saying “Hai” repeatedly did not always imply that it was the boss from work. My own retiring spouse of thirty something years has all the demure qualities one would expect of a skydiving Irish colleen.’ Thanks TW!