By Ada Albert
It all started on a snorkelling boat in the Philippines for Will Hawkes and Suki Choi. Will is a Physics Graduate at Cambridge University and Suki is a joyful girl who graduated in both Chinese Politics and Tesol.
Will works for HSBC, while Suki offers her valuable time to a Church in North London to teach English to newcomers.Their union is another wonderful example of cross cultural marriages, where Will is an Essex boy, from Chelmsford, while Suki is from Young Yang, South Korea.
We met on a snorkelling boat at Borocay island in the Philippines in August 2000 although we were both living in Taiwan. We soon became friends but we actually started dating from May 2001. We both could speak Mandarin Chinese so that was our first common language to communicate in. We loved watching Chinese movies together and we explored Taiwan on Will’s scooter.
We Deeply Respect Each Other’s Culture
Pros – I have learned a lot about the world, not only about his country but also other parts of the world too. Partly because we have lived in a number of different countries, I am not afraid of facing anybody from a different place, as I am now very open to learn and understand it.
Cons – we still have misunderstandings between us because of language. We deeply respect each other’s culture but we constantly tease and sometimes criticise each others culture too. For example I might say that English puddings are too heavy, and he would say that sitting on the floor like Koreans do, is torture.
“We Are No Longer Aware About Any Difference.”
Being Married with a Woman from a Different Culture
I’ve not been married to someone from the same culture so I haven’t got anything to compare it to! However, clearly, coming from two different continents has of course had a huge impact on the nature of our marriage. We started out living in countries foreign to both of us – which was quite a uniting experience – then more recently we’ve managed to live in both Korea and the UK, which has enabled us to know each others culture, language, food and (most importantly) families much better. As such, after 11 years of marriage I’m not aware of cultural differences so much as personality differences that you’d get in any marriage.
Challenges of Raising an International Family
My observation is that marriage is an incredibly complex undertaking where two people have to work every day to ensure it’s a success. Spending your life with someone from a different cultural background means you have to work even harder on your marriage, because it’s pretty likely there will be more misunderstandings or areas of conflict versus marrying within your own culture. So although it’s worked for us, perhaps strangely it’s not something I’d recommend to everyone.
Fortunately, Suki and I knew when we got married that we shared strong common underlying Christian values, meaning we haven’t had much conflict around the “bigger” marital issues such as money – although that doesn’t protect us from disagreements about whether the bathroom light should have been left on upstairs…
Another feature has been the challenges of raising an international family. We’ve tried to raise our children in an environment to be comfortable in both the English and Korean mono-cultures, and global multicultural languages, and also to feel part of two families living on entirely different continents. Not easy but we’ve managed to make it work to some extent.