International relationships are very romanticized. There are plenty of movies, TV shows and books that have couples meeting unexpectedly in far-off lands with nothing that can keep them apart. What nobody mentions, thinks about or even pushes to talk about is paperwork. Paperwork is not so sexy; the idea that every country has immigration laws never seems to occur to anyone.
Like in all relationships, there are forces that are not in your control. In this case, those forces are two nations dictating how you and your loved one are allowed to live your lives. If he is allowed to get a job here. If I can live there. Each government will question the legitimacy of your relationship and determine the access you can have to each other. Talk about big brother.
There are other things that stand out in an international relationship like cultural differences. I said before that Swedes think if something is worth doing then it’s worth doing right. They apply this to everything. It’s noticeable on their roads which are made to last forever. I have been told countless times that American roads are rough and bumpy. The Swedish government filters their water so well that they don’t need to put chlorine in their pools. My Swedish boyfriend Joel can’t stand the taste of American tap water.
My American response to all of this is to be grateful. The roads still do their job and the water isn’t going to kill me anytime soon. Yes, the landlord installed a crappy dishwasher, but at least we don’t have to wash everything by hand. I would prefer that everything was nice and reached the very high standards of the Swedish people, but there is only so much I can do. What can sound like complaining to the American grandmother is just a Swedish person with an opinion.
I think food is a nice perk of two people coming together from different parts of the world. Most of the Swedish food I have been introduced to I have liked a lot, which is saying something. Anyone who has had a meal with me knows just how picky I can be. Everything from classic Swedish meatballs (without onions, when possible), to this salmon noodle dish I love and all the pastries. Oh, and Swedish strawberries. Yes, they are different. In return, I taught Joel the luxuries of college cooking. Simple things like grilled cheese and mac and cheese. I also introduced him to pecan pie, sweet potatoes and good barbecue.
After four years of an international relationship, I would have to say the good outweighs the bad, but it’s not for everyone. And that is OK. Either way, there will still be some paperwork we will have to fill out before I get to move to Sweden.