Foreign vs. Local Exchange

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Have you ever thought of marrying a westerner? What’s it like? What would your mother say? Would he make you leave Egypt? Would there be serious culture clashes? Or would it bring about positive changes in your life?

There is nothing new about marrying a foreigner. In fact it has been going on for quite a while. AntonyEgypt and Rome by getting married way back in 44 BC and it was still a stigma back then. and Cleopatra unified

Many Egyptians marry foreigners, whether it is an Egyptian woman marrying a foreign man or vice versa. But what sort of problems emerge when couples mix and match? Does it work out better? Or do culture differences get in the way and civilizations clash?

Clash of Civilizations

I married a British man almost two years ago. It was different than meeting an Egyptian man. He was caring and romantic but at the end of the day – he was a foreigner, not only because he was from another country, but also and more importantly, because he was foreign to me. He looked foreign. There were cultural differences which took me a while to understand. But by both sides being flexible and patient, we were able to cross the divide, bridge that gap, make our wedding vows and bring our families together from across the world for the wedding!

Marrying a foreigner means exchanging Arab habits for Western habits and vice versa. What kind of habits? Well, the funny thing is that the bad habits Arabs have, are totally different from the bad habits you find in the Westerners. Westerners are more liberal than Arabs. Arabs are more emotional than Westerners.

Arabs like to talk about their personal problems and families more than they like talking about politics, global warming and art. Yet Arabs concentrate more on their families and their partners more than they concentrate on their professional life. Westerners grow up thinking how they can become independent; Arabs grow up thinking when will I get married and have a bunch of kids.

Independence for Westerners also means having a family, but along the way love and relationships go without saying. With Arabs, love and relationships sometimes takes years of trial and error, before finding true love and a future companion.

There are so many pros and cons it can make your mind spin. If you look too far into the future with any relationship than it can make your head spin. But here are some key questions to ask, before running off and marrying a westerner:

Is he aware of my cultures and traditions?

Am I aware of his culture and traditions?

How would your family feel if you came home with a European or an American man?

What would their questions be? Would you be able to convince them?

What about religion?

But most of all, the questions you need to ask yourself are do we love each other? And would he take care of me?


Some of these questions you might think you can tick off right away. Some might be more difficult! The key is there always needs to be flexibility and compromise from both sides in any relationship – and from both families – if love sparks are going to fly!

Anna and Ahmed married a year ago. Anna is from Italy and Ahmed is Egyptian. “Ahmed is my second husband, I was married to an Egyptian also before him but we got divorced because of his mother, she interfered in our life all the time and I couldn’t bear it. But I did not give up on Egyptian men, I met Ahmed and fell head over heels when I met him. I loved the way he made sure no one would bother me in the street, how he was is very caring to me and at the same time conservative. I don’t like Italian men, they are not for me. I have many Italian friends – but I am happy with just being their friends.”

Noura is Iraqi, married four years ago to a British man. For her the most important issue was always religion. “It was very important for my husband to convert to Islam before I met him. Seth converted years before we even met, so my parents accepted him immediately. Marrying a westerner has it advantages and disadvantages, just like marrying an Arab I guess. But I think I am happier with Seth than with an Iraqi man. Our marriage definitely widened both our horizons and now we travel back and forth between Britain and the Middle East often. Traveling made us make new friends and also to learn to accept other people, no matter how different they might seem to us. I think it is better to marry foreigners, from another nationality. You get more out of life.”

But intermarriage does not suit everyone. Mahitab from Oman lives in London but her family is against marrying foreigners. They would never accept anyone from a different culture or religion to take their daughter. “It is difficult,’ said Mahitab, ‘especially living in London. Besides my family I don’t meet many other Omanis here, unless I get a chance to travel back to Oman to see my relatives. It is a tribal thing. I do not have a boyfriend now, but if I did, he should be Omani so my family would accept him.”

So if you have ever thought a marrying someone from another country, then don’t give up the dream! We are all human beings and learning new cultures improves our views of other people. Understanding, trust and love is what maintains a healthy relationship- and that’s what we should worry about most!

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