Intercultural love then and today - from Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius to Pekka Haavisto and Nexar Antonio Flores
Intercultural relationships are by no means a new phenomenon. The names and stories of intercultural couples can be read from the pages of magazines and novels, the Bible, history books, plays and poems: Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Othello and Desdemona. What is a new phenomenon, however, is that the number of intercultural couples is rising rapidly worldwide.
For a long time intercultural relationship was mainly reserved for the elite: the well-off and famous, and the royalty. Today, intercultural unions have become almost commonplace and in rich countries alone international marriages number at least 10 million. (The Economist, 2011) Famous modern day examples of intercultural couples include Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France and Italian-born singer Carla Bruni, and Carl XVI Gustaf, the king of Sweden and German-born Queen Silvia. Famous Finnish examples from the field of politics include the current Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb and the current Minister for International Development, Pekka Haavisto whose partners are the British-born lawyer Suzanne Innes-Stubb and Ecuadorian-born entrepreneur Nexar Antonio Flores respectively.
The children of intercultural couples are also increasingly showing in publicity and it is fair to say that intercultural families and intercultural people are a permanent and enriching part of Finnish society. Famous examples of grown-up children of intercultural families who have made their mark in the fields of entertainment, sports, culture and politics include Finnish-Spanish entrepreneur Laila Snellman, Finnish-Estonian author Sofi Oksanen, Finnish-American basketball player Gerald Lee Jr., Finnish-Kenyan Member of Parliament Jani Toivola, and Finnish-Portuguese singer Anna Abreu.
It would be impossible to describe a “typical” intercultural couple or a “typical” expatriate spouse. Intercultural couples and expatriate spouses are not a homogeneous category of people. Expatriate spouses, however, have one thing in common: they have all followed their hearts to a new country, and, by doing so, embarked on a journey that will change their lives forever. With that change comes opportunity, but also strain and worry, because migration is stressful no matter what the circumstances. The effects of migration are felt mostly by the expatriate spouse, but the home spouse and the couple’s relationship are also affected. Therefore, the success – or the failure as it may be – of the adjustment process of the expatriate spouse has an impact on her or his life as well as the life of the home spouse and the possible children of the couple.
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