What makes for a good couple? Our Japanese-language writer muses on her own marriage to a French husband and its notable quirks.

We live in an age of various and exciting holidays. As I write this, it’s April 24, which a cursory google tells me is National Pigs in Blankets Day (mmm!) while the Japanese calendar dubs it Tea Ceremony Day. Indeed, the Japanese calendar contains all sorts of fun holidays based on word play (Pocky Day, for example) and Good Couples Day, celebrated both on April 22 and November 22 since 1994, is no exception.

Seeing how April is the fourth month, and you can read four in Japanese like “yo”, it only takes a little tweak to turn it into yoi, or “good.” Meanwhile, 2 can be read in Japanese as fu, making 22 look like fufu, the Japanese word for “spouse.” This year, April 22 got our Japanese-language writer Sweetsholic, a married woman herself, thinking about what makes a good couple, and how her own marriage to a foreign gentleman might differ from typical Japanese couples.

▼ Frolicking around trees is a great couple pastime no matter your nationality.

Sweetsholic arrived at the conclusion that international marriages come in all shapes and sizes, and can differ down to the tiniest detail: how you choose your engagement ring, for instance.

But here’s her list of some points that cropped up in her own marriage to a French man, and they seem fairly consistent with other comments Japanese women have made about foreigner husbands:

  • “My husband showers in the morning and doesn’t understand why Japanese people like to bathe in the evening.”
  • “Even when eating at home we will serve food in courses like at a restaurant; an appetizer then the main course, and so on.”
  • “We eat a shockingly massive amount of meat.”
  • “My husband never cooks without butter, fresh cream, cheese, sour cream and the like.”
  • “He likes foods like ramen, tonkatsu, beef bowls and curry, but I can’t make him understand the appeal of foods like natto, umeboshi or stewed items with a mild flavor.”
  • “Honey, please stop putting soy sauce on your rice when we have plenty of salty side dishes!”
  • “He actively helps me around the house with cooking, cleaning, and other chores.”
  • “I say it’s fine so long as he cleans up the mess afterwards, but it does bug me when he just wanders around inside with his shoes on…”
  • “We go out to many places as a couple.”
  • “My husband is very close to his mother (he calls her about once a week).”
  • “French husbands are thrifty with their spending.”
  • “He tells me je t’aime (I love you) every day and looks very sad if I don’t say it back.”
  • “VERY physically intimate, so much so that it would probably feel cloying to most Japanese wives.”
  • “Naturally we flirt at home, but he also wants to flirt a lot in public, too.”
  • “The amount of times “love” comes up is much higher than with Japanese men; it comes up every day.”
  • “Even in the morning right after I get up, with no make-up on, he tells me “Tu es belle” (You are beautiful).”
  • “Conversely his reactions are always very intense when I do put effort into my make-up. (I think French people prefer the natural look.)
  • “If you have a fight with your partner, you can’t just run home to your parents right away.”
  • “When I get angry with him, I use Japanese that he doesn’t understand to complain about him. Unfortunately, I think he’s learned the meaning of kusoyaro.”

She went on to speculate that while it’s easy to have a passionate affair across cultures and countries, marriage makes things complicated. The two of you need to consider your lives and make a commitment going forward, and that’s difficult even for people with a shared culture; so in this regard international marriages can be a challenge.

In Sweetsholic’s case, she had already lived in France for 10 years before meeting the man she would marry in Japan (and in a strange twist of fate, his hometown was the same city in South France where she had lived). This meant she could avoid some of the more intense bouts of culture shock, and while she didn’t speak French as easily as her native Japanese or even English, she knew enough to get by. Her in-laws are also great people, all of which made the process considerably smoother.

Still, though, there are times when living half a world away from your parents and old friends can wear you down. Thankfully we are long past the days of expensive international phone calls, and have useful apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Discord to communicate across the world!

The fact is that divorce rates are high, and are especially high for international couples, but by striving for mutual respect and communicating well you can celebrate Good Couples’ Day at your full potential as partners. It’s a big commitment to get married, especially across cultures, but it can be really worthwhile…and honestly, sometimes the differences between the two of you keep life interesting!

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Insert image: Pakutaso

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