How to Marry a Foreigner (in 500 simple steps)

For the record, I don’t mean to come across as negative in these blogs; I’m just trying to be real. For all of those bicultural couples who have been smooth sailing from day one, I’m super impressed, but I wonder if you really exist. If you do… this probably isn’t the blog for you- unless you want to share your secret.

It’s no secret here that our first year of marriage was anything but a “honeymoon period” and that year two and three were almost just as hard. There were a lot of good things that happened as well during those years, but this fourth year is when we can really see the proverbial fruit from those first three years of hard work. Now that I feel like I have some experience under my belt, I just want to express my process in case someone out there going through the same thing.

Sometime during our first year, I desperately typed in “how to marry a foreigner” on Google. True story. Skipping over all the residency process garbage, I actually found an about page describing how to marry a foreigner. It was all in 7 simple steps that were something like this:

  1. Go to a foreign country.
  2. Meet people from that country.
  3. Choose a foreigner that you are compatible with.
  4. Get to know the person and confirm your compatibility.
  5. Understand laws and conditions about marriage in your home country and the other person’s home country.
  6. Marry the person.
  7. Decide where you will live and begin the process of gaining legal residency.

Sounds pretty simple to me. I remember wondering why I was being such a wimp if it was an easy process. I mean, didn’t anyone else have to wait three and a half years to receive a one-year temporary residency permit because the Costa Rican government lost your original marriage certificate and claimed you never submitted it (even though you have a form from them saying you submitted it)? Didn’t anybody else have fights in Spanglish even though they were “compatible”? Didn’t any other Gringa decide to not change her last name lest her children be named with two same last names? Was anyone else laughed at in the U.S. when they wrote their address on immigration forms as “200 meters south of the former Burger King, first yellow house on the left”?  After reading this, I definitely started having a “woe is me” moment.

Well, the good news is I’ve grown since then and I’ve realized that while getting married to someone is pretty simple, it’s the actual marriage that isn’t so simple.  It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but I have gotten to know myself, Albin, and God in amazing ways. I’ve learned to navigate (better) through Costa Rican bureaucracy, to fight in my second language, and to get over the fact that I didn’t change my last name. Not only have I learned to drive a stick shift in the madness that is CR transit, but I’ve also learned to follow and give directions by only using present (and past) landmarks.

What I’ve learned the most is that with time, foreign things become less foreign and can even become, dare I say, charming (except for immigration, that God-forsaken place will always be foreign and NEVER charming).

So that being said, I think the list could go on and on and be called “How to Marry a Foreigner in 500 simple steps.” For now though, I’ll simplify and rewrite those original 7 steps and add one of my own.

  1. Pray. A lot.
  2. If you meet someone from another culture and feel they might be “the one”, pray even more and think about what each of the following steps imply.
  3. Recognize that bringing two people together from different cultures requires a lot of work and ask yourself if you’re willing to do that work, and possibly live far from home.
  4. Get to know that person and start seeing a godly counselor. Now.
  5. Understand laws and conditions about marriage in your home country and the other person’s home country. Go into this process with more patience that you’ve ever had. Expect things to be frustrating, to make no sense at all, and to never be a simple process. Have no expectations and you won’t be disappointed. Prepare for long lines, different answers from every person you talk to, and more forms than you’ve ever seen in your life.
  6. Marry the person. No joke, the wedding planning will be a breeze compared to proving you’re not an illegal alien. I mean, haven’t you ever seen the final interview scene from The Proposal? If you haven’t, I’ve included the link for your viewing pleasure.
  7. Prayerfully decide where you will live and then begin the process of gaining legal residency.
  8. Become a team. This means that you pray (more) together, wait in line together, fight for one another, hate immigration together, don’t go to bed angry with one another, don’t blame the other person for a ridiculous trait their country has, have lots of sex (to release tension acquired at immigration), and encourage one another. It’s the only way.
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