When you fall in love with someone from another country, it just happens. Then what comes after that takes more effort. You have to learn to love the other culture you’ve thrown your lot in with. That process is, and will continue to be, a joy for Marina and me.
Here’s an article that describes some of what I’ve learned about how life is organized in Europe. I followed the same course, roughly, as the author. Though I have to admit, I was never as skeptical as he was. Perhaps that’s because I was given humanist values by my mother, and I always understood that something wasn’t working right in my homeland.
Another great example is something I told Mari the other day. She said something about a dream for the future. I told her, “Congratulations! A little-known benefit of marrying an American is that you are entitled to the American dream. As long as we are together, if you can dream it, we will work to make it happen.”
This is not fluff-speak. The problem of “self advancement” is a serious one for Europeans, and particularly for Swiss, who see themselves as coming from very small cantons deep in the middle of a very small country (the “we’re just a bunch of farmers” effect). There are some Swiss people who look down on those who seek to improve themselves. There are some who criticize their neighbors when they travel too far, or study too much. Entrepreneurialism is much more rare in Europe. The most active, engaged, and entrepreneurial Europeans I have ever met live in Silicon Valley. They have to escape, they can’t imagine a life stuck in the rank and file of Siemens biding their time until they get a turn to be a boss and have a tiny bit of control.
At the same time I’m coming to understand what real social welfare is, Marina is coming to understand what the freedom to dream is, and what it feels like when any dream (big or small) is met with “Great! Let’s go do it!”