So, Sister, You Want To Marry A Foreigner? A Guide To Making That Right Decision.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this but I feel compelled enough to write a simple guide for all the Malay Sisters out there who happen to be “sangkut hati” (attracted) to a foreigner. To be specific here: an expatriate – aka a White Guy.

George and I have been married for the past 3 years and yet I feel that I have been with him for the longest time (in a good way that is). He enhances my life and together we started charting our own stories, history, path, experience – whatever you want to call it and learn together. Together with him, I have re-discovered my beautiful religion and this time I am not alone in my quest to be a better person.

There is a check list that you may want to think through before taking the plunge because remember, most likely, this marriage is the second half of your life for both of you. So, do it right.

First things first.

These may mean nothing to you for now but trust me, they WILL:

1) Marital status – Is he single/divorced/separated, or are you not sure? The answer may be gotten just by asking. But wait. Don’t just stop there. If he is a divorcé, and if the relationship is “at a higher level”, go ahead and ask to see the copy of the divorce paper. Get it verified at his embassy. If he is separated, make sure he divorces his wife properly then marries you accordingly. Like I said, this may not mean anything to you or maybe to him for now, but it will haunt the both of you when the wife comes back and demands alimony. Divorce in western countries is expensive so many couples decide that separation would be the best exit strategy. For now. Sometimes the wife gets bitter and threatens to take the husband to the laundry, just simply because she feels that no one else deserves him. Does not matter that they have been separated for the last 10 years and they live 10,000 miles away from each other. Remember that there are many countries which have mutual extradition agreements and mutual agreements to enforce alimony orders.

If he avoids to address this issue, that’s a red flag.

2) Religion – is he already a convert? Soon to be convert? To a guy, getting his Yahoo to be P1-ed (“potonged”) is a big deal especially, when he has the original thing since day one. In addition, based on our experience of talking to other converts, there are two other main things that bother them a lot: food and alcohol. To be specific: oink! oink! products and beer. Is he willing to change his lifestyle to reflect a Muslim lifestyle and, the more important question: are YOU willing to guide him as well and make the necessary adjustments in your life so that both of you can benefit from this life transition?

Or, perhaps religion is not on the radar at all cause the sex is so fantastic that you think he is a great keeper? Think again. Cause when your family is busy doing a khenduri at home and he doesn’t want to come because he doesn’t know how to perform solat jemaah, trust me, you will run out of excuses for him one day.

3) Money issues – talk to each other about money issues. Who gets what and how much goes to where so that each decision is an informed one. Malays being Malays, we tend to beat about the bush on certain things. Or worse still, we do not talk about them. The last thing we want are surprises. Alimony and child support are expensive stuff.

If, by any chance you have never met this dude yet in real life (meaning you have only ever “met” him on FB/other online mode), and he wants to send you money. Not just any money, but a heck of a lot of money – that’s a red flag. The word that should spring right away in your mind is MONEY LAUNDERING. Or better still: LOVE SCAM.

4) Legal stuff – same as money issues. You need to address this. Doesn’t mean that because he is away from his home country that he gets away from legal stuff there. This often means taxes, alimony and child support. Their legal system may give them the right to pull back his passport or to seize his assets abroad. You do not want this to happen.

5) Skeletons in the closet (other than money and legal) – hmmm…this is not easy, as it involves morals, culture, and lifestyle, . Ask questions. Share your skeletons with him in return. Ask yourself whether you can live knowing “stuff” about him. See whether you are comfortable. Examples of skeletons in the closet: ex-girlfriends, sexual experiences, serious illnesses such as HIV, STDs, AIDS, cancer. Any life-changing illnesses that require you to make an informed decision over lifestyle. Not just for him, but in the family medical history. How about issues with abuse, addiction, or depression? Stuff like that.

Do a self-reflection

  • An expatriate is not a Malay and will never be a Malay. Understand that from the start. So when he says that he cannot stand the smell of durian, or cannot appreciate the taste of your masak assam pedas, and prefers his roast beef better, he means it! However, this does not mean that you must stop eating your favourite foods. You may eventually like his roast beef and he, your sambal belacan, so do not give up.
  • Malay culture is different from western culture. Ok, so the basics are the same: be respectful to elders, do unto others…yadda, yadda, yadda. But I can tell you there are at least a gadzillion other things that can be soooooooo different that if you do not discuss about them before you get hitched, there will be trouble. Simple example: pointing/touching with feet is forbidden in Asian culture but this may mean nothing to him. Remember, it works both ways. You are marrying into his culture too. Be open and flexible in your approach.
  • Sex – ahem! Another sensitive issue. I have been asked by a religious officer how to address the incompatible sexual expectations between the two people. The husband, because of the way his environment has been set up, has more exposure in this department. He may have more experience in ways other than plain man-on-top-woman-on-her-back sex. And you might feel…like a sex object. I cannot emphasize more that you should celebrate this union by exploring more than just plain vanilla sex – as long as it stays within what is allowable within the faith. Try new things, be sexy, feel sexy. Allow yourself to be wanted and the returns, my Sisters, are highly…..rewarding! But don’t do anything stupid,  such as asking how where he learnt all those sexy moves, or who is sexier: you or the last girlfriend/wife? It doesn’t help you. At all. Trust me.

So, give a thought about all these. The most important thing is to celebrate the differences between both of you. After all, those differences are what attracted both of you to each other.

Brown skin against pale white/pink skin. Your dark hair against his salt and pepper. Western guys, they say, make better gentlemen than many of their Asian counterparts. I know there are great Asian guys out there but I can only vouch for my own guy as he is the ultimate perfect soul partner, friend, lover and husband.


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