when i was still single, many years ago, i met up with one of my best friends from elementary school. she was married with a cute little daughter at that time, and she herself is part Indonesian and part Australian, while her husband is part Indonesian and part Filipino. they had been living in the Philippines for a while, and she told me how, whenever she and her husband were out in the marketplace to buy everyday groceries, the lady-sellers would always tell the husband how lucky he was. she said the exact word they used to describe her was a “jackpot” (pronounced like “yuck-pot” :D). so i had to ask, what did they mean?
apparently, those old ladies believe that for a Filipino to land a foreigner spouse was like winning a jackpot.
fast forward a few years, i was going on a tour around Central Java with my parents and my boyfriend (who is now my husband). we were relaxing in the Borobudur temple area, after climbing the temple in the heat, and my dad suddenly beckoned me… he was surrounded by some lady-sellers who were trying to sell him all kinds of souvenirs. my boyfriend was intrigued too, of course. it was his first time visiting Indonesia, so everything colourful that moved intrigued him, i guess. 😀 anyway, we both came closer to my dad, and as soon as the ladies saw that i was with my boyfriend, they said pretty much the same thing as what my friend told me happened to them in the Philippines. things like, “your boyfriend is a foreigner? how convenient, how lucky!”
there it was again. what has luck got to do with your lover’s/spouse’s origin? and how does your lover’s/spouse’s origin define your life’s luck? either way, i didn’t get it, so i had to ask them myself, “what do you mean?” though i could pretty much guess what they meant, i dared them to explain the connection between foreigner lover/spouse = lucky.
all they could come up with was, “well, at least you can go abroad. that is lucky compared to our lives here.”
this saddened me even more, so in the end i did not bother questioning them any further. we bought some souvenirs from them (just to make them happy! yes, we’re sharing our luck with you!) and as we walked away, i told my boyfriend what the conversation was all about (since it was all in Indonesian). he was baffled as well, but we decided to drop it.
the truth is, there are so many people in my country, and perhaps the whole Asia, who actually believes that. if you can get yourself a foreigner spouse, get the hell out of your own country and you will live happily ever after. this believe creates a trend called bule-hunter in Indonesian language (bule = foreigner), where women (i guess men too, but mostly women) devote their life to get a foreigner husband, no matter how old he is, what he looks like, where he’s actually from, what his hobbies are, whether or not they can communicate with each other (some of the women bule-hunters don’t even speak English), whether or not he’s actually sane, etc. and then, as soon as they got married, off they went to their husbands’ country, with the illusion that they will be happy, rich, and lucky in all aspects, at least luckier than when they were still in their home country.
for some of them, that probably comes out as true. good for them. and i’m not one to judge those who don’t turn out to be so lucky.
instead, i want to tell you my story.
in case you couldn’t tell, i’m not one of those bule-hunters. in fact, it was a surprise even to myself that i ended up marrying a blonde (!) guy. i’ve always been more interested to the typical “tall, dark, and handsome”, and in my case, that would usually mean Asian. (more specifically, Indonesian. or Japanese. oh yes.) but after dating some of them, and kept failing in those relationships, i began to care less about the looks and just searched for a companion who i could feel comfortable with. a companion for my soul, so to speak.
that was NOT when my husband came to the picture. 😀
because truthfully, he was already there back in my teenage years. we’ve been online-friends from 1998, and somehow, miraculously we stayed friends through so many years. never for once did i even imagine that we were going to actually meet one day, let alone get married. i’m not gonna go into the details, but in short, as we were talking online one day, after i just got through yet another failed relationship, i felt that he was actually, maybe, the companion i was looking for. as it turned out, he was feeling the same way, so we decided to give it a try.
the trial went more successful than we both could have imagined, as you all know now. 😀 when we were talking about our future, before we got married, we had to decide the most obvious “problem”. where should we live?
it wasn’t as straight-forward as what those old ladies thought. sure i wouldn’t mind living abroad, but i would be all alone, no family member to turn to should something go wrong, living in a country whose language i couldn’t speak, and what was i going to do? my husband-to-be was not a millionaire, i couldn’t just live off of his income. in my hometown, i was not rich either, and i lived with my parents, but at least i had a job and business to run. i was somebody there. in Finland, i would be a nobody. but thinking about what would be best for our family (including if/when one day we have a child), it was finally decided that i was to move to Finland.
and so began my “lucky” life. my husband was working at a cleaning service company at that time, while waiting for the right job to come. our house was empty except for our bed, sofa, dining table & their chairs, a small desk & my husband’s laptop. we had no TV, so if we wanted to watch anything, we had to rely on the laptop. i could not cook AT ALL, so we lived by eating frozen foods and sometimes during the weekends my husband would cook spaghetti. since he was the one who had to go to work, i was left with the house chores. cleaning the house, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, ironing the clothes… things i never had to worry before when i was still living with my parents in Jakarta. my entertainment was going online to chat with my mum and sister, and occasionally going to the library to borrow some books. we were broke, all the time, but we were together, so that was okay.
then i finally got my residence permit, and almost subsequently, i got in to a Finnish language course. not long after that, my husband also got a job that was actually in his own field. in here, when your household income doesn’t exceed a certain amount, you can get support from the government. since i went to the language course and our household income was lower than the standard, we got that support. so, life was good. 🙂 i learned how to cook, we divided our duties in the house, i had my mum visiting me for a while, and we even managed to save a bit of money for a trip to Barcelona.
the next year was rough. just when i was about to finish my language course (still jobless), the company my husband worked at went bankrupt. up to that point, i had been in some job interviews, but none of them brought any luck. all i could do was pray that somehow, help would come through. and it did. 🙂 i got offered a small job at the place where i did my internship as part of my language course, and even if it was small, but i thought it was a good start. i only did 2-3 days of work per week, and got the lowest possible salary since i had no job experience at all in Finland.
for some time, that was our family’s condition. gradually, i got more and more working hours. my husband had difficulties finding another job in his own field, so he did his best to do freelance jobs instead. meanwhile, my friends in my hometown proudly told me how they got this and that job, got promoted, and told stories of how they could go out to this or that new restaurant or cafe every week, and watch the latest movies every other day… i could not even eat out if i wanted to, every last penny went to our bills, we never had any extra savings for any kind of entertainment. if you compare these two conditions, would you really think mine was “luckier” than theirs?
after a few years, i finally got a significant raise at work, and my husband also got a temp job that paid quite well. when we both worked and made steady income, we finally managed to save some money. the first thing we did was go to Indonesia for a holiday. i met up with my friends, whom i’ve missed very much… only to be disappointed by my own expectations. 3,5 years of not seeing one another made such a difference, i found that i could no longer connect to the things they did and felt like i used to. the things they thought were important were on the most bottom part of my own list. their idea of fun was to go to the malls and shop, whilst all i could do was watch them doing it, because even though i did have the money, i would rather save it and use it for something more meaningful than that.
when we went back to Finland, things were back to square one (well, almost). i kept on working, my husband’s temp job ended and he was back in doing freelance works. this continued again until the end of 2012, when my husband finally launched his own product. now he was back on his feet, making his own business, and though the income is not as steady as mine, it is still a big help compared to solely living off of my own income. and since i’ve been working at the same company now for years, nowadays i get quite a good salary. now, after years of working hard, we finally manage to save some of our money and travel somewhere for holidays.
but a few things are hard to change. for example, i still don’t go out to cafes or restaurants with my friends. in all my 7,5 years of living here, i’ve only gone out to see a movie at the cinemas 5 or 6 times. i don’t go out shopping (i would go out just to see the latest trends and then go home and try to make the clothes myself). the only things i can’t refuse to buy are fabrics. but other than that, i only buy what i need, with very occasional splurge like when there was that crazy book sale. 😀
now back to the main topic. if i could meet those old lady-sellers again, i would love to tell them my story. tell them that i am no different than them. regardless of where you live, who your spouse is, where your spouse is from, we all have our own challenges and privileges. sure, i do feel lucky, lucky that i found my soul’s companion, and am able to spend my days with him. but no matter where we live, i would still feel just as lucky. and if he wasn’t a foreigner, i would still feel just as lucky.
if you were one of those who has that kind of illusion about foreigners and life with them, or living abroad, i hope my story would make you realize that we are all equal. luck has nothing to do with it, and it’s no use to envy what other people have or to mock what other people don’t have. if you truly understand it, then you would agree with me, that we should all feel lucky. 🙂