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British Expat Newsletter:
7 September 2005

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Weddings
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Joke and quotation

This week

“I have often heard it said/ From my father and my mother/ That going to a wedding/ Was the making of another…” That’s as may be, but the obligation to attend weddings doesn’t stop even after you’re married yourself. Dave and I used to get frequent invitations from his work colleagues on the South Asian subcontinent, not so much because they were particularly close friends as because it was the done thing there. And great big extravaganzas they were, too, often going on for days rather than hours in the most extreme cases. They probably rivalled – or even outstripped – the cost of UK weddings, even the ones with coach and horses, men in grey toppers and all that.

More seriously, the expense used to (and still does, I’m sure) get families into debt which they could never repay. Many Indian families have lost their land because the father of the bride had taken out loans for great feasts for his daughters’ marriages, debts at usurious rates of interest which were then redeemed by land seizure.

The customs and rites surrounding weddings can be very elaborate and colourful. In India, for example, the bride leaves her family home to move into the groom’s parents’ house – and the groom traditionally comes to fetch his bride on a white horse which is decked out in red and gold finery. We used to feel quite sorry for the poor bride and groom, who generally had to sit under a canopy decked out in their finery for hours on end – without eating – while all the guests filed past to hand over their presents and offer their congratulations.

Several years ago I went to a wedding reception which was done Afghan style. Thus I spent the afternoon drinking Pepsi with women who were covered head to toe in voluminous “shuttlecock” burkhas, which is typical attire for most Afghan women. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been an Afghan couple who were getting married. But it was a pair of pretentious Americans! Tsk!

Most Pakistani weddings were similar but western women usually had the option of sitting with the women or joining in the men’s party. I found this “honorary man” thing to be quite common in various Middle Eastern countries too. It was perfectly acceptable for me to sit with the men, but quite often the host would take me behind the curtain to meet the women – a privilege which would never have been bestowed on any male guest. Thus I was able to see life from both sides of the curtain.

One wedding party I went to in Kurdistan was a jolly affair of folk-dancing and general fun, men and women mixing freely. (Someone once described Kurds as “Afghans who drink beer”. The description doesn’t really do them justice.) The only shadow which fell over the day was that wife number one had stayed at home in the huff because she didn’t approve of her husband marrying wife number two. Oh dear.

The arranged marriages/love matches debate is one which excites a great deal of curiosity – not to say passionate debate – in the West. It doesn’t seem to do the same in India. Although an increasing number of young men and women meet, fall in love and marry in the Western way, the Indian papers are still full of adverts from parents seeking suitable matches for their offspring. No-one seems very fussed about it. And, after all, it’s not that long ago that matchmaking was part and parcel of many Western societies.

Forced marriage is a very different matter, of course – where British women (or, more rarely, men) of South Asian origin are effectively kidnapped by their families, taken to the family’s country of origin and forced to marry a citizen of that country against their will, usually to enable the spouse to obtain entry to Britain. Not so very long ago entry clearance officers were empowered to refuse visas to spouses where they had grounds to believe that the marriage was undertaken primarily to gain entry to the UK – the so-called “primary purpose” provision. This has now been done away with, but the Government have now launched a consultation exercise to see whether forced marriage should be made a specific offence, rather than basing prosecutions on laws against kidnapping or assault.

Back to happier matters… Our own wedding in Bangladesh was cheap and cheerful, and great fun. Some weeks later we were surprised to receive an invitation from a branch of the Dhaka Lions Club to the “wedding breakfast of Dr McMahon and Mrs Kay”. I was somewhat surprised to have to make a speech. Dave had anticipated that he would be asked and had one prepared but I was – unusually for me – stuck for words. I had to do everything I could to avoid catching Dave’s eye as I knew that if I had done, I’d have had a fit of the giggles. Then I was expected to greet many people and pin lapel badges on them for some achievement they had attained. What a bizarre event! I also received a wedding gift from them – a dress! Strangely it was very nice and fitted me perfectly even though they’d never even seen me before.

Have you attended an interesting or unusual wedding recently or did you have an unusual wedding day? Why not tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

To find out more about the problem of forced marriage…

[Obsolete content and links deleted]

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • suva prison scary
  • howto loincloth
  • does going bald skip a generation
  • pidgin stupid mugu
  • does yous ears have some think to do with yous walking
  • poppadom against his head
  • jet-flying-belt
  • picture frangy pangy tree
  • tef exam dump
  • tomatoe end rot
  • it appears to affect those who were born prior to 1970
  • it gets my goat

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”

– Dave Meurer, US author, “Daze of Our Wives”

Joke

A lawyer got married to a woman who had previously been married 12 times. On their wedding night, they settled into the bridal suite at their hotel and the bride said to her new groom, “Please, promise to be gentle. I am still a virgin.”

This puzzled the groom, since after 12 marriages, he thought that at least one of her husbands would have been able to perform. He asked his new bride to explain why. She replied:

“My first husband was a sales representative who spent the entire marriage telling me, in grandiose terms, how great it was going to be.
“My second husband was from Software Services; he was never quite sure how it was supposed to function, but he promised he would send me documentation.
“My third husband was from Field Services and repeatedly said that everything was diagnostically OK, but he couldn’t get the system up.
“My fourth husband was from Educational Services, and you know what Bernard Shaw said: ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’
“My fifth husband was from the Telemarketing Department. He knew he had the order, but he wasn’t quite sure when he was going to be able to deliver.
“My sixth husband was an engineer. He told me that he understood the basic process but needed three years to research, implement, and design a new state-of-the-art method.
“My seventh husband was from Finance and Administration. He knew how, but he just wasn’t sure whether it was his job or not.
“My eighth husband was from Standards and Regulations, and he told me that he met the minimum standards but regulations weren’t clear on how to do it.
“My ninth husband was a Marketing Manager. Even though he had the product, he just wasn’t sure how to position it.
“My tenth husband was a psychiatrist. All he ever wanted to do was talk about it.
“My eleventh husband was a gynaecologist, and all he ever wanted to do was examine it.
“My twelfth husband was a stamp collector, and all he ever wanted to do was… – God I miss him!
“So now I’ve married you, and I’m really excited.”

“Why is that?” asked the lawyer, curious (if flattered).

“Well, it should be obvious! You’re a lawyer!! I just know I’m going to get screwed this time!”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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