This is a global world we live in. Especially with Internet access, we can connect with people and cultures from all over the world. Isn’t it great? This definitely includes online dating. And with so much foreign travel and even people picking up and moving to foreign countries, it’s easy to see why there are a growing number of couples from different cultures dating each other. For some, it even leads to marriage.
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center analysis of United States census data, 12 percent of newlyweds married someone of a different race. These statistics vary by country, but the overall trend is that cross-cultural marriage is growing.
I actually have four relatives who dated and eventually married people from other countries—one from Russia, one from the Middle East, one from Central America, and one from South America. It’s been fun getting to know these new people in our family and realizing our similarities and differences.
And that’s just it. After the newness wears off and day to day life settles into place, cross-cultural differences become more and more pronounced. The biggest thing, my relatives tell me, is expectations you didn’t know you had. Stuff like, when dinner is served, or personal space, or how long to stay at a social function. Expectations about gender roles, work life, and family. All the little stuff that you take for granted adds up and can create tension in a relationship.
So can cross-cultural relationships work? Definitely. But it takes some tender loving care. Sometimes, it means laying aside parts of your own culture, keeping other parts of it, and picking up parts of your partner’s culture. Here are some tips for those of you who are in cross-cultural relationships:
Be Willing to Compromise
Being in a cross-cultural relationship means you have very different upbringings. That will affect how you view the world and how you live in the world day to day. When you get up in the morning, what kind of job you have, and how you handle money are all affected. What is really comes down to is this—what is most important to each of you?
I once communicated online with a great guy in France for about a year. We had so much in common, except for a few core values. His religious beliefs were quite different than mine, and also he didn’t value his job—he just looked forward to vacations. In his country, those things were normal. But to me, I was looking for someone who really had passion for what he did for a living. If I wanted to make it work, I should have accepted that who he was and his job were not the same thing. I needed to be willing to compromise. In the end, we broke apart and last I heard he was dating a great girl from Turkey.
Communicate Your Feelings
One of the worst things we can do in a relationship is assume how someone feels. She’ll be flattered if I do this. Or, He’ll like it if I do this. As you get to know someone, you will better know their likes and dislikes. But especially if your cultures are very different, never assume you know how they will feel. For example, if someone makes comments about you two being an interracial couple, it may not bother you, and you may think your partner is fine with it too. But they may not be. What is ok to you may be offensive to your partner. Always ask your partner how he or she feels. Also, be sure to communicate your feelings as well. If your partner gives you a pet name that is common in their culture, but that you don’t appreciate, speak up. Be honest instead of letting things fester.
Celebrate Each Other
You may find some of your significant other’s traditions or food choices weird, and the feelings may be mutual. Resist the temptation to say anything negative, even if you think it would be harmless. Instead of slighting your differences, celebrate each other. When holidays or birthdays come around, adopt traditions from both of you. As you celebrate each other, life will be that much sweeter.
Being in a cross-cultural relationship can have its challenges, but when two people are committed and loving towards each other, they can make something beautiful.