Cross-cultural relationships bring with them new experiences that may have been foreign to you before. While they are usually beautiful, exciting and eye-opening, they come with their share of hardships and misunderstandings as well. Making families mesh and understand one another when they come from two completely different backgrounds isn't always the easiest thing.
There are many defining moments in inter-cultural relationships that allow you to both appreciate each other's differences... and just how thrilling those differences can turn out to be. For those of you who are already in the cultural thick of it (so to speak), you probably know these moments all too well.
1. Learning how to express love (and other stuff) in different languages.
Your partner asks you how to say "hello," "I love you" and those other four letter words in your specific language. You gladly walk them through every one, syllable for syllable.
2. Coming to terms with the fact that sometimes you won't understand everything that's happening.
Language barriers can be a very real problem when trying to communicating efficiently with your future in-laws. (In the meantime, smiles and thumbs-ups all around.)
3. Having conversations about the topic of culture and how it plays into your relationship.
This usually consists of questions such as: are your parents cool with you dating someone outside of your own culture? Are you? Have you ever actually dated anyone from a different culture? Am I your first?
4. Tasting your way through new cuisine.
You try some traditional dishes from your partner's native cuisine that you've never even heard of. And it's like, "Okay, I trust you and I love you, so I'll eat this. But first, what is this exactly?"
5. Having serious conversations about religion ... or lack thereof.
You may realize you have conflicting ideologies, and that a "who's going to convert to what" conversation may be plausible in the very near future.
6. Celebrating completely new good times.
You get to discover new holidays! Turns out you love a party even if you have no idea who and/or what is being celebrated.
7. Tapping into cultural idiosyncrasies.
Every country and culture has its own superstitions, sayings and proverbs. (For example: Your may not be sure why we have to sit down on the floor for thirty seconds before we get on a plane, but you love that we do.)
8. Receiving compliments and predictions on how cute your kids will be.
Because someone will eventually (definitely) tell you (however preemptively and awkwardly) how adorable your "mixed babies" will be.
9. Learning an entirely new language. Well, kind of.
You may just start telling people that you are, because you can now understand the small talk in your partner's phone conversations.
10. Stereotyping. From outsiders, from insiders and sometimes from yourselves.
You face the stereotypes about each other head on, so you can defy them together, joke about them together and even playfully toss them at each other (but only with each other -- outsiders are not welcome to poke fun, sorry).
11. Traveling to and discovering new places = the best.
You visit each other's respective home countries/towns and are pleasantly introduced to things you never thought you'd see, do, smell, taste and feel.
12. Planning future nuptials can be tricky.
Choosing a future wedding destination may actually be the most stressful decision you've ever had to make. (What place is special enough to both of us but also equidistant for both of our families to travel to?)
13. Rooting for two different teams during the Olympics.
This applies to basically every world sporting event that exists. During the Olympics and World Cup, your significant other is the enemy. Just playin'... kind of, sort of... not really. Hey, it keeps the excitement alive!
14. And lastly, proudly telling the haters they can leave. Bye.
Someone will eventually give you the disapproving stink-eye as they walk by the two of you. But you don't give two hoots about their thoughts on your relationship because you're a team now, a progressive cultural force to be reckoned with, and they (*cough* the haters *cough*) can take their old-school close-mindedness elsewhere, right?
Meanwhile, you're over here just being in love and learning something new almost every single day. So boop, haters be gone!
All images Getty unless otherwise specified.
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Sharing your life with someone from a different cultural background can be a fantastic way to broaden your world and an amazing learning experience, but can also present some unique challenges. Lorena Mayr shares her story with Worldette.
It is funny how things happen in life. You never know what twists and turns will be on your life’s path, and even though they basically are all choices, it seems like you get surprised now and then.
Growing up in Mexico my mother had wanted me to learn another language (we all spoke both Spanish and English), and my siblings had all chosen to learn either French or German. Well, I was a teenager and interested only in roller-skating with my friends, and I told her I would not need any other language because I planned to marry someone in Mexico, and that was that! My home would always be Mexico and I knew that my heart belonged there always.
Love leads to languages
Fast forward to my university days in the United States, where I met an unusual young man who I thought was very smart and caring and romantic and, and, and……well, the problem was, we had to communicate in English, because he spoke no Spanish, and I spoke no German.
Yes, he was from Austria, and I had fallen deeply in love. Now what?
My mom’s suggestion of learning another language came back to haunt me. I decided I would learn just a little bit, so that when I met his parents (on a two week Christmas break back in 1991) I would be able to say a few things. Little did I know that it would just be the beginning of learning this very difficult language!
But moving to a different country does not mean that you just buckle up and learn the new language and start communicating easily. Nope. It means having to adapt to all kinds of cultural differences, and even though I do find many similarities between Mexico and Austria, there are also many huge cultural differences, which have proven difficult for me.
So let me leave the huge difficulties of learning to speak, read and write in another language, and tell you about the other things I have encountered trying to adapt here.
Cross cultural difference: Difficulty 1
Something not so minor, although it may seem so, is of course the climate, which in a way has its ties to more profound differences.
Mexico City, where I grew up, has basically only two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. It is mostly warm all year long. Not that it was a surprise to me to move to Austria and get to vividly see and experience all four seasons – I had seen snow before and I knew what cold and hot could be like. Don’t get me wrong, I love all four seasons (especially autumn), but I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who enjoys winter.
Cross cultural difference: Difficulty 2
Now let’s move on to the cultural problems that I think arise, in part, from the climate. This is just my opinion of course, but I do find that Austrians are a bit cold and serious.
It has been a process for me to try to change my warm and very Latin way of demonstrating I like someone, down to just words and no hugs or outward ways of affection. It was hard to see and learn that others here look down upon it and do not invite any outward signs of caring.
Cross cultural difference: Difficulty 3
I have found it difficult to make friends here. I have found two Mexican women also married to Austrians, and we share a lot. I have some Austrian friends, but they are by far not as close to me as I am with my other two friends or as my friends back home.
Cross cultural difference: The bonuses
On the positive side though, I think living in a different culture opens your horizons and makes you more open to people. Learning about the culture is an enrichment and a blessing too, and an experience that no one can ever take away from you. People often ask me whether I miss my family and home, and of course I do, but I have also gained another family here and it is also a beautiful way of living here.
I’ve also had to give up a lot, having to be so far from my family in order to be here with my husband and our two sons. But you also have to give up some other things in exchange for the ones you do have.
I am happy, but it is sometimes a struggle; if marriage is difficult to begin with, try stirring it up with three cultures, and it can get complicated. I have learned a lot on my path of life, and about adapting to one’s environment, but one thing I know for sure – the place I will always call home and where my heart is will always be Mexico.
Have you ever had a relationship with someone from a different cultural background? What were some of the challenges you faced? Tell us more in the comments below.