Every relationship has it’s own unique obstacles to overcome. Sometimes they are big, sometimes just minor things, but one thing is for sure—when you’re in an intercultural relationship, every difference becomes amplified. Little things that never mattered in previous relationships, like your religion or diet, suddenly become glaringly important issues. Here’s some steps that you can take to overcome these differences that are a part of being in an intercultural relationship, and to make the relationship work despite them.
1. Accept and respect each other’s differences.
The most important thing, in all relationships really, but especially in an intercultural one, is to have respect for each other. As an intercultural couple, this applies to more than just respecting each other as people; you need to learn to respect the beliefs, traditions and superstitions of each other’s cultures. Don’t try and change or convert your partner; rather, have respect for his culture. For example, many cultures or religions have dietary restrictions. If your partner eats something that you don’t out of principal, don’t turn it into a big deal. He’s been doing it all his life, just as you have been avoiding it. As long as he doesn’t pressure you to do the same, let him enjoy it.
2. Experience your cultures with each other.
As one-half of an intercultural couple myself, I can guarantee that your partner hasn’t experienced everything his culture has to offer. Even if he has, there are probably things that are just so ingrained in his background that he’s never really thought about it. So take a day to experience it all together. For example, as an American married to a Filipino, we once spent a day touring Manila and visiting all the famous cultural spots, such as Intramuros and the National Museum of the Philippines where we both learned new things about the Filipino culture and history. Your fresh take on things he’s never thought twice about will be just as eye-opening for him as it is for you—and it’s a great excuse for a fun date.
3. Try new foods and experiences.
For me, the best part of being an intercultural relationship is the food! Ever since I met my man and came to the Philippines to be with him, I’ve tried more new and unique dishes than I could count. So, when dating someone outside your own culture, something that’s both essential and rewarding is to stay open to new things, be it food or experiences. Try new things without judging. I never thought that I, as an American, would find myself eating chicken intestines (isaw) but I gave it a try and you know what? It wasn’t that bad! Being in multicultural relationship gives you the unique opportunity to experience all kinds of things outside your comfort zone—so have your man introduce you to the things he loves most about his culture, and do the same for him.
4. Make sure to discuss your values early in the relationship.
When people from opposing cultures date, having opposing values can often end up being a roadblock, so it’s best to talk about these things early. This becomes especially imperative if the two of you plan to have children someday. It’s not easy to raise children in a multicultural environment, so discuss with your partner how you will tackle that. What religion will you raise your children in? What values and traditions are important to you to pass on to your descendants? Make sure that you’re both on the same page. Another thing to discuss is the prospect of your wedding; will it be a religious ceremony? Will it be in your home country or his? Cross-cultural relationships require a lot of compromise, so make sure you’re both willing to do your share of it.
5. Try and learn each other’s native languages.
Learning a whole new language can be very tricky, take it from me. I’ve lived in the Philippines for two years now and my knowledge of Filipino is still very basic, but I am trying to learn. Language can be an important factor in an intercultural relationship, especially if one of you ends up moving to the other’s homeland to be together. There are few things that are more awkward for me than being at a family gathering where I’m just left out of the conversation because I don’t understand the language that they are most comfortable speaking in. Even if your partner’s family speaks your language as well, taking an effort to at least learn a little of their language will make them happy. They will love to see you taking the extra effort to be a part of the family and fit in, even if you aren’t fluent yet.
6. Don’t let other people’s negativity get you down.
One of the biggest problems that can arise in an intercultural relationship is the negative pressure from both members’ families and friends. A lot of people, especially those from older generations, might have a hard time accepting you dating someone of another race or culture. Maybe they don’t agree with your new man’s values, or maybe they are just worried that you will leave them behind and forget about them, trading them in for your partner’s friends, family, and traditions. Assure them that there’s no reason to fear, but also be firm and take a stand for your relationship. Make sure they know how serious you are about your guy, and that they need to respect your relationship no matter who you choose to date.
The key ingredients to a successful intercultural relationship are respect and communication, so make sure to have a lot of both with your man and your relationship is sure to thrive! Dating outside your own culture gives you an amazing opportunity to learn about another culture and expand your world-view, so embrace it! Don’t let your differences get you down; rather, let them bring you even closer together as you learn things about each other—and yourself!—that you never knew.