Intercultural Dating

Immigration, expatriation, and increasingly multicultural cities means more people are involved in or considering intercultural dating.  When people think of intercultural dating, they often think it refers to dating someone outside of their own race or ethnicity.   While that is certainly an example, there also can be cultural differences due to age, language, religion and socioeconomic status. Even regions within the same country can have different cultures.

As someone who is happily joined in an intercultural marriage, I understand the challenges that you may encounter.    Like any relationship, an intercultural relationship requires effort from both parties to make it work.  Where it differs, though, is the addition of other challenges and the realization that what you would envision as ‘typical’ or ‘normal’ may not be the case for your partner.  Shared values, norms, and “the right thing to do” can’t be taken for granted.  Rest assured that these challenges can be resolved through open, honest communication and mutual respect – the cornerstones of any relationship.

So with all of these challenges, what advice can I share?

As with any relationship – take your time getting to know the person.  Observe the way they treat their friends and family.  How do they deal with conflict?   How do they react to challenges?

Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues.  Speaking different languages is one hurdle but even if you both speak the same language, there still might be challenges.  Word choices, phrasing and tone might cause inadvertent miscommunications.   In some cultures non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language are more important than the words being said.

Communicate openly and honestly about your cultural norms regarding dating, child-rearing, religion, food, celebrations, finances and the role of and involvement of parents and extended family.    It is better to identify potential complications and meet them head-on, than be caught like a deer in the headlights at the first challenge.

Be open to a new way of communicating, living and behaving.  There are pros and cons in every culture.  You may not relate to some aspects of your partner’s culture, but you should still be respectful.  There might also be some aspects of your partner’s culture that you would like to incorporate into your daily life.

But my biggest piece of advice is this: don’t excuse being treated badly as a ‘cultural’ difference and do not sacrifice your beliefs.

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