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~ Dating someone from a different culture can be extremely fun, but as with any relationship, you’ll undoubtedly face some unforeseen challenges. For example, even if you both share a similar ethnic background, you can still experience misunderstandings if you have different nationalities. Those barriers can include a plethora of factors — such as language, socioeconomic standards, physical distance, and familial expectations — but working through them will allow you to strengthen your relationship as you learn more about each other. Keep reading for seven tips for dating outside of your culture that will help you and your partner focus on the undeniable love you have for each other.
1. Be Open to Finding Love Without Putting Pressure on Yourself or Others
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Dating practices vary by culture and have become increasingly flexible over the years, especially with the increased interest in dating apps — so be open! I recently moved to Spain, and here, I’ve found that people typically meet for coffee or wine, which then may lead to dinner. Dates become a bit more formal later on. In the US, I had become accustomed to dinner and a movie.
Some cultures don’t place a strong emphasis on marriage and skew toward domestic partnerships, and some relationships develop well after a sexual connection, while others develop before or without one. If you or your partner come from a culture that’s known for sexual prowess, a healthy and active sex life will provide additional opportunities to understand each other’s desires, dislikes, boundaries, and expectations. Just remember to enjoy yourselves while you’re figuring it out and be prepared to move on if your values and goals don’t align.
2. Learn as Much as You Can About Your Partner’s Culture and Encourage Them to Do the Same
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First, it makes for great conversation because you’ll constantly be learning something new. Do your own research, create dialogues, and use those opportunities to confirm or dispel stereotypes and any preconceived notions you may have about each other’s cultures. Be prepared to explain cultural nuances to your partner and vice versa. Learn why certain quotes, movie scenes, song lyrics, or idiosyncrasies hold value. My previous partner had never heard the original audio of the movie Forrest Gump until we watched it on my streaming service. In our case, foreign language movies and shows are dubbed in the local language, so hearing the different American accents absolutely stunned him! The realization led to a series of conversations on American culture in comparison to various European cultures and cultures we’ve both encountered around the world.
3. Be Patient
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Working through miscommunications is a strength in any relationship. Naturally, communication is easier if you share a common language. Certain words, expressions, and even the use of body language can get lost in translation. This may happen with sign language, as well. If either of you feel confused or offended about something, don’t ignore it. Address the issue as soon as possible. The more patient and open minded you both are about clearing the air and understanding what went wrong, the better it’ll be in the long run. Who knows, you may even find humor in certain cases once you sort things out. Ease the pressure on yourselves and have some fun!
4. Use Different Methods of Communication
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Some couples communicate using a second or third language that they’ve learned because they’re unfamiliar with each other’s native languages. Depending on your levels of fluency, this could provide challenges as well. Don’t get caught up on grammar. Mistakes will happen and you don’t want to stress each other out with relentless corrections. Try using articles, body language, games, literature, movies, TV shows, translation apps, and songs to help you form questions or express yourself. What you’ve learned will provide additional support to you both.
5. Make Sure Your Values and Expectations of Each Other Align
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Be flexible with your expectations while maintaining your standards. Do your research, observe, question, and learn from each other and those who are important to each of you. What expectations are you each willing to compromise on and what are your deal breakers? Are there cultural practices that you’ll be expected to observe? How will this affect your lives if you add children to the mix? You don’t have to rush these conversations, but the answers will help you make informed decisions regarding your lives together.
6. Don’t View Distance as a Death Sentence For a Relationship
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For some people, absence really does make the heart grow fonder, while for others, it may be out of sight, out of mind. If you’re involved in a long-distance relationship, you’ll each have to make a great effort to keep the spark alive. What that looks like is different for each couple. Be sure to check in with each other consistently, schedule time to connect, pay attention to each other’s love languages, and get support from those closest to you. Even counseling may help. Think of fun ways to spice up your video calls, and exchange emails, letters, or gifts. Share what’s going on in your life and how current events may be affecting you, and encourage your partner to do the same. It won’t always be easy, but that could also be a good thing. Hard work equals growth
7. Move If It Will Truly Benefit You
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Moving for love can be an exhilarating experience, but it could prove to be challenging if you relocate to a place for your partner that doesn’t have the culture you’re used to. Research your prospective home well, try to find a community that you can connect to once you’re there, and hold onto your own identity through your beloved hobbies. People tend to be curious about newcomers and why someone has chosen to travel to or join their community. You’ll have plenty to share from your culture, as well. Continue to grow independently as well as with your partner in your new home.