Dating someone from another cultural background can be a lot of fun, but it also comes with its share of obstacles and baggage, just like any other relationship out there. Cultural misunderstandings can happen even if you and your potential partner share a common ethnic heritage but hail from different nations.
While there are plenty of challenges to navigate in a healthy romantic relationship, even when dating within your own culture, throw in language barriers, different socioeconomic standards, physical distance, and differing family expectations, and it can seem like the odds are stacked against you as a couple.
But learning how to and getting past these obstacles will help you grow closer to one another and strengthen your relationship in the end!
We have compiled some useful tips for dating someone with a different cultural background that will help you and your significant other stay laser-focused on each other and your budding connection, whether you met IRL or on a dating app.
Tip 1 – Leave Room for Love But Don’t Force It
It’s super important to keep an open mind when dating abroad because customs and norms can and do differ wildly from culture to culture. In England, where I lived for a short spell, get-togethers usually started with a casual coffee or drink and, if you clicked, could morph into a high tea (dinner or supper, for all you Americans reading).
In some countries, a date beyond a certain hour takes on a more official air–on my home turf in the United States; I’d always been asked to dinner and maybe a movie after right up front.
Certain cultures prioritize domestic partnerships over marriage and may not place a significant emphasis on the institution of marriage. Relationships can develop differently–some are developed well after physical intimacy, while others might begin before or even with absolutely no physical contact.
If either you or your potential partner comes from a sexually liberal culture, having an active intimate relationship is going to help you learn more about one other’s likes, dislikes, limits, and expectations.
Have fun together as you figure things out, but be ready to abandon ship if your goals and beliefs turn out to be incompatible.
Tip 2 – Get to Know Your Partner’s Culture and Vice Versa
From the jump, you and your potential partner will always have something interesting to talk about. From the jump, you and your potential partner will always have something interesting to talk about. Learn about each other’s cultures, start a dialogue, and use what you learn to confirm or debunk your preconceptions and existing assumptions about each other’s cultural backgrounds. You should be prepared to teach one another about your cultural nuances.
Be curious and ask what makes certain sayings, film scenes, music lyrics, or quirks of their culture so significant and why!
One of my friends has a Greek partner, and he’d never seen E.T.–when they watched it, he was blown away because most American films are dubbed in the dialect spoken in Greece. This discovery prompted them to have an animated dialogue about the similarities and differences between European and American cultures.
Tip 3 – Practice Patience
It takes effort in every single romantic relationship to get past misunderstandings and miscommunications. Having a shared language naturally makes it easier to communicate–words, phrases, and even body language can be misconstrued when translated literally.
Don’t ignore or push down feelings of confusion or hurt if they arise due to the language barrier or any misunderstanding–take care of whatever it is then and there. The longer you take to clear the air and figure out exactly what went left, the happier you’ll be in the future.
After you’ve cleared the air and worked it out, you might find some comedy in the situation. And if not? At least you’re communicating and not building up resentments over perceived or actual slights.
Tip 4 – Use Various Communication Methods
Because of a lack of familiarity with each other’s first languages, certain couples resort to utilizing a second or even third language they’ve acquired for communicating, but this might be hard or impossible depending on where you are in terms of fluency.
Don’t worry too much about always using the exact correct grammar–you don’t need or want to put each other under undue stress by constantly correcting one other! Use everything at your disposal, and there is so much out there–like the Internet, for starters.
There are so many resources available to help you master a new language, including games, movies, TV shows, books, translation applications, and even songs!
Tip 5 – Make Sure Your Expectations and Values Match
As important as it is that you uphold your standards or what you want out of a romantic relationship, it’s also important to be adaptable to your expectations. Learn as much as you can from one another as well as the important people in their lives doing your homework, keeping an open mind, and asking a lot of questions.
Ask yourself these things:
- How flexible are you and your partner in terms of your relationship expectations, and what won’t you budge on?
- Will there be cultural customs that you need to follow? And will your partner have to follow any of your cultural norms?
- If and when you have kids, how will this affect your life?
Of course, there is no need to rush into these kinds of super serious talks if you’ve just started dating, but if you see yourselves in it for the long haul, knowing the answers can save you both time and possibly heartbreak.
Tip 6 – Don’t See Distance as Romance’s Kiss of Death
While some couples really do think that distance makes their hearts grow fonder, others might realize that they really don’t think all that much about a romantic partner if they aren’t constantly cuddled up next to them.
In order to keep that romantic spark alight and alive in a long-distance relationship, both partners have to make an effort–and it is hard work. The amount of upkeep is different for every couple, but a relationship cannot thrive, especially a long-distance one if you only really talk to each other when you’re in the same area code.
Make sure you keep in touch regularly, set aside some time to catch up, be mindful of each other’s love languages, and ask your loved ones and friends for support if you get sad or think it’s too much for you. You can also come up with creative ways to liven up your FaceTime calls (we won’t tell), write each other old-school love letters, and surprise them with a gift.
Talk to your partner about what’s currently happening, even if you are feeling blue about being so far apart, and encourage them to do the same! It might not always be a walk in the park, but that can actually be an upside–hard work unquestionably leads to inner growth.
Dating someone from a different culture or different race could open up a whole new world of learning opportunities- you’re bringing two unique cultural perspectives to the table, each with its own distinct potential to learn something new and gain fresh perspectives.
The unfamiliar and occasional uncertainty about the other person’s perspective often presents the greatest opportunities for personal growth, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.