My partner and I are from different cultures, I am Filipino, and he is a New Zealander. Before we became an official couple, both of us didn't have experience being in a relationship with different cultures. So, when we started dating it was challenging for us to understand each other and see things eye to eye.
However, as time goes by, we get to enjoy our palpable differences and own them as our assets. Based on our story, we share with you three apparent challenges of being in a cross-cultural relationship, and why they are actually weapons of advantage.
I can speak fluent English because it is my second language. However, Filipinos use American English and not British English as we were once a colony of the United States. Also, New Zealanders have a thick distinct accent, which I am not used to hearing. So, it is expected that we get lost in translation when we communicate with each other.
Advantage: We talk slowly and listen carefully.
By talking slowly, the intention of being understood is more clear. Your partner gets to listen to you attentively as you are trying to communicate. This method’s advantage is that we get to consider our partner’s feelings, especially if they cannot speak a similar language. By doing so, it serves as an empathetic approach, which lessens the usage of provocative tones that usually create tension in the relationship.
Mostly when we talk, it is not the words we’ve said that hurt our partner’s feelings but the manner of how we conveyed it to them.
My partner and I cannot avoid clashing with our First World vs. Third World practices, like our issue on food waste. New Zealanders throw 157,389 tonnes of food a year, and that costs $1.17 billion annually. Whereas in the Philippines, over 2 million families are experiencing moderate-to-severe hunger.
When we started dating, I noticed this practice and called his attention.
Advantage: We became more respectful of each other’s cultures.
What we have learned is instead of attacking each other which practice is better, we created a synergy by meeting halfway. My partner understood the value of food, so instead of throwing his leftovers when he dines out, he's now taking them home, and eats them the next day. I also stopped nagging him about it as if it is a crime.
Never use culture as a weapon to criticize each other because that is an unfair argument. From the very start, when you dated someone outside of your culture, you knew the differences are palpable. Instead of scrutinizing, learn from each other.
Nonstop External Judgement
Even though it’s 2021, people still judge relationships with noticeable skin color contrasts. I am a petite brown woman engaged to a white man, mocking white eyes still stare. There will always be that Karen and Ken, which hobbies are condemning people because they don’t fit in their conventional racial standards.
Advantage: Together, you fight Karens and Kens
This time you are not fighting the battle alone. You fight them together.
I have witnessed my partner courageously call off people with their racist comments, and he does this even to his friends. In this relationship, we protect each other and fight together.
There will be tons of challenges in a cross-cultural relationship, but that’s precisely what makes it interesting. Hence, the learning journey is never-ending as both of you get to open each other’s eyes to a whole new world.
Having palpable differences actually nurtures your close similarities while making your diversity an asset to make the relationship stronger.