Intercultural relationships are between people with different cultural backgrounds. These relationships involve understanding and respect for these differences.
In intercultural relationships, both parties have their own unique strengths. When two cultures meet, they learn about each other and begin to understand what makes them different. This creates opportunities for both parties to gain knowledge and insight about themselves and others. This is how we build trust and respect.
Both sides benefit from intercultural relationships. On the one hand, people from different cultures often bring different perspectives to the table. A person from a culture that values family may be more open-minded than someone from a culture that places less value on family. On the other hand, people from different countries may bring different experiences, skills, and ways of thinking. People from different cultures often make great friends because they are able to appreciate each other’s strengths.
Why are Intercultural Relationships Growing?
In many countries, the population is becoming increasingly racially and culturally diverse. Telecommunications technology and the internet have made connecting with people far away much easier. Along with this increased interconnectivity and intermigration has come an increasing acceptance of other races, traditions and cultures, much more so than a generation ago.
All of this has led to an increase in intercultural relationships and makes it much more likely that you will date and fall in love with someone of different ethnicity, from a different culture or geographical region or who speaks a different language.
Benefits of Intercultural Relationships
When approached with consciousness and consideration, intercultural relationships can bring together the richness and strengths that each individual brings from their culture. They can use their cultural differences as opportunities to more closely examine their own assumptions and beliefs and employ greater critical thought in their decisions about what aspects of their culture serve them and what doesn’t.
Ideally, couples enjoy the broadening of their world; they may adopt worldviews and values that are new and free for them, their horizons widen, their beliefs and attitudes can become more informed, less rigid and judgmental, and their relationship can be a path to a more flexible and considered life.
Though the excitement of a fresh and unique encounter with someone distinctively different from us can be stimulating, engaging and exciting, as time goes on, just like every long-term relationship, differences between the partners begin to surface.
Just as Intercultural relationships offer some additional opportunities for growth and development, they also face additional challenges that arise from each partner’s viewing their world and the relationship through their unique cultural lens.
Becoming more aware of our own and our partner’s cultural values and heritage can help us understand our differences and begin to integrate our separate cultural identities into an identity as a bi-cultural couple or family.
When couples acknowledge the cultural differences in their relationship, they are able to see their interactions in a cross-cultural context and find ways to navigate them. I also help clients learn to appreciate their differences and find ways to honour each person’s cultural practices.
Each partner may continue to carry on important traditions for him or her, or make adjustments when those values no longer fit their current life. Neither partner needs to give up who he or she is to be in the relationship, the couple can reach compromises or find balances even when they hold opposing or conflicting values.
Working with a therapist or counsellor with some expertise in the area of intercultural relationships and openness to seeing the value of such relationships can help couples to navigate this process.
Overall the additional challenges and opportunities that intercultural relationships bring with them require a great deal of consciousness, compassion, self-reflection and openness to be managed effectively but these relationships can be tremendously rewarding when we are committed to our partner, our relationship and our own growth.
How to Succeed in Intercultural Relationships?
Build Trust and Respect for Each Other
Trust and respect are built over time. If you want to develop a relationship with someone from a different culture, you need to give them time to get to know you. You cannot expect to become good friends overnight. Instead, you should start off slowly and slowly build trust and respect. Be patient and kind, and you will find yourself getting along well with anyone from any culture.
Respect always comes first. Whether you are meeting someone from a different country or a friend from a different culture, respect is the foundation of your relationship. Showing respect means being polite, treating everyone with kindness, and never taking advantage of someone else.
Communication is the key. To build trust and respect, you must communicate clearly and honestly. Speak respectfully and avoid using slang or colloquialisms that might not translate correctly. Take the extra effort to speak slowly and clearly.
Develop Cultural Awareness
Learn about your partner’s culture. Ask questions. Find out what your partner does for fun, where they grew up, and their favourite foods. Don’t assume anything; ask instead. Learn about their history, traditions, beliefs, and customs.
Cultural awareness means understanding the beliefs of different people and cultures. It’s knowing how to act around others who may not look like you. When we have this understanding, we can adjust our actions to avoid offending someone else. We can also try to learn what they believe and how they feel about things. If we don’t know anything about their culture, we might offend them if we do something without thinking about it, or they might offend us if they do something without thinking about how we would feel.
Know your limits
Your culture may be different from your partner’s, and vice versa. Be aware of your own limitations. Do not take things personally if your partner doesn’t understand or accept your culture. Remember that no matter how much you try, you cannot change someone else’s perspective.
Building trust and respect takes time and commitment. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you love someone from a different culture. The same goes for building friendships and relationships. As long as you show respect and appreciation, your partners will reciprocate.