In today’s era of globalization, love transcends international borders more than ever. Modern technologies, a widespread command of foreign languages, and ease of travel mean falling in love and following someone from another culture has become easier. A marriage of Asian and non-Asian partners becomes literally a union of East and West, needing to connect and work together if the marriage is to succeed, especially in times of high divorce rates. To find out what it takes, I talked to five intercultural couples from different parts the world. Some married recently, some many years ago, but they have many things in common.
While cultural differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and frustration, all five couples enjoy each other’s cultural traditions and sharing those experiences with their extended families. Beyond expanding individual horizons and adopting some of a partner’s cultural traits, they pointed out that marrying someone of a different background has helped them evaluate their own heritage, and appreciate things that may have been taken for granted before. “I get to experience her culture and family traditions when visiting her family in South Korea. This enriches my own life and provides opportunities to examine my own values and belief systems when exposed to something different from those I grew up with,” sums up Kevin.
[quote align=”center” color=”#b64736″]Good things double for these couples – they celebrate twice as many holidays, enjoy two different cuisines at home, and wear different clothes from both cultures. [/quote]To accommodate each other’s religions, Indian Sikh Darsi and his German wife Renate celebrate all the holidays. By appreciating differences, and fully embracing each other’s cultures, these couples create one of their own. As Elina points out, “I feel a bit more Norwegian, Ivar feels a bit more Kyrgyz; we tend to pick the good parts of both worlds.” As couples grow older together in each other’s cultures, they feel they no longer see any big differences, or give them much thought.
The downside, however, is that it becomes harder to maintain own cultural identity. By merging two very different cultures into something new, each partner may feel a bit of an outsider in their own or partner’s respective communities. “In the US my husband looks ‘foreign’, and in India I look ‘foreign’”, reflects Emily. Also, living sometimes a world apart from their respective countries, these couples see their relatives less often, may not have necessary social support network, and sometimes struggle with fully assimilating with a host country.
To be continued…
By Svetlana Ancker
- Elina and Ivar
She: Kyrgyz; He: Norwegian; Met: 2006 through a mutual friend in Kyrgyzstan, married for 4.3 years; Location: They currently reside in Kazakhstan
- Sarah and Masa
She: American/German; He: Japanese; Met: in 2004 at college in Boston, married over a year; Current location: Japan
- Ji and Kevin
She: Korean; He: American; Met: in 1983 at the American University in Cairo, married for 28 years; Current location: US
- Emily and Yanek
She: American; He: Indian; Met: William and Mary College, married for 12 years; Current location: US
- Renate and Darsi
She: German; He: Indian; Met: in 1969 at the Makarere University in Uganda, been married for 35 years; Current location: Kenya