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.
Marriage can be hard work. Sometimes it takes introspective analysis of our own traits and behaviour to strengthen the overall relationship. “If something is not right as you see it, change your own behaviour and focus on yourself, and not your spouse’s issues. Different cultures only enrich one’s experiences, and should never be seen as an excuse for why something is not working,” advises Kevin. Other couples also dismissed cultural differences as an excuse, and agree that just like in any other union, it takes love, willingness to compromise, patience, openness, and understanding. Ji shares her views: “As in any successful marriage, it takes commitment, continuous investment in the relationship, and developing common life values. Knowing how to love, fight, and compromise, to evolve the relationship and yourselves as human beings will get you to the destination of peace and contentment.”
Keeping communication channels in multi-lingual relationship is key, and early discussion of such important issues as where to live, which cultural traditions to follow, and how to raise children can prevent later misunderstandings and possible conflicts. Willingness to accept each other’s views and creating an environment of mutual support can build a good foundation for mutual dialogue and feelings of security. As Sarah puts it, “Follow your heart, give yourself time to explore who you are as an individual, and then talk with your partner. Learn from each other, be patient, understanding, and open-minded to different concepts of partnership, relationship, gender, career, and family.”
[quote align=”center” color=”#b64736″]Already facing extra pressures, these couples learned how to compromise and find their own way to work things out.[/quote]For Renate, the Indian tradition of men and women not mixing at parties was a hard one, especially in a new environment. So, as a compromise, she and Darsi try to avoid such settings. Also, for better social support, intercultural couples may benefit from sharing their experiences with their families, and choosing a culturally diverse place to live. Emily and Yanek find it useful to [quote align=”center” color=”#b64736″]“surround yourself with others who have mixed relationships, so you are not the oddballs.”[/quote]Lastly, all five couples advised all newlyweds to approach relationship issues with a sense of humour, explore the world together, not give up easily, but fight for the family that they want!
Like Yin and Yang, these couples with very different – sometimes almost opposite – backgrounds complement each other, creating something beautifully new. Focusing on the richness of their cultures, and adopting the best of both, they have made their marriages a highly joyous and enriching life experience.
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