Intercultural relationships are a wonderful opportunity to combine the best of two cultures.
At the same time, many ultimately fail because one partner sacrifices too much of their own identity in order to make the relationship work. This is especially true if the couple lives in the home country of one partner.
This invariably means that you will see more of the family of that partner, and far less of the other set of in-laws. While this may not seem to be important in the beginning, it can create tension over time.
Keep some separation
The fact that one partner is living away from home can also lead to homesickness. Learning and integrating into a new culture can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Sometimes even the least sentimental people just want to taste their Grandma’s apple pie, or go and watch their football team play.
Some people find it easier to make friends abroad than others. It’s a simple fact of life. However even if you make friends in record time, you may end up spending more time with your partner’s friends.
Social media may be full of your friends from home getting married or having babies, but you won’t attend any of those big events if you are living abroad. Instead you will most likely go to the weddings of people that you have met only a handful of times, as a plus one rather than a real invite.
Share your culture
If this sounds familiar, there are things that you can do to redress the balance. Keeping hold of your own identity is essential in any relationship, it just so happens that being with someone from another culture can place extra emphasis on this point.
Food is a massive factor in identity, and it can be surprising how great an influence it holds on our lives. If you find yourself pining for your favorite dishes from home, make a real effort to seek them out or even cook them yourself. It is all well and good learning to appreciate and love the cuisine of your new home, but it’s important that your partner comes to enjoy the cultural traditions of your home.
It is important to maintain contact with home, including friends and family. Even though some of the most important people in your life might not meet your new partner in person for a while, they should meet online to foster a sense of belonging to a family. Use video calls like Skype or FaceTime to stay in touch. Creating this family feeling will also help you to feel more comfortable.
Don’t be ashamed of seeking home comforts
For many expats it is important to spend time with people from their own culture. The enduring popularity of expat clubs and societies are living proof of this. Even if you are someone who prefers to enjoy local culture, it can be invaluable to keep a circle of friends from your home country.
In every relationship there are ups and downs. Dealing with these moments of friction can be easier if you have a willing listener that understands your point of view as informed by your upbringing. Discussing matters of the heart with local friends can sometimes lead to confusion due to cultural differences.
Join an expat club or get in touch with other people from your home country to keep a balance in your life. Sometimes it isn’t easy to learn so many new cultural codes, and it can be refreshing to relax around people that simply “get it.”
Communicate clearly on your needs
The idea of balance should also apply in your domestic relationship with your partner. If you have strong beliefs about the role that each partner is expected to play, this can cause friction. Of course, both sides should be willing to make sacrifices in order to maintain harmony. However if one side makes too many sacrifices, this can lead to resentment.
Always make sure that you are clear on your principles, and don’t let a relationship make you do things that leave you feeling uncomfortable. This can be particularly important in cultures that subscribe to strong patriarchal models with traditional expectations over the role of women in the home.
Remember that you and your partner are two individuals. While you aren’t defined by your culture, it does inform the vast majority of your attitudes. Maintaining a sense of identity is incredibly important to keeping healthy attitudes towards your relationship and the country in which you have decided to live.