Every relationship has cultural differences. What kind of family were you raised in? Where did you go to school? Are you from a big city or a farming community? Which ethnicity do you associate with? Even people within the same country, even the same state, can have very different cultures, but when you’re in a relationship with someone from another nation those differences can be huge. International diplomats, businessmen and foreign workers usually have informative classes and trained advisors for culture differences. In a dating situation though, you don’t get that privilege. It can be tough dating someone from a vastly different cultural background to you, but that’s not to say it isn’t immensely rewarding as well.
Just this morning my girlfriend said to me “You gringos are so cold”. She’s Latina, so of course I appear cold to her. I’m even a little bit awkward still when kissing a girl I just met on the cheek, or when a drunken friend gives me a man-hug. I’m warming up, but I come from a family where hugs are rare occasions, and I think that now I’ve kissed some of my Latina friends more than I’ve kissed my own mother. I mean, I like hugs, everyone does, it’s just not something I’m used to doing regularly. Where I live, hugs are for children, grandparents, watching Netflix on the couch, or for people who are crying. Family ties are also much closer on her side. That’s not to say I don’t love my family members just as much, but we tend to be more of a “Good luck, if you need anything let us know” type of family, while hers is more of a “Tell me EVERYTHING! Call your cousin, right now!! He will help you, Aunt Maria has already sent him a message!” type family. She’s talking to her family regularly throughout the day with both online messaging and phone calls, while I call my parents to catch up once a month or so…I’ll have to try harder. Sorry Mom.
Mealtimes can be very humorous. Here’s a story; my family is taught to eat everything on their plates and not to waste any food. If you’re still hungry, asking for some more isn’t rude. Her family is taught that if they haven’t left at least a small mouthful or two on the edge of their plate, then the guests are still hungry and you’re doing a bad job as a host. That’s one of the biggest insults you can have. Be ugly, stupid or poor, but never be a bad host. Can you see where this is going? I was struggling to finish, saying “No más, gracias”, meanwhile they were seeing my empty plate and thinking I was just being polite. I must have eaten two-dozen tortillas and a whole salad bowl of beans after the main dishes were finished. That dinner ended with a race, first I ran to wash the dishes while her mother ran to make more guacamole. Similarly, I was sneaking water all night, scared of getting too tipsy and embarrassing myself, while her family forced tequila after tequila into me. After all, if your guest isn’t stuffed and drunk then you’re a bad person.
It’s not always funny though; there are times when the cultural differences lead to fights, usually over the most trivial of things. For example, we’ve had to come to an understanding with each other regarding washing dishes. We don’t talk about it any more. Usually we will make an excuse to leave the room when the other person is cleaning up after dinner. Don’t even ask, just know that she washes them absolutely the wrong way, like an ignorant child. She’d say the same about me. Who would you trust though? Her mother washes the floor with a wet towel on the end of a broom, while mine uses a mop head made of string.
In all honesty though, most of the interesting cultural differences, and the history behind them, are cute. Coming from such greatly varied backgrounds just leaves even more to learn and love about each other, and the various quirks and preferences tend to be attractive, informative, and even entertaining.