Amidst the many possible barriers or difficulties cross cultural relationships face, there are some that have very significant repercussions. Most of the time, some of the things that help us value and accept each other, while setting up foundations of trust and acceptance are more related to how, where and by whom we were raised than anything else.

  • Who were our most influential family members?
  • Why their set of traditional or non-traditional habits marked our own?
  • How has the paradigms of a culture shaped our own international views of ourselves and those we come in contact with?
  • And how the cocktail mixing of all of that defines how we build our own expectations and habits when it comes to relationships?

The overview of this takes us to the singular bridge where we can analyze the subject of group oriented family groups versus individualistic oriented ones. These are the environments that are most influential in our life, and although there may be families who somehow have found the way to enhance both groups, it is very distinct how they both nurture the land where we will flourished. One is not better or worse than the other, but like any cocktail, the mixing of the different parts will yield a different outcome, and this dance is the topic of our article: the group jam sessions crazy improvisational family circles versus the solace driven introspective ones.

In the mess we find ourselves in, it makes sense to find someone who can help us reduce the confusion that may be leading our lives, so that together we can orbit better in this short span of life that we are given.

It seems that cross cultural relationships have slowly and steady become a new trend, and a very huge one, with its own particular truths and characteristics. Shaping a new  geographical landscape, changing and enriching how the entirety of the world is perceiving contemporary love relationships. You don’t really have to move outside your routines to see it happening around you. Years ago, the integration of students and international class exchanges, the increasing amount of people studying abroad and the families who would take in international students was not as significant as it is now. Together with so much technological advances and the result of the easiness of travel, a greater sense of global awareness has taken over, the gap of these differences from generations ago is quite significant.

Families are currently more willing to accept the realities of integrations, breaking away from social taboos and paradigms that kept us at bay when choosing a partner. It is still a struggle to move away from the barriers that don’t understand or that try to hinder this changing cultural landscape, however, even the comments from those who still criticize and advise us to stay within our own cultural and social paradigms are decreasing. It is safe to say that even though there is still a lot to do, the world is becoming more aware of its international community, of its global sense of unity.

So, with a big trend like that influencing each one of us so much more than before, it would be wise to take the time to understand and study how we can join the movement, dance to its new traditional shaping rhythms, drink from its elixir and be part of it or at least support those who have elected to be active members of such a global trend. Differences, after all, are the source of our thriving; how we adapt is strictly related to our abilities to be different and at the same time so similar.

Cultural differences could be categorized in many different subdivisions: the food we eat, our traditional values, the folklore behind our story-telling abilities, the music, the geographical influence in the clothes we wear, the spiritual preconceived ideas we adhere to and many other similar practical observations. If you have traveled, you have probably experienced first hand such obvious qualities that set cultural differences apart from each other. However, there is one significant cultural trend that sets itself apart from the rest, and that is the orientation that family groups possess. It is the one thing that rules how a member of the family will lead their life when it comes to how affected or influenced they would be by a cross cultural relationship.

Being raised in an Individualistic oriented family group or a Community oriented family group will set the stage for some of our independent characteristics, and this, in most cases, will determine how our future partners will perceive us. In most developed countries, while guiding their offsprings, people have seem to detached from the sense of belonging to a group, a community, a social identity. Whether this is done through lack of integration, the individual above all seems to be a leading motto. It is not that they have structured a society where the young ones are completely selfish, but growing up with so much competition, ridicule and the need for privacy and personal ownership, everyone ends up being more concerned with their own personal goals. “The inalienable idea and right that the life of the individual belongs to him, its sovereignty and the fundamental truths of his or her own moral concern” is the underlying social construct that reigns above anything else. This contributes to that perennial individualistic reality, strengthening that fight-for-yourself attitude, an “I must have my dreams achieved first and foremost” attitude. This is one of the obvious outcomes or characteristics of Individualistic Oriented Family Groups.

Now, Community Oriented Family Groups are mini global entities. “The individual’s life belongs not to him but to the group or society of which he is merely a part of, where he has no rights, where he must sacrifice everything for the greater good”, where everyone worries for the whole as if each individual member’s life depended on it. Like an organism that requires all its parts to fully function in unison. The heart of such groups is like old grandmothers who, with their nurturing love, show us that it is in the service to each other where the foundations of the group’s love flourishes. The fathers who struggle daily to make sure everyone is covered in a warm blanket of food, bed and clothing. The aunts and uncles who constantly enhance the gaining of new abilities in the small children, who in their turn, grow up and repeat that cycle of nurturing, protecting and loving they received in their childhood years. Loyalty rules the flow a community driven family possesses, and all the resources belong to the whole. The extended family’s interest takes priority over the individual’s interest; you must sacrifice your goals and values to serve the group.  

The dancing festivities of both these family groups together brings us to the essence of this ever-growing global trend of international relationships, as it is in this coming together where the actual future seems to be moving into. To try and deny the sense of a pending accelerated worldwide integration goes completely against the signals we can see everywhere we go. It may be moving at a slower rate, but it is absolutely moving, and faster than it was one or two or three decades ago. We live in such a fast pace reality, under such technological driven circumstances, that we are more exposed to cross cultural influences than we would like to confess.  

Each one of these family groups have their own positive points and their negative points, and of course we cannot forget that it all depends from which angle you are looking at this. But let’s just talk about the ups and downs.

Looking at pictures of Community Oriented Family Groups, it is obvious how tradition still plays an important role. Countries like India, Myanmar, and many other Asian and middle eastern countries and even most Latin-American countries still defend the responsibilities each member has towards its elders. Great grandmothers and grandfathers will always be cared for within the household of each family member within the community and this is perpetuated by how the new generations seem to respect that and make sure their own children still follow this.

The financial struggle the individual members go through will not be as intense because it is clear to them that they are not alone; they are in every aspect of life surrounded by their family members. There is no eating alone, there is celebration in unison and also much cheering up when the harshness of life shows up. So, the benefits from such groups are quite obvious and very constructive.

Of course, if it wasn’t for the fact that your own private dreams and interest are suppressed for the wellbeing of the community, this would be the perfect arena. And then comes the choice of studying for a career that will require your family to pay for it, which in this case means that the community will have to sponsor you. Because of this sponsoring, you would probably have to follow a final consensus as to what you should study, at times annihilating your own desires. There is also the fact that your private life will be an open book to all, where the presence of the group would be strongly felt. Very often this family groups have resorted to this style due to financial circumstances; becoming one single group alleviates economic difficulties. So, the loyalty that you have learned, and the responsibility this entails could probably push you to forget about your own individual interests.

Now, in an Individuality driven family group, it is almost the whole opposite. You probably see your grandmother once a month when you visit her at the Retirement home where she lives, so her kind and caring nature would hardly be felt by your own children. The sense of family may only go as far as your own mother. Children learn from an early age that it is fine to take grandma to another home during her last years. The reality of detaching from your family members allows you to accept the possibility of independence, giving you that sense that to follow your dreams, all it takes is your own decision, your own determination. You are more at risk financially, more vulnerable emotionally when private and social matters get difficult. The independence reality has its price to pay, like the communal one has.

 Individualistic groups versus community groups seem to have what the other one lacks and vice versa. Statistically speaking the scores each groups has on the things they lack or possess in a chart looks like a roller-coaster, the ups and downs of differences seems like a wave with millions of surfers taken by the swell of culture.

Our differences make us also prone to life altering chance encounters, it is from the view of what has lead us to be who we are where we learn to internalize the fundamental aspects of the cultural background we come from, and this allows us to gain control of that awareness that sets our individuality apart. This happens whether we are from a community driven family group or from an individualistic one. We all have that sense of independence and while meeting people from other cultures, it is this sense that is responsible for unlocking the door that we use for crossing the bridge into “the possibilities that may come from our own desire of integration”. Being raised in a community family in a country like Mexico, India, China and traveling to a country like the UK, or Australia, or the USA to study would be a shock for how some people view the values of family ties, and of course vice-versa. Eating naan bread or massaman curry on your own in a room full of books and pictures of your homeland is not the same as knocking on your neighbor’s door and inviting them for some mango lassi and chapatti.  

It is in the dance of diversity where we begin to put our faith in the value of openness. As our own independent views begin to shapeshift into a broader sense of acceptance, our own monocultural filters tend to dissipate.  It is in the apparent chaos of multiculturalism where the shining truth of global appreciation shines its most clear light. This doesn’t mean it is easy to choose a partner outside your own social borders, every relationship has its own challenges, but if we are willing to see beyond the obvious circumstances and become part of the change we are seeing more and more these days, we will move into an openness to diversity we had not known before.

Every relationship whether international or not faces criticism. We travel in this life with friends and family members who will not see at the same level as we do. And so, there are bound to be angry questions and extreme radical comments thrown at you from people you respect and probably love. We all face that at one time or the other. Responses to your partner’s decisions or statements if he or she is not from your own cultural sphere are always going to be a little harsh and at times lacking real logic or kindness. But, time usually heals these unkind attitudes, it is the outcome of love and our willingness to be as diversifying as possible what will help them see differently and you and your partner will thrive on the love that those early critics were incapable to perceive.  

The engagement of both these groups in your personal life with your partner will be very different. Whether you are from a community oriented group or an individualistic one, remember that there is always some positive aspects, whether coming from the family who is always going to seem desperately far or from the family who will drown you in its constant nearness. The freedom one gives will allow for your own unit to flourish at its own pace and when you get ready for a more intense family presence and a hundred and two babysitters, you will realize how there is no good and bad between them. One day, while reflecting on which one is better than the other, the symbiosis of both will win you over with their rhythmic “here I am, now I am not”, active representation of their own group.

The hybridness and the compromising of both you and your partner are the strongest pillars of the love enterprise you are both building. Always put questions forward in your head, how can my own background enhance the relationship I have chosen? If I was in my partner’s shoes, how would I react to certain questions? How can we both be equally involved in each other’s diversity?

Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Is my Cultural upbringing individualistic-oriented or is it more group, family oriented?
  • Is it more equality oriented or hierarchical?
  • Do I come from a culture that is more task-oriented, or relationship-oriented?
  • Where do you each come from?

“A great marriage is not when the perfect couple comes together, it’s when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences”

                                                         David Maurer  

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