Having been in an intercultural relationship on foreign soil for some time now, I like to think I know a thing or two about the subject. As marvellous as it can be, loving someone from a totally different culture – especially when you live together on their turf rather than yours – presents its own world of challenges to be negotiated.
Over the last three years, I’ve found that there’s nothing like talking to other people who are in the same situation – who share the shining highs and know the desolating lows.
For a while now I’ve been keeping a mental list of survival tips on how to survive intercultural loving. Today, I decided to write them down. But what I really want are YOUR tips and tricks for surviving intercultural relationships – fresh from the front line of international love.
Here’s my starter for ten:
- Carve out a niche for YOURSELF. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your whole life is determined by what the other person does, so it’s vital to carve out some things to do that are just for you. One of the great things about loving and living in a country that’s not your own is that you’ve got your own ready-made tour guide at your fingertips. But that can produce an unhealthy dependence, so whether it’s places you want to visit or things you want to do, it’s vital to have your ‘own’ things to do.
- Invent a routine: This has been a really key one for me, especially when I haven’t been working. Want to feel more settled in a foreign land? Then create a routine. Mine was going out to buy the paper every morning, then reading it over coffee. But whether it’s going to the market every day or taking a walk at sunset, the little things that get you out of the house every day make a huge difference.
- Learn the language: This is probably the single biggest thing you can do to make yourself feel more independent. If you can negotiate the local market or haggle over prices with a taxi driver on your own, you can do anything (well, near enough, anyway). Not only does is hugely increase your confidence, it’s also a great route to #1 and #2. Just having to go to language lessons every week will give you a routine, and there’s nothing like a routine to make you feel settled somewhere. It’s also a fun way to meet others in similar positions to you.
- Set some boundaries: if you’ve got in-laws to negotiate, it’s really important to set boundaries early on. Freaked out by unpredictable invasions of distant family members who expect feeding on the spot? Then talk to your significant other. Tell them how it makes you feel, and explain what would help. In our house, the rule is at least a couple of days notice for dinner and E is responsible for making sure the snacks are in if he invites people round without telling me.