My mother gave me one rule when I left for Costa Rica, don’t fall in love! I really did try not to. I knew that cross-cultural dating meant more than just the cliche of American girl goes abroad and falls in love with the exotic guy wooing me with all the adventure of the unknown world, but I wasn’t sure exactly all it implied. There are still many things I have yet to learn and experience, nonetheless, here you have it, the no- filter, unedited suburban girl’s inside scoop on cross-cultural dating, from language to location to long distance, here’s what to expect…
1. Two Languages
Two languages means getting to know your significant other in a more dynamic way. As my boyfriend has said, “Getting to know somebody in 2 languages is like getting to know two people in one.” Somethings are better understood in their native language and others in your own. You may even find that you can express certain things in your SO’s native language better than your own! Over time, you will become a professional at cross-cultural, bilingual communication.
Two languages also means language barriers and misinterpretations. Even if you are fluent in a language there are still things you may not understand at times; which can result in frustration or conflict that may not have been present if you both spoke the same heart language. Or you might not get their jokes.. then again maybe even if you did get it, you still wouldn’t be laughing.
2. Home and Family
Coming from two different countries has its benefits. For one, travel will likely become something you have a lot of experience doing with your SO. Who doesn’t want to be well traveled? Taking trips together and getting to see where your significant other comes from is an exciting experience as you get to understand them a little bit better. Secondly, you now have a place to be welcomed by close friends and family in two parts of the world. Lastly, you get to immerse yourself fully into a new world with your best friend by your side and create your own culture between the two of you.
So, then comes the question of where to live. There’s more to weigh than just where you want to live. You will also have to figure out visas, immigration, getting a job in a foreign country. It can become overwhelming at times. Who will be the one to leave their country or will you both? You will have to seriously consider if you are truly willing to make the commitment of, in some ways, leaving behind your family and friends and your own traditions as you build a new life with your SO. Someone will always be missing somebody or something. Find out more on this topic here, 5 Things No One Told Me About Living Abroad.
3. Long Distance
Before doing long distance, I thought for sure it would be the downfall of our relationship. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Long distance has a strange way of bringing you closer if you put in the time and intentionality. You find creative ways to keep your friendship growing and to not leave the romance behind. This last time I visited home, I walked into my kitchen to find a big vase of sunflowers and a card from my boyfriend. I smiled every time I looked at those flowers for the rest of the week. Long distance doesn’t have to mean putting your relationship on hold until you return.
Obviously being away from anybody you love just sucks. You miss them and it can sometimes even make it difficult to enjoy where you presently are. You may begin to have doubts about your relationship and wonder if it would be easier to just stay home and date somebody from your own country. You may even begin to doubt your ability or your significant other’s ability to live abroad; I sure did.
Through and through, just as anything in life, cross-cultural dating has its pros and cons. And just like any relationship, it will require great sacrifice and commitment, but as it’s been said, “With great sacrifice comes great reward.” In my experience, the challenges of cross-cultural dating have been a doorway for growth and refinement. And even though it has been difficult at times, I am grateful for the chance to open my mind and most importantly my heart to what I have seen as one of life’s richest gifts of finding love outside your own borders.