To celebrate my first podcast anniversary, I decided to create a new season. I’ve always been insanely fascinated by cross-cultural couples – people who are in a relationship with someone from another country or culture. Well, of course I am, having been part of such a union myself for quite some time.
There is something very special about those relationships. Of course, sometimes, you don’t even have to leave your own country to find someone who comes from a very different background than you (just ask someone from Berlin who’s dating a Bavarian), but what I’m planning on talking about here is more than that.
My husband is English, and we’ve been together for over 20 years now. You might think, well, England and Germany aren’t miles apart, literally, and metaphorically, plus we’re both a similar age, white, and from Western European countries, which means we’ve grown up with a lot of similar influences. But: there are a ton of differences, different cultural references, and of course, different languages. I spoke English when we met, so that wasn’t a big issue for us, but it still had its challenges. A lot of those come up when you have children, for example. Issues that you never thought of before become a thing, all of a sudden, and there are a lot of situations where you need to re-assess your approach and navigate very carefully. And I can’t even imagine what happens when you do not speak your partner’s language.
Of course, you don’t have to have children to encounter tricky situations in a cross-cultural relationship. Sometimes, dealing with your partner’s friends and family can be a big issue. What happens when you don’t feel accepted, even rejected, or when your own family and friends are sceptical and don’t approve of your relationship?
I first felt the impact of being one half of a cross-cultural couple when my then boyfriend’s grandma asked me over Christmas dinner what my grandfathers did during the war. And then again when my own granddad gave an emotional, impromptu speech at our wedding, talking about how amazing it was to be in a place where half the people were from another country, and how strongly he felt the friendship and love in the room. I will never forget the affectionate shoulder slaps and shouts of “well done, mate” he received from my husband’s friends and family. He touched a lot of people that night; it was more than just about two people getting married.
Location is another huge topic – long-distance relationships rarely work in the long term, which means, of course, that one of you has to move if you want to build a life together. Which of course can mean a change of career, being far from your friends and family, and almost certainly a compromise in some way. Or maybe both of you decide to move to another “neutral”, country, and then you find yourself dealing with three or more different influences.
There are so many challenges when it comes to international relationships – but they are also what is so beautiful about this kind of union. At the core, this is exactly what we need, especially in today’s increasingly polarized and divisive societies: Learning about one another’s cultures creates more understanding, tolerance and ultimately, a more forgiving, less blinkered view of the world.
Anyway, I hope you are as excited as I am about this new direction. I have some very interesting stories lined up for you, and can’t wait to share them! Hop on over to the Podcast.