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Making Intercultural Relationships Work

By Edited Jun 9, 2015 3 2

Intercultural Relationship(132938)
Credit: Some rights reserved by That Was Then Photography

The world today is communicating beyond cultural, social and geopolitical borders through various means that intercultural relationships are no longer seen as rare and unconventional. We meet people from various cultural backgrounds every day; it is no surprise that one day, we would fall in love with someone who is racially and culturally different from us. And because such phenomenon has become commonplace, people are also becoming more accepting and tolerant.

Needless to say, maintaining a cross-cultural relationship is not as easy as it sounds. There will be issues that you have to eventually face to sustain a happy relationship. Here are some of the common problems faced by romantic relations between people of different race and cultural background, and some word of advice on how to deal with them.


People fall in love in neutral grounds but they don’t live in a vacuum. Eventually, you will have to meet the people who are important to your significant other—his or her family. For many intercultural relationships, the reality check only occurs the moment they first meet each other’s parents.[1]

Because you have learned to love the other person, it becomes easy for you to understand your differences and make a compromise, but the moment you meet up with the people in the other person’s lives who have a lot of influence on him or her, that’s the time when you realize how much different you really are.

Some couples are discouraged to pursue the relationship after meeting the family, but if you really think about it, such encounter is an opportunity to get to know him or her better.

There are, of course, extreme cases when the family has locked out the possibility of accepting your relationship, making your circumstance a serious issue. This would require both of you to really talk things out and decide if you are willing to go against the odds. This is not like the movies where you can forget about everything else, let love conquer all and just be happy together. You have to accept this facet of your relationship in order to make it work.


That brings us to the second, and arguably, trickier issue among intercultural relationships, that being the denial that differences in cultural backgrounds have any impact on cross-cultural relationships. Such denial would lead to miscommunication and neglect of each other’s needs.

Do not avoid asking difficult questions from your partner. This is true even for romantic relations between people of the same race. If someone tells you he or she doesn’t care where you come from or who you were in the past, don’t be easily swayed. That could also mean that he or she doesn’t care about you at all. Your family history, childhood, or the place where you grew up in has made you who you are. Your race and culture makes you who you are so it is only appropriate for a couple to get to know each other by talking about these differences.

These talks do not have to happen in a contrived situation. If you have found a habit to talk about how your days were, it is the same storytelling habit you need to have to talk about each other’s cultures.

It also pays to attend family gatherings and experience the traditions that your partner subscribes to. In return, you have to be open in introducing your own culture to him or her.


We have established the need for interculture communication but we also have to expect it to be more difficult due to possible language barrier. If you are serious about making your intercultural relationship works, one of the things you have to do for each other is to try learning each other’s languages and try doing your best communicating through a common language.[2]

These are all easier said than done but your efforts would eventually make a difference, and that, my friend, would speak louder than what you can ever utter.


Although the goal of talking about your cultural backgrounds is to find a compromise, sometimes, it just wouldn’t happen. You would eventually disagree on a lot of things but that doesn’t mean intercultural relationships will never work for long-term. It only means that you have to learn how to agree to disagree and accept your differences.

You can’t really adjust all the time but you can always live and let live even if you are living together. In the end, it’s just a matter of respect and tolerance. You don’t have to change your ways or force your partner to do so for the sake of the relationship. Just understand that you may be different but that does not mean one is more superior to the other.[3]

As you try to look beyond each other’s differences, you will realize that what you have are more similarities as humans, which brings us to an inspiring conclusion about what intercultural relationships can teach us: that love transcends worldly boundaries and is possibly the only thing that has allowed humankind to coexist through the years.



Mar 21, 2013 2:00am
It's hard, "FULL STOP". Nice article. Thumbs up
Mar 26, 2013 11:45pm
It is! And so are any kind of relationship if you don't keep an open mind. Glad you like the article. :)
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  1. "Intercultural Relationships: Can They Work?." NPR. 15/05/2007. 16/03/2013 <Web >
  2. "Coping Strategies for Intercultural Marriage." InterNations. 16/03/2013 <Web >
  3. Kelly Caver "Celebrating Intercultural Relationships." University of Missouri-Kansas City. 23/04/2012. 16/03/2013 <Web >

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