In a university that has an incredibly international student populace and in an age in which people are more open-minded to other cultures, intercultural relationships are (not surprisingly) becoming a common phenomenon. In my own experience, I’ve noted a few factors of these relationships that notable:
The learning experience
When you’re in a relationship, especially at the beginning, you want to learn as much as you can about the other person. You ask for favourite colours (mine’s green), favourite food (lasagna), number of siblings, traditions, values, and a variety of other details both big and small.
When it comes to intercultural relationships, there is whole other level of learning about the other person. The values and opinions that each person has, is created in part by the culture they belong to. So, you not only learn about the person, you learn about the history and the formation of a culture and nationality completely different to your own.
It’s a mutual sharing experience as well. You want to share your culture as much as you want to learn about the other. I see this both in my relationship (combination Canadian-Argentine and Azerbaijani) as well as in the ones my friends are in. There’s an interchange of values between Japanese and Arabs, Canadian and Bajans, Latin American and Icelandic. Such different cultures in each relationship, and these lead sometimes to arguments, others to jokes, and others to moments of understanding that deepen the relationship even more. Even in our university student youth, we learn about the cultures that surround us by simply learning from the people we are with, and it’s quite a fun experience!
Hola – Bonjour – Arigato – Ciao – Hello
The other learning experience that comes up is language. In my own case, I have only recently bought a self-teaching language book so that I can speak one of the other languages my boyfriend speaks (Russian), while he is learning Spanish. Granted, there are other reasons for which we are learning the languages, but – at least on my side – wanting to communicate with him on another level is a main one. And again, this goes beyond me as well. It’s a case of wanting to interact with your boyfriend/girlfriend in a way that not many others can. Plus, it’s a lot easier to have secret (or dirty) conversations in public without anyone else knowing what you’re saying!
One thing that is clear in intercultural relationships is that there are always different expectations that tend to rise from the cultural difference. An example: Meeting the family. In Latin American cultures, meeting your partner’s family is done after (at most) two weeks of dating. After that, you are pretty much incorporated into the family, you join for big meals, and you are treated with the same amount of joviality as you would from your own family. However, I have now faced the reality that other cultures aren’t as comfortable with this idea, so, as I expect my boyfriend to meet my family ASAP, he’s thinking that it’s going to be another year before he does so! We both expect completely different things because of the way we grew up and what we were taught.
This variance in expectations can be seen in specific cases:
The Latina woman: A Latina will expect – to all you boys out there who are looking for one – a guy to be confident in himself. Not only that, but he should not be afraid to give a compliment to a girl, or to take control when needed. A Latina woman needs to feel both in control and dependent at the same time, so you have to be masterful and learn to use a certain type of finesse for them.
Tip: They like chocolate, and flowers
The Canadian guy: (from what I’ve observed) is shy (unless he’s too cocky, however, we will ignore this particular specimen). I’ve seen them to require girls that are cheesy up to an extent, but cannot handle (or don’t want to handle) too much drama or cattiness from girls. Traditional and quiet, but always ready to laugh, the Canadian boy tends to look for girls he can talk to easily, laugh with, and love easily.
We live in a city and go a university that both exemplify the idea of multiculturalism that Canada portrays to the world. Even at our ages, intercultural relationships are a real thing. Like any other relationship, they have their problems, and their successes, and they have a level to them that adds something interesting and new to one’s life. Mine, at the moment, is my cup of tea, however, I won’t tell you to run out and find the most exotic person you can to try a relationship with. All I’m saying is keep your mind (or heart) open, and be willing to learn something new.