Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Marrying into a different culture

Image Source: Creative Common/Iman Mosaad

In a world of diminishing borders it is no surprise that growing numbers of men and women are finding love outside their own cultural circles. This dynamic can present unique challenges and often intercultural marriages may result in temporary or permanent migration to a country very different from your own which can be a very daunting prospect.

Whilst the ‘love conquers all’ attitude may suffice for some, here are some additional tips on how to find perfect harmony in a cross-cultural marriage:

Compromise is key- Meeting halfway with your spouse often makes for an easier transgression into your new culture. By creating a ‘we’ rhetoric and understanding each other’s position, you will be able to act as a team. This is incredibly important as moving to a new country can be isolating at first, especially if there are language barriers, hence being united with your spouse is a critical foundation.

Recognise and emphasise commonalities- It is important amidst the chaos of moving to remember on what basis was your relationship founded? What values do you share? This is especially important with regards to raising a child. It can be complicated to determine which traditions are passed on to your child. Whose religion they will follow? Will they celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Chinese New Year or all three?! Communication is critical and having open discussion from the start will make these decisions easier.

Image Source: Creative Common/Travel Blat

Appreciate the exciting nature of such an opportunity! Life is all about taking risks and not everyone is fortunate enough to go and live abroad and experience something completely different. See it as an opportunity to try new things and relish the different culture rather than being intimidated by it.
It is important not to forget that to a degree, all marriages are intercultural. For instance, there is huge variation in ‘American’ culture or ‘Western’ culture: every family has their own set of values and practices and this can hugely differ from neighbour to neighbour.

Don’t ever feel alone- There are vast support networks globally to assist expats in their transition. Be it making friends, finding a good school, chances are there are lots of people out there in exactly the same situation as you are. 

Most importantly, don’t let the stress of moving abroad and marrying someone with contrasting beliefs to that of your own, take away from the joy and love that you feel for that person. All relationships require a degree of compromise and that is to be expected from any marriage. Try to eradicate cultural binaries from discussions and instead focus on the positive elements of such a dynamic (bilingual children springs to mind). Embrace every opportunity that you get and try to immerse yourself in your most favourite aspects.  For more advice on how to get to grips with an expat life visit

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