I had managed to organize a birthday surprise for my Spanish boyfriend. Drinks, food and laughs with friends he hadn’t seen in a while. What better way to spend your birthday? Imagine my surprise, though, when my boyfriend stood up at the end of the meal and paid the entire bill and his friends let him. My mind was blown. This is the exact opposite of how we celebrate birthdays in the United States, where everyone else pays for the bill. If you so much as pull out your wallet when the check comes, there’s an immediate protest and you are simply not allowed to pay.
Even three years into our relationship, I was still learning that cultural differences can be as obvious as cuisine, to as small as who pays on someone’s birthday. Dating someone from another culture can sometimes be like getting on a plane whose destination is unknown and you’re trying to build it even after it’s taken off. Cultural differences and misunderstandings are common and keep you on your toes, and you’re mapping out your relationship along the way. But the best thing about dating someone from another culture? It’s all worth it. Here’s why.
You Explore Another Culture from the Inside
Traveling to a place for a few days or weeks, you can definitely experience a lot in that time. But there’s only so much you will learn in a short visit. When you are in a relationship with someone from a different part of the world, you get a unique viewpoint into that culture. Your eyes are opened to cultural differences as subtle as perceptions of time, family relationships or eating habits. Not only are your eyes opened, but you get to live and experience those differences firsthand.
You Discover More About Your Own Culture
Sometimes you need to take a step back to see things in a clearer light. As you learn about your partner’s culture, you start to see and think about your own culture differently. Those differences of opinion over what time to eat, how to hang laundry, or how to handle a disagreement with a friend or family member—these aren’t just opinions, these are all influenced by culture. How you feel about those taboo topics (politics, religion, etc.)—that’s also a result of culture. When you zoom out, you start to understand how it has influenced your opinions and who you are.
You Become a Communication Master
Miscommunication is inevitable in any relationship. But when you’ve managed to navigate an argument with your significant other in a language that’s not your own, you deserve an award. I cannot tell you how often we’ve gotten into arguments as a result of one of us mistaking each other’s tone of voice and choice of words. It’s made me much more conscious of what I say and how I say it.
You Encourage Each Other to Leave Your Comfort Zones
Just the other night my boyfriend and I went out for sushi, and he reminded me of how three years ago, when we first started dating, he hadn’t really eaten sushi before. This kind of situation isn’t limited to food. Before meeting him, I was an obsessive planner and planned every detail of my life, but he sees time as non-linear. With him, I’ve learned to find a balance between planning and letting life flow. Because you both have different cultures, values and traditions, you encourage each other to try different things and learn to approach situations from another angle when dating someone from another culture.
You Create Your Own Unique Mix of Cultures
Though sometimes it seems like our cultures clash, other times we have moments that are unique because they mix both of our cultures. Take the birthday surprise, for example. His friend pointed out how beautiful it was to have a Spanish-American celebration, organizing the surprise on my end, and him paying on his. From the moment we met at a Thanksgiving party in a small town in Southern Spain, we were creating a one-of-a-kind mix of our two cultures.
Dating someone from another culture is an incredibly unique experience that’s well worth the journey. Differences and challenges aside, you learn more about yourself and another part of the world. What more could you ask for?
5 Things You Learn When Dating Someone from Another Culture