What advice would you give to cross-cultural couples?

In our recent interview series we asked “Do you have any advice for other cross-cultural couples?”

The answers were so good that they deserve a post of their own. Here they are, with some extra tips from the PocketCultures team and our readers.


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1. Understand, respect and adapt where necessary

“Try to understand and appreciate each other’s cultures as much as possible. Also, adapt to fit into the culture where necessary. You’ll get more respect from people that way.” (Sharell)

“Be patient if your partner doesn’t understand cultural references, he/she grew up in a different country watching different TV shows, listening to different music, reading different books, and so on.” (Ana)

“If you feel yourself getting angry at something your partner has said or done, take a second to think about whether you may be approaching the situation through different cultural filters before you react. Deciding how you are going to work through any differences in viewpoint is a great way to strengthen your relationship.” (Marie)

“Be patient, understanding and respectful of other ways of doing things, the other values people have or different ways of looking at the world. Understanding the different frameworks used to analyze cultures helps offer insight into why your partner does some things certain ways. Communication is crucial, as is compromise! This is true in any relationship, but cross-cultural couples might need to work a little harder at it.” (Liz)

2. Learn your partner’s language

“Learn each other’s languages and, if possible, spend a good amount of time in each other’s countries. This is key to understanding your partner’s perspective and it alleviates a good deal of miscommunication.” (Matthew and Shinichi)

“I agree that both members of the couple need to speak both languages so that both can: laugh at the same jokes; express how they feel more clearly and understand the other’s point of view (it has happened to me that when I’m in distress or really pissed off I revert to Spanish, my first language); visit each other’s families and be able to communicate with the relatives without the need of a translator (otherwise it can be stressful and incredibly boring!)” (Ana)

3. Think about where to live

“Be sure to discuss where you would like to live for the rest of your lives – this could be a tough discussion but you have to have it.” (Anna and Bose)

“Spending time together in a third country is a fantastic way to strengthen your relationship. It puts you in a situation where you are both equally foreign and you learn to work as a couple instead of relying on the one who is in their home country.” (Matthew and Shinichi)

“For the partner who is living in his/her native country, it is essential to be patient with the partner who is living abroad. Living abroad is a constant adjustment and sacrifice, and it doesn’t always get easier with time. My partner and I spend time in Brazil as often as possible so that he feels connected to his native country and family.” (Jenna)

4. Pass on both cultures to your children

“Try to raise your children bilingually. It can be difficult, but there are huge advantages. I know children of multicultural families who regret not speaking the language of both parents.” Liz

“If you have children I think it is crucial they grow up knowing both cultures, it will make them richer human beings.” (Elizabeth)

5. Embrace the differences!

“Cultural differences exist when it comes to relationships and raising children. Try to accept them rather than trying to change the other person.” (Jenna)

“We need to embrace our cultural differences. We’ll never understand our partner 100 percent (anyway, who does?), but knowing what our differences are makes it a little easier.” (Ana)

What advice would you give to cross-cultural couples and multicultural families?

Read more:
English empanadas and Argentinian bubble and squeak?
An extraordinary journey
5 tips for raising a bilingual child

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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7 Comments

  • Great tips and advice! As far as possible I feel this advice could relate to any couple regardless if intercultural – between countries, that is.

    My tip is to base interactions with your partner on THEIR OWN UNIQUE PERSONALITY. It may be easy to fall into the trap, “Oh, he does that because he’s from…” “Or because she’s XXX people from her place do that, so that’s why she does it.”

    Sometimes we may represent stereotypes of our culture, but we are not stereotypes we are each unique individuals. When tensions or misunderstandings arise and rise we may think in terms of generalities because it’s easier… when we’re mad we may not think straight or rationally. We must remember that our partner is a unique individual and beyond representing a culture, a religion, a city, state, country, part of the world, language, etc, etc…..that person represents THEMSELVES….

    Keep being your unique, authentic self on your own authentic journey!!

    Great post thanks and I’ll be sharing it on my facebook page!

  • Great post and all good tips. I especially like the one about thinking of where you’ll live for the rest of your life. Way too many marriages, I’ve seen broken over which country to live in, especially at retirement age.

  • Yes, when I was younger I didn’t mind where I lived, and couldn’t imagine that I ever would. But I guess it matters more as you get older.

  • My husband is Turkish and I am English. I think the above sums up perfectly on how to ensure your partnership works. We have our up and downs but always manage to make it through.

    One last tip – Never go to bed angry!

  • Thanks Natalie! Good to hear from you.

  • I must say that advice about spending time in a third country is absolutely brilliant. My partner proposed that when I was exceptionally bitter about the difficulties we will face in the future as each of us will pursue living in each other’s countries. Mainly the bureaucratical hardships. Hence he said “well then we live in a third country that is not related to either one of us”. I was extatic to even hear him talk like this b/c I already have that country in mind…well and he does too.

    Now, what I would add here to the list is related to language. It is not only learning the language of the partner though, because as in our case. We actually speak with each other in a second language to us both. Hence he would have to learn two of my languages, and I would have to learn one of his. Therefore English is our medium that works well for now. However, needless to say we have trouble understanding what each other really mean when we commuicate even in English which is our perfect medium language. Hence, my advice is to really concieously remember that even though you might be speaking in a ‘safe’ language that you flueently speak and understand each other in, in fact you don’t. And keep that in mind at all times! Be aware of this fact and when conflicts and misunderstandings arise in your head and in comminucation really remember this fact and ask basic questions as in “Is this what you meant?”. Yes that sounds too elementary like but believe me this is definitely a necessary approach to really understand what was told to you.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Hi Efrutik, thanks for all your comments! And nice to meet you :) That’s a really good point you made about language.

    For my husband and I, living in a third country is definitely a good solution for now. And in the meantime we can get to know each other’s countries little by little every time we visit. I hope that will make it easier if we eventually move to one of them. I suppose it won’t make the bureaucracy any easier though!